Thursday, November 20, 2008

From the Preservation Intern

As I complete my preservation internship here in the Special Collections Department, I am most grateful for the variety of skills I gained, which involved gaining physical and intellectual control over some very fascinating documents. As I learned about the architectural history of the Mass State House, I was surprised at how political the process could be, as evidenced by a scrapbook full of newspaper clippings from 1913-1916 relating to the addition of the east and west wings. This work on a government building sparked debates on labor rights, animal cruelty, the use of materials native to Massachusetts, historic preservation of the building, and fiscal responsibility. Headlines included:

Expert Explains Why State House is Painted White”

“Construction Work on the State House Should Be Done Now WHEN MEN NEED WORK”

“Protest Against Vermont Marble”

"Beacon Hill Carried Out to Sea"

While these debates rage, architects must continue to work towards the creation of a safe, practical, and beautiful building. While most of the 1890s plans I worked on detailed the aesthetics of the Brigham Extension, I spent some time working on more practical designs. For example, the plan to the right describes the structure and placement of radiators, which is certainly an important detail for a New England building! Other plans I worked on outlined the structure of the basement for the purpose of fireproofing the building.

Still, the majority of the plans were concerned with the design of particular rooms. I went on a tour of the State House early this week, and was impressed with how lovely the building is, especially now that the Christmas decorations have started to go up. On the tour, I believe I saw the room with the portraits mentioned in an earlier post. Instead of representing the Senate Reading Room, as the plan indicated, the design looks like it reflects the current design of the Senate President’s Office. The office has been decorated for Christmas, and vintage toys were placed throughout the room. This would be a great time for those who haven't taken a tour to check it out.

I truly enjoyed my internship at the Massachusetts State Library, and would encourage anyone interested in architectural history and design, Massachusetts history, or the history of the State House to experience these documents for themselves.

-Laura Pike, Preservation Intern