How to Prepare for a Historic Paint Analysis
When embarking on a preservation project, we must ask the question: What do we have? An essential part in documentation and project planning is a historic paint analysis, or finishes investigation. The four-pronged process helps define the scope of work for a project, prepare specifications for conservation or restoration, and develop appropriate budgets when applying for grants, fundraising, or preparing capital campaigns. Below, we review what a paint analysis is, what the process entails, and how you can prepare for the process if you choose to have an analysis conducted for your structure.
What is a historic paint analysis?
A historic paint analysis is a process that provides a thorough investigation of the original finishes in building. An analysis can help identify a multitude of things including:
- The original color scheme and chromochronology
- The components of the types of paint used i.e. distemper, oil based, acrylic, etc.
- Methods for conservation of historic paint that remains for conservation cleaning
- Feasibility of paint removal or methods for replication and restoration.
- Develop an appropriate scope of work and budgets or pricing.
Some of the reasons that you might conduct a historic paint analysis may include (but aren’t limited to):
- Believing that your structure may house unseen decorative paintwork
- Discovering primary sources (photographs, news articles, etc.) that allude to historical artwork
- Cracked, peeling, or otherwise failing paint
- And more
Historic Paint Investigations & Analysis: Process, Value, and What to Look for in a Partner
There are four key components to a historic paint analysis and together they provide a window into the decorative history in a space or building:
- Archival Research, which includes inspection of primary sources such as photographs, newspaper or magazine articles, original specifications, etc. This information will help guide the collection of samples and the final interpretation of the report.
- On-site Exposures & Sampling, which entails the physical gathering and cataloging of samples for laboratory analysis.
- Laboratory Analysis if the collected samples by microscopy and other techniques in order to reveal the paint stratigraphy and chromatography of the samples and determine the campaign of significance.
- Report and Interpretation, during which the findings of the analysis are organized and, more importantly, interpreted in order to guide the architect/owner forward down the path of restoration or conservation.