Current and past staff members, consultants, conservators, and other supporters gathered June 18 to celebrate the bestowal on Tudor Place of the coveted Ross Merrill Award for Outstanding Commitment to the Preservation and Care of Collections. Cool wine and beverages offered relief from the heat for the 64 guests gathered for the awards ceremony, catered reception, and socializing in the Dower House administration building. In recognition of a conservation focus that permeates all aspects of the house, collection, and grounds, select museum areas were open for viewing, with the spotlight on collection pieces that have received special conservation care.
“Tudor Place excels in telling its story,” enthused Eryl Wentworth, executive director of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) as she presented the award jointly with her counterpart from Heritage Preservation. The Merrill Award confirms Tudor Place’s reputation for a level of collections stewardship more often found in far larger institutions. Past recipients include the National Archives and Records Administration, Shelburne Museum, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, among others. So selective is the awards committee, according to the AIC director, that in some years, since it was first presented in 1999, the prize was not awarded at all.
Since Leslie Buhler became executive director of Tudor Place 14 years ago, Ms. Wentworth said, “[I] have watched and applauded her stewardship of this remarkable site… There is no question in anyone’s mind–Tudor Place well deserves the honor of receiving this special award.”
In his remarks, Heritage Preservation President Larry Reger praised the long-term focus on preservation concerns that recommended Tudor Place to the committee. “Even in the early years of its transition from private ownership to a public institution, the Tudor Place Foundation made it a priority to ensure there was a sustained review its collections and archives,” he noted. The award recognizes, the comprehensiveness and systematic nature of the museum’s collections care, the daily attention devoted to it from an expanding collections staff, cultivation of strong board support, and the engagement of conservators, preservation architects, architectural historians, archivists, engineers and others with necessary skills.
In accepting the award, Ms. Buhler alluded to the capital campaign and Master Preservation Plan that will undergird the museum’s future. “What we collectively have achieved in the past is truly remarkable, but it is what we must achieve in the future that will secure Tudor Place,” she said, noting, “we are not celebrating in the main house tonight because of the heat. Not only is the heat dangerous for visitors and staff, but heat extremes cause fluctuations in humidity that damage the collection and archive.”
The proposed master plan includes HVAC modernization and other practical improvements crucial to conservation and preservation of valuable objects and structures, she noted, adding, “This is the future of Tudor Place, one that is imperative to secure if we are to continue to exist as a public museum.”
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