Museum Preservation and Conservation Efforts

The exterior staircase at The Gorgas House Museum.
The exterior staircase at The Gorgas House Museum.

Museum preservation and conservation efforts often include the maintenance of the museum itself. Historic house museums, like the Gorgas House Museum, require special care and expertise to maintain or repair the structure’s integrity.

In the United States, the National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior provides standards for the care of historic properties including their restoration, rehabilitation, reconstruction, and preservation. This may range from small-scale projects like fresh coats of paint to larger ones that include wood floor restoration or mortar repair. Ultimately, the aim is to provide the best level of care for the historic property.

The Gorgas House Museum, built in 1829, has undergone several architectural additions and later restorations. In 1847, due to poor discipline, UA moved students off campus and changed the internal layout of the museum (at the time the student dining hall). They added two internal walls and an additional staircase. In the 1850s, a small covered porch changed with the addition of two Greek columns and two spiral staircases and the west side of the home saw an additional porch, bedroom, and sleeping porch. In the 1890s, the portico was again expanded with two additional columns and brick arches. During this decade, interior wooded floors were partially replaced due to wood rot.

Beginning in the mid-twentieth century, civic groups began to invest in the home’s maintenance and furnishings with the home becoming a museum in 1954. Central air and heating, installed around this time, aided in the preservation of the interior and collections of the home. At the start of the twenty-first century, the wooden floors of the exterior portico were replaced, and the home’s interpretation shifted to the 1880s-1910s, all following the standards recommended by the Department of the Interior.

This week, the exterior walkways, fence, and stairs were gently pressure washed to remove moss, dirt, and other debris. Not only does this keep these areas looking nice, but they also keep them safe for guests to walk. This project, while small, is one in a long line of projects aimed at protecting the museum, aiding in its interpretation, and providing an educational space for guests. Following the best practice standards of the museum and those of the Department of the Interior, these projects will enable the Gorgas House to continue to meet the educational needs of our community.

– Written by Brandon Thompson, Director of the Gorgas House Museum