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Museum Renovators Uncover Hidden Murals

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

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Workers at the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Museum Building in St. Louis have recently discovered historic murals hidden in the barrel-vaulted ceilings, reports relate.

The 7,000 square-foot building, which was constructed in 1859 by Henry Shaw and designed by architect George Barnett, is undergoing a $3 million restoration orchestrated by the garden’s president Peter Wyse Jackson, who took that post in 2010.

“It isn’t every day you find such things,” Wyse Jackson told media outlets.

Conservators Called

The painting of German-American botanist George Engelmann was revealed after a contractor knocked out part of a dropped plaster ceiling, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch. As they knocked out more plaster, workers also found a portrait of Swedish researcher Carl Linnaeus. A third ceiling portrait is believed to have been found, but seems to have crumbled away, the workers said.

Conservators will take a closer look this week as scaffolding will go up into the two-story atrium in order for the historical paintings to be recreated, the report noted. However, this added preservation puts a wrench in the plans to hide ductwork, wiring and lights in the dropped ceilings.

“This plan we’ve been working with—we had to throw it out the window,” said Brian Micklewright, construction manager for the garden.

The red brick museum has been shuttered to the public for nearly 30 years.

Restoration Plans

In addition to working to recreate the murals on the ceiling, the contractors are restoring the floors, stripping paint, restoring windows, and installing air conditioning along with insulated glass and walls. An addition will also be added onto the building, which will include bathrooms, a stairwell and an elevator.

The building is considered one of the most historically significant buildings in the Midwest. The structure was once a library, research lab, lecture hall and herbarium that housed the garden’s early collection of 60,000 dried plant specimens (a collection which has now grown to over 7 million, Wyse Jackson says).

Wyse Jackson wants the building to again serve the public as a museum, featuring rotating exhibits and a basement gallery with movable displays and space that could accommodate private events.

Though there’s no definitive timeline for the project, officials hope to have the building open to the public late this year or early in 2018.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Color + Design; Construction; Maintenance + Renovation; Murals; North America; Renovation; Restoration

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