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Digital enhancement makes Westtown School drawing exhibition-ready

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    • Westtown School drawing before treatment
    • Westtown School drawing after treatement
    • Westtown School drawing facsimile after digital enhancement

Architect Addison Hutton (1823-1916) designed many buildings in the Philadelphia area, including some at Swarthmore College, Haverford College, and Lehigh University.  In the mid-1880s, Westtown School, a Quaker day and boarding school located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, hired Mr. Hutton (a Philadelphia Quaker himself) to design a larger, modernized main building to replace the one constructed for the school’s opening in 1799.

Westtown School, which currently serves over 800 students, kept many of Mr. Hutton’s original plans for the building, as well as his letters to the school committee, as part of their historical collection.  Archivist Mary Brooks recently brought Mr. Hutton’s pen and ink, bird’s eye view drawing of the school to CCAHA for conservation and digitization.

The drawing was in poor condition when it arrived (first image, above).  Water damage had left dark brown stains covering 18.5 inches of the drawing from top to bottom and 12.5 inches from the left edge.  Two large paper fragments had broken off of the left side.

Senior Paper Conservator Soyeon Choi surface cleaned the drawing and then washed it on wet blotters to remove discoloration and acidity.  She further reduced staining by applying a dilute solution of bleaching agent to the discolored, damaged area using a small sprayer and brush.  She then rinsed the drawing on the suction table, washed it again, and lined it.  Finally, she filled losses in the drawing with acrylic-toned mulberry paper.

As pictured in the second image above, some staining remained following treatment.  At Westtown’s request, Michelle Dauberman, Manager of Digital Documentation, digitally captured the front of the drawing and reduced the appearance of the severe stains and tears using Adobe Photoshop.  She printed a full-color, exhibition-quality facsimile (third image, above) from the enhanced file.

While the original drawing is attached into a storage window mat, the facsimile will be placed in a sealed package and fastened into a new frame.  Ms. Brooks says that the facsimile will hang in the main building, which is still in use over 120 years after Mr. Hutton designed it.

“We like to keep our history visible—to reinforce a sense of identity in the school and in part because the boarding aspect of the program fosters a strong attachment to Westtown for many students and alumni,” she explained.  “Hanging the facsimile will help the school community and visitors alike appreciate the origins of the physical space that means so much to so many.”

To learn more about CCAHA’s digital imaging services, please click here or email Ms. Dauberman.