18th-Century Art of the Colonial Americas and Early 19th-Century Art

The Reinstallation of the American Period Rooms

Gordon Hanlon and Dennis Carr examine samples of reproduction carpet and wallpaper

Gordon Hanlon, head of Furniture and Frame Conservation, and Dennis Carr, assistant curator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture, Art of the Americas, examine samples of reproduction wallpaper for the reinstallation of the dining room of Oak Hill.

Opened to the public in 1928, the American period rooms at the MFA were visitor favorites for nearly 75 years. To make way for the new Art of the Americas Wing, the rooms were painstakingly dismantled in 2003 and carefully packed in storage. The process of removing, conserving, and reinstalling nine period rooms in the new wing has involved curators, conservators, and scores of specialists trained in historic preservation and traditional crafts including woodworking, historic masonry, blacksmithing, glassblowing, textiles, and upholstery. The result promises to be spectacular, as the charm and appeal of the decorated rooms remain, accurately and thoughtfully restored, reorganized, and refreshed for a new generation of visitors.

Oak Hill Rooms

The three Oak Hill rooms—a parlor, dining room, and bedroom—from a house built between 1800 and 1801 in South Danvers (now Peabody), Massachusetts, are among the most historically significant Federal-period rooms in any American museum. The builder of Oak Hill was the renowned Salem architect and carver Samuel McIntire, and many of the exquisite furnishings displayed in the rooms at the MFA belonged to the house’s first owners, Nathaniel and Elizabeth Derby West. Dismantled in 2003, the rooms will reopen in late fall 2010 on the new wing’s first floor, after months of careful conservation and research into their interior decoration.