We have had the nicest people come through on Villa Finale’s Hard Hat Tours. They are interested in just about everything, from the kitchen ceiling to the old piece of wallpaper I found upstairs behind the base board in the Green Sitting Room. (yep, wasn’t always green, it was blue and swirly at some point). The tours are a joint effort between the Manager of Public Programs, Sylvia Hohenshelt, Manager of Buildings and Grounds, Chris Roddy and me, Manager of Curatorial Resources. We have a great time showing our small groups of visitors through the house under construction.
The tour officially starts at the Villa Finale Visitor Center, but Chris and I don’t see them until they arrive at the gate. The dialogue is a relay between the three of, Sylvia tells the visitors about the history of the house, as we’re walking from room to room, and Chris and I talk about building restoration and curatorial information, respectively. Since there isn’t a stick of furniture on view, I must be quite creative, curatorially speaking. I do explain how we packed up the house, piece by piece, into acid- free temporary housing, show them my finding aid for each box and tell them that, if requested by a researcher, I could unearth the …Meissen Dog Band, for example. I show them how each delicate little piece is cocooned in polyester fluff and tissue. We also describe how we’ve swaddled every large thing in unbleached muslin and heavy plastic sheeting.
We give a pretty good run-down of the project and all of its detail and subtleties. Right now, several windows are being restored under the car-port, and they each have their own story. You can see if panes of glass were replaced, or not, and you can tell if the person who replaced them was lazy or not by how they were replaced and glazed. And every single exterior shutter has been taken off, labeled, and will be straightened out and repaired. If it’s a nice day, we take the group into the garden and explain what will occur there, the storm drain system, the plant removal and replacement. And our visitors are still interested! Storm drains! Wow!