We received this heartwarming letter from a student who recently visited Melrose as part of a school field trip. Preserving history for future generations is one of the main reasons we do what we do.
This week we bid a temporary farewell to our lovely Clementine Hunter African House murals as they headed to Houston, TX for some much-needed conservation.
The murals date back to 1955 and have been a gallery fixture in the Melrose African House for almost 60 years. Due to various environmental factors, the murals were beginning to show the initial signs of fatigue. In addition, the African House will soon be undergoing preservation of it's own, so the timing of the mural conservation was fitting.
After much consideration, the APHN selected the Fine Art Conservators of Whitten & Proctor to take on the project. (Quote from one of the conservators.) "The conservators at Whitten & Proctor Fine Art Conservation are very much looking forward to our collaboration with Melrose Plantation, caring for the Clementine Hunter murals from African House," said Jill Whitten.
Although the murals will be in Houston for a while, we still have many other Clementines on display in the Big House gallery. We'll also be revealing details soon on an exciting interim exhibit in the upstairs of the African House.
This costly project would not be possible without a generous contribution from long-time APHN Member Miss Theodosia Nolan. We are so grateful for her continuing support.
Recently there have been several new discoveries centering on the Clementine Hunter collection at Melrose. It all began with the stove in the Clementine Hunter house. For the last 35 years, items have remained in the stove undiscovered and unexplored. When these items were discovered, our staff quickly contacted Dustin Fuqua with the National Park Service to assist with an assessment, inventory, and documentation of the pieces.
The items dated between 1972-1977 and included an Avon product box, a St. Augustine Church raffle ticket from October 7-8, 1972, paper documents including a receipt from Roque's auto garage, newspaper sections, a Natchitoches Parish water bill and even an empty pack of Pall Mall cigarettes. (According to historian Tommy Whitehead, Clementine did not smoke but her daughter did.)
The second big discovery is more of a “re-discovery”. While inspecting broken glass doors in the Melrose Library, staff uncovered a large blue binder with a full inventory of items received by APHN from the Hunter family after her death. Once this re-discovery was fully realized, we began working to identify and find the items listed. One such item was an “artist box.” This box was found and to our delight, Clementine’s paints and brushes were still inside.
Every day is an opportunity for a new discovery at Melrose.
Melrose is in the process of updating, improving, and developing exhibit spaces throughout the house museum and historic site.
Our staff began work on the morning of January 21, 2013 by removing each book from the library and sorting it according to its age and ownership by the Henry family. Significantly damaged books were also removed for proper storage.
By the end of Day 1 the library was empty and installation of the new lighting began. The site caretaker installed florescent fixtures inside the book cases to provide off-set room lighting and draw the visitor’s attention to the books on display. The top shelf in each section was trimmed down to allow more light to flow into the bookcase. Each shelf was then vacuumed, cleaned, and painted where necessary.
Books were then vacuumed and carefully placed back on display. Additional collection items and furniture were moved back into the room. The final step was to install the necessary conservation tools to further protect the collection of books at Melrose.
After 4 days of exhibit work, the library was reopend. The first group to see the work completed were students from Mansfield High School. Their teacher commented, “It didn’t look this good last year!” We are excited to be able to provide visitors with a new experience in the Library exhibit and hope to continue to meet and exceed our visitor’s expectations each day.
This project is supported by a gift from The Rapides Foundation.
Fall Tour: A Vital Economic Asset(Presented by: Schulz, B., Yandell, K., Springer, M., Walen, D., James, K., Walker, J., and Smith, J.)
Graduate students from Northwestern State University completed an economic impact study for the APHN Fall Tour of Homes. The purpose of the Economic Impact Study is to assess the financial impact of the tour and project the amount of ‘new money’ created in the community of Natchitoches, Louisiana. If there are a large number of attendees who travel more than 30 miles to partake in the 58th Annual Fall Pilgrimage Tour of homes, then a positive economic impact will be estimated for the city and surrounding communities. The 2012 Fall Tour brought an estimated $509,000 in economic impact to the community.
93 surveys were collected at random. Questions included the participant identifying where they live, how many are traveling in their group, how long they were staying in town, and estimated spending on food, drinks, souvenirs, lodging, and gas.
Using the average ticket price of $37.66; approximately 536 tickets were purchased for the Tour of Homes.
“New Money” is defined as money introduced into the community that would not be available to the area (over 30 miles). $27,278 of new money was spent (ticket sale not included). In other words, each visitor who came to Natchitoches only for Tour of Homes spent $357.82. The total money (people coming just for Fall Tour and people who would be in Natchitoches anyway) was $27,820.
The impact multiplier for Natchitoches is 2.8 which makes the economic impact of Fall Tour of Homes approximately $509,037.73.
This study has several limitations including the fact that ticket sales are roughly estimated and the data from participants is self-reported. But these numbers are shocking. Fall Tour has an enormous impact on the local economy with 57% spent on food and lodging; hotels, B&Bs, and restaurants benefit most from the event.
What we discovered during this project is that primarily “new money” is generated. This is money that would not have been spent in Natchitoches without Fall Tour of Homes. We have a “tangible opportunity to increase the local economy,” and APHN is proud to have such an impact on the vitality of the community.
(Originally posted by Adam Foreman)
"To highlight the work of African American folk artist Clementine Hunter, participants in the Watermill Center Summer Program recreated African House, a structure on Melrose Plantation in Louisiana, where Hunter worked and painted. The center’s reimagined house, positioned at the epicenter of the event, served as a gallery for Hunter’s colorful, deeply personal canvases." - BizBash
View the complete slideshow here.