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Hill House Candelabras

photo of the candelabraA pair of silver candelabra and a storage chest manufactured by Tiffany and Company in 1892 for James J. Hill were acquired by the Minnesota Historical Society in 2002 from Hill's descendants. The objects were brought to the Daniels Objects Conservation Laboratory for condition assessment and treatment prior to permanent display on the second floor landing of the Hill House Historic Site.

Considering their age and history of use, the candelabra were in good physical condition. The surfaces had a light layer of tarnish, and there were candle wax drips on the branches. Two of the branches had been bent at one time, but none of the dents had caused a break in the metal.

The oak chest was dusty overall and had scuff marks on the exterior finish from rough handling over the years. The interior lining fabric was dusty.

photo of the base of a candelabraThe candelabra were disassembled as far as possible and each component was tagged as to original position. The surfaces were chemically cleaned to remove the wax and tarnish, then polished with a mild abrasive paste formulation. All cleaning chemicals were rinsed off and the objects were prepared for coating. A special high-quality professional grade silver lacquer coating was used in an airless spray gun. The coating forms a continuous film on the silver surface, blocking out oxygen and other tarnish-causing gasses. The chest was cleaned with a solvent to remove the scuff marks, then coated with a hard natural wax. The interior was vacuumed to remove the dust. The brass hardware was polished and coated with the same lacquer mentioned above.

In order to ensure both security and long-term tarnish protection for the candelabra, a special display case was designed that incorporates stable construction materials, gaseous pollution adsorbers, and tight seals. Pure silver coupons were also placed inside the case to serve as a visual check of atmospheric changes within the case. It will give conservators an indication of how well the coatings on the objects are functioning over time.