Managing for Results: Unfunded Request for Fiscal Year 2004
Conservation of the Peabody Complex Collection of Fine Art
Prepared by the Maryland State Archives, July 2002


In 1996, the State of Maryland acquired the Peabody Art Collection when the Board of Public Works and the General Assembly of Maryland, under the leadership of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and Speaker of the House of Delegates, Casper R. Taylor, Jr., approved the final payment of $15 million to the Peabody Institute, one of the state's premier cultural institutions. The collection is now managed by the Maryland Commission on Artistic Property (MdCAP) of the Maryland State Archives.

In the April 2001 Joint Chairmen's Report, the General Assembly requested that the MdCAP prepare a condition assessment of the Peabody Art Collection to be submitted by December 31, 2001. $30,000 was appropriated for this purpose, and the assessment was completed and submitted to the Legislature in December 2001.

This diverse collection of painting, sculpture, drawings, and decorative arts, currently valued at over $19 million, is one of the finest in the country and includes stunning works by American and European masters. Many of these objects are requested for loan and reproduction in the United States and abroad; some are on semi-permanent exhibition in the Miller Senate Building, Government House, and institutions such as the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Maryland Historical Society. This is a collection of which the state can be exceptionally proud. However, a commitment must be made to its long-term conservation and care.

The collection includes a total of 1,468 objects. Between July-December 2001, four conservators examined 101 paintings, 92 frames, 114 sculptures, 27 decorative art objects or sets of objects, 31 medals and painted miniatures, and 1,100 works on paper. The conservators were: Sian Jones, paintings; William Lewin, frames; Nancy Jean Davis, sculpture and decorative arts; and Hanna Szczepanowska, paper. The survey included objects on display and in storage.

Conservators ranked each object using the following criteria:
        5    Extremely poor condition, in danger of deterioration without conservation
        4    Poor condition requiring extensive conservation
        3    Requires some conservation work, not critical
        2    Good condition but needs some cleaning
        1    Good condition requiring routine maintenance

Following the physical examination of the collection, the conservators provided MdCAP with reports and documentary digital images for each object. In addition, the collection of works on paper was digitally scanned so that it may be incorporated into a comprehensive website and made more widely accessible.

Results of the Assessment

Overall, the Peabody Collection requires about 28,080 hours of conservation for all objects identified as needing treatment. The breakdown of object conservation priorities is as follows:


5 56 5,105
4 93 5,181
3 100 2,093
2 73 564
1 46 61

TOTAL 368 13,004

            WORKS ON PAPER

5 11 410
4 98 2,721
3 650 10,123
2 290 1,773
1 51 49

TOTAL 1,100 15,076

The assessment revealed that 50% of the paintings and frames in the Peabody Collection are in poor or critical condition (priority 4 or 5). Many have been stored for extended periods of time and have deteriorated over the years. Approximately 46% of sculpture, including nearly all of the plaster casts in the collection, is classified as a priority 4 or 5. To date, only a fraction of the Peabody Collection has been exhibited on a permanent or semi-permanent basis, due to the generally poor condition of much of the collection.

The last conservation assessment of the Peabody Art Collection, funded by the Getty Foundation, was in 1988. At that time, conservators estimated that the paintings collection required 1,885 hours of treatment at an estimated expenditure of $132,000, a figure that did not include the cost of restoring the frames. During the past 13 years, only a few objects have received the recommended attention. Today, after evaluation by the same painting conservator, Peabody Collection paintings require 3,464 hours worth of treatment, at a cost of $277,000. Restoring the frames to those paintings involves another 7,481 hours of conservation time, or nearly $598,500. These figures demonstrate that the cost of conserving the Peabody Art Collection will only increase over time.
Selected objects from the Peabody Collection that have been conserved demonstrate the success and value of such efforts. For example, in 2000, MdCAP conserved the painting Annapolis in 1750 by Maryland artist Francis Blackwell Mayer and its frame through a grant from the Maryland Transportation Authority of the Maryland Department of Transportation, which was secured by the exhibits committee for the Miller Senate Building, chaired by Senator Robert R. Neall. 
Annapolis in 1750 before conservation, above, and 
post-conservation, below.

Annapolis in 1750 shows the family of Charles Carroll the Barrister receiving a visit from members of the Calvert family on the portico of the Barrister's 18th-century Annapolis home. It is significant not only for its subject but also because, in 1873, it was the first painting commissioned by the Peabody Institute. After conservation, Annapolis in 1750 was installed in the Miller Senate Building, where it still hangs in the first floor exhibition, From Private Fortunes to Public Gifts: Treasures of the Peabody Art Collection of the Maryland State Archives

In addition to object treatment, project conservators have recommended that MdCAP work with certain borrowing institutions to ensure the long-term care and safe display of Peabody Collection objects once they have been conserved.
For example, a collection of plaster casts acquired in Europe in the late nineteenth century for the Peabody Institute currently is displayed in public areas of a main classroom building at the Maryland Institute, College of Art. MICA students sketch from these casts on a frequent basis (see photo at right). However, the casts show evidence of repeated vandalism and should be displayed in such a way that they are still accessible to the students, but protected from physical contact with the public. 

Similarly, approximately 30 sculptures and portrait busts are exhibited in public areas with minimal security at the Peabody Institute. If such objects are to remain on public view, MdCAP must collaborate with these institutions to secure funding for improved security and display methods.

Objects that have been categorized as poor or critical (priority 4 or 5) include such historically significant items as:

Rembrandt Peale's Portrait of George Washington and its frame. The painting, dating to c. 1800, is marked by deteriorating, discoloring restorations. More importantly, the frame, which likely is original to the painting, has major losses in ornamentation and cannot be displayed.
Two portrait busts of Benjamin Franklin: one attributed to Jean-Jacques Caffieri (illustrated at left) and one to Jean-Antoine Houdon. Currently, these sculptures are stained and dirty, with chips and cracks in the material. They  would be highly exhibitable if they were cleaned and repaired. 
The original frame, designed by notable American architect Stanford White, to Thomas Wilmer Dewing's early twentieth-century painting, Lady with a Fan. There are few White frames extant. Unfortunately, this one cannot be exhibited. Its unique and fragile grille work has suffered deterioration and losses, requiring immediate consolidation. Although conservation work will be extensive, it should be a very high priority.

Three works on paper by nineteenth-century Italian artist Fortunato DiPaoli. These marvelous gouaches, which date to about 1840, are stained and discolored. The paper support of one of the drawings is buckling.
Charles Willson Peale's Portrait of William Paca (c. 1780, shown at right). This full-length portrait of Paca, governor of Maryland, member of the General Assembly, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was exhibited in the State House in the late eighteenth century. The background shows the grounds and summer pavilion of Paca's house and was instrumental in Historic Annapolis Foundation's reconstruction of the Paca gardens. The canvas shows evidence of flaking and lost paint and scratches in its surface. The frame, which is probably original to the painting, has lost ornament and is visibly damaged around its perimeter. This painting is a highly significant one in the Peabody Collection; it is requested frequently for reproduction and is exhibited at the Maryland Historical Society. 

Portrait bust of Baltimore lawyer and Peabody trustee Severn Teackle Wallis by nineteenth-century Maryland sculptor William Henry Rinehart. The Peabody Collection is the largest repository of Rinehart sculptures. This marble bust is very dirty, with staining on the upper layers of the marble. There are chips and dark spots on the sculpture where soot has filtered into small irregularities in the marble.

Works on Paper Collection

Aside from providing a measure of the condition of the Peabody Collection objects, the assessment resulted in an enhanced understanding of the diversity and dimension of the collection. During the course of the survey, for instance, the Archives' paper conservator examined 1,100 works on paper, currently on extended loan to the Baltimore Museum of Art. Previously, these drawings had been only summarily catalogued.
The 2001 survey provided the MdCAP curator with a more thorough understanding of the works, which include 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century American and European drawings and watercolors by prominent artists such as Eugene Delacroix, Jean-Honore Fragonard, and Fortunato DiPaoli (illustrated at left). 

We are currently preparing a comprehensive website of digital images and records of these works on paper, so that they may continue to be studied by staff and the general public. The works bear great potential not only for future interpretation but also exhibition and/or reproduction. MdCAP proposes a mechanism by which these drawings and watercolors could be made available for exhibition or display via facsimile.

Recommended Actions and Timeline for Completion

Based on the volume of conservation work the Peabody Collection requires, MdCAP recommends a ten-year conservation program. The MdCAP curator proposes that objects in the poorest condition, classified as priority 5, be treated during FY2004-2006. Objects classified as priority 4 condition would be treated beginning in FY2006 through 2008. The remainder of the collection would be treated in FY2009-2013.

Other measures would allow MdCAP to adequately care for both the Annapolis and Peabody Collections on a long-term basis. In August 2001, MdCAP submitted a FY2003 budget request that detailed the outcomes of a condition assessment of the Annapolis Complex Collection of fine and decorative arts. The narrative associated with this request may be found as the final section of the current Peabody Collection report. In this submission, MdCAP requested monies for personnel and leased space for collection storage. These are measures that would ensure the long-term care of the Peabody Collection:

Long-term Storage Requirements. MdCAP needs secure, climate-controlled off-site storage for those art objects not on display. Due to inadequate facilities at the Hall of Records Building in Annapolis, MdCAP was forced to move its collection storage into leased space in 2000. Nearly 15% of the Peabody Collection and 30% of the Annapolis Collection is in MdCAP storage at the present time. We continue to receive Peabody Collection objects from borrowing institutions that no longer have storage space for objects not on display. We have submitted a request for secure, climate-controlled leased space to the Department of General Services. Current MdCAP funding does not adequately cover expenses related to this storage contract. Requested allocations for FY2003-2012: $22,050-$24,310 per year
Additional MdCAP staff. Management of the level of conservation activity necessitated by the overall condition of the Annapolis and Peabody Collection objects will require additional MdCAP personnel. Treating numerous objects from the Peabody Collection each fiscal year involves scheduling time with various professionals, managing a budget and related paperwork, packing and transporting objects, and, if objects are removed from exhibition for conservation treatment, selecting and preparing alternate objects for display. The conservation of each object will require approximately 15-20 hours of MdCAP staff time. Management of the long-term routine maintenance of the collection, which to date has been implemented on an irregular basis, also will demand about 8-10 days of MdCAP staff time each month. MdCAP recommends hiring a full-time Collections Manager to coordinate the conservation treatment program and routine care of all artistic property. Requested allocations for FY2003-2012: $17,643-$35,983 per year
Projected Costs for Conservation of the Peabody Collection

Total conservation costs, FY2004-20013: $2,975,498

Costs per fiscal year (FY2004-2013):
Conservation treatment of objects (currently $80/hour)
Fine Art Packing and Transport Fees
Total costs per fiscal year

For access to conservation reports for individual works of art or objects in The Peabody Collection, please contact the Curator, Elaine Rice Bachmann at (410) 260-6445, or by email at

Prepared by the Maryland State Archives