Preserving Our Nation’s History
At the end of each summer, the Diplomatic Reception Rooms close their doors. Tours, events, and even secretarial use of the Rooms are suspended.
For one month, the only activities that occur with the Rooms are the conservation and documentation of the collection. Conservators — some of whom have maintained these objects for decades — come to Washington to work their way through a list of needs prepared over the course of the previous year.
During this brief period, a year’s worth of work must be accomplished. A large reception room is cleared of furnishings in order to accommodate a pop-up conservation studio that addresses the crucial repairs, stabilizations, and preventive measures needed by the collection. New acquisitions are installed, and objects are rotated as necessary. Chandeliers and carpets are expertly cleaned. Photography and digitization take place.
This is the only window of time in which large-scale room preservation projects can be undertaken. Teams swiftly execute the tasks of moving artwork, repairing plasterwork and other structural elements, refreshing paint and decorative finishes, and installing modern gallery lighting. Each room is fastidiously reassembled just in time for the Rooms’ reopening.
The caliber of the collection and the documentation and conservation methods of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms meet the standards of a world-class museum. Unlike a museum, however, this collection does not exist behind glass encasements, stanchions, and ropes. These Rooms are not a static environment. They are in active service to our nation each day as meeting, reception, dining, and educational spaces. Each year, more than 100,000 guests stand on the rugs, sit in the chairs, and converse over the tables. Wear and tear far exceed that of most historic collections.
Stewardship of this collection is the highest priority of the Office of Fine Arts. In partnership with extraordinary specialists and craftsmen, this charge is undertaken with the utmost respect for the importance of these historic works and the spirit of goodwill with which the collection was assembled and entrusted to the American people. Annual conservation ensures that the Rooms are maintained as a national treasure that will continue to serve our nation for generations to come.