NEW LONDON: The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded a “We the People” grant to the New London County Historical Society to fund the creation of a preservation plan for the 55 oil paintings in its collection. Nationally recognized painting experts, Lance Mayer and Gay Myers, independent conservators associated with the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, will conduct an intensive survey of the collection in order to create the plan. Having a plan in place will make it possible to seek additional funding for the conservation and treatment of specific paintings in a future funding cycle.
James Leach, Chairman of the NEH writes, “The goal of the ‘We the People’ initiative is to support projects that explore significant events and themes in our nation’s history.” The society’s collection has a number of outstanding components with six Ralph Earl portraits commissioned for the Shaw family in 1792, and a large number of ships’ portraits and ships’ captains’ portraits associated with New London’s whaling years. In the Thomas Shaw portrait, Earl included a view in the background of Fort Trumbull with a large American flag flying over it. This alone makes this painting an important document of our nation as there are fewer than 100 images of the American flag that have been identified as being created prior to 1800.
Meyer and Myers clients have ranged from the Guggenheim Museum to the Art Institute of Chicago, and more locally, the Yale Center for British Art and the Wadsworth Atheneum. In 2009 they treated Washington Crossing the Delaware for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Their scholarly work on 18th and 19th century painting techniques has been shared in numerous articles and conference presentations. They look forward to having a project close to home and the opportunity to closely examine the Earl portraits.
The New London County Historical Society, founded in 1870, is the oldest historical organization in eastern Connecticut. The Shaw Mansion has been the society’s headquarters since 1907 and is located at 11 Blinman Street, New London, close to the corner of Bank and Tilley Streets.