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Escaping Notice

Camera behind curtain
Pay no attention to the camera behind the curtain…
It’s all about the angle. This photograph was taken at the same time as the cover photo. When viewed straight on, the shallow angle of the stand prevented the mirror from reflecting the floor.
It’s all about the angle. When viewed straight on, the shallow angle of the stand prevents the mirror from reflecting the floor.

During the intensive effort to photograph paintings in our Fort Ticonderoga Collection, two objects in the Pavilion Collection presented the team with a challenge. These mirrors, in an elaborate Rococo or Chippendale style from the late 18th century, once belonged to Grace Channing Stetson, granddaughter of Unitarian preacher William Ellery Channing and cousin to museum co-founder Sarah Gibbs Thompson Pell. Sarah considered them important heirlooms, even asking Grace to document what she could remember of their history and preserving that letter with its handwritten annotations in the family papers. However, photographing the mirrors properly would not be as straightforward as hanging them in the Entrance Hall.

The bands across the mirror are areas where the silvered backing is beginning to fail after over 200 years of exposure to light.
The bands across the mirror are areas where the silvered backing is beginning to fail after over 200 years of exposure to light.

The first challenge involved choosing a location where we could control ambient light and had enough space to photograph something over four feet tall. The next step involved supporting the weight of the mirror along its entire base to minimize stressing any one area of the fragile gilded gesso decorative border without covering the edges. Then we turned off the light and covered everything the mirror reflected in black fabric, including the front tripod leg where it peeked out of the curtain. Thanks to the expertise of museum cataloger Megan, we were able to showcase the mirrors without distracting reflections!

As work on the Pavilion collection continues, stay tuned here and on Fort Ticonderoga’s Facebook page for updates on the restoration of the Pavilion, new discoveries, and more from Fort Ticonderoga every week.