Spice Boxes from Fells Point

The Robert Long House, located in Fells Point in Baltimore, was built sometime between 1765 and 1767 and was occupied by many different individuals through the 19th century. It is the oldest known house still standing within the original Baltimore city limits. In 2005, a large collection of artifacts that had been extracted from storage in the cellar of the house was transferred to the MAC Lab. Recently, two spice boxes from this collection were delivered to the conservation department to be stabilized because their painted surfaces were flaking. In order to preserve the paint, conservators applied a dilute solution of adhesive under the flakes of paint. UNDER the paint? Yup, that’s correct, it’s done by applying a small drop of adhesive solution to the edge of a flake of paint: the capillary action immediately sucks it under the paint, the same way water spreads along a paper towel. The adhesive and paint flakes become flexible when warm, so conservators then used small heated tools to carefully press the now flexible paint flakes back onto the surface of the boxes.

Adhering paint flakes back onto the surface of the box with a heated tool.

Close up of one of the boxes.


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