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Thursday, May 29 • 3:00pm - 3:30pm
(Wooden Artifacts Session) Review and interpretation of X-rays of construction details of American seating Furniture

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Over the past few years the Furniture and Frame Conservation lab at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has taken the opportunity to X-ray furniture and particularly chairs as part of their conservation examination and treatment. This project was initially motivated as part of a study to understand the history of a pair of Philadelphia side chairs from 1760-75 possibly by Benjamin Randolph in the
museum’ s collection which have been the focus of two fascinating articles by furniture historians published in 1972 and 1998 which discuss the authenticity and possibly modifications to these chairs. Examination of the X-rays of these chairs, which revealed conventional mortise and tenon joinery, raised the issue that we had no comparative material to compare them too. We therefore decided to follow up this initial study and to continue to more routinely X-ray furniture so that over time we can build up a comprehensive database of construction techniques employed in American furniture.

This talk will illustrate some of the findings of the study and in particular the introduction of dowels during the 19th century. It will also discuss the difficulties of X-raying furniture and the problems of interpretation of X-rays which due to the nature of furniture and the placement of X-ray film often introduce distortions into the X-rays. The long term aim of this project is that as more data is collected and analyzed we may see some patterns of construction at different points in time or in different regions or shops. This would help to further our understanding and knowledge of furniture making in general but would also provide us with a database of X-rays for use during the examination and authenticating of furniture. Ultimately it would be ideal if X-rays from different museums and institutions could be compiled into a central database to broaden the depth of the study.


Gordon Hanlon

Head of Furniture and Frame Conservation, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gordon Hanlon joined the MFA as Head of Furniture and Frame Conservation in January 2000 after 12 years at the J.Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. After receiving his BA in Biology from the University of York he studied first furniture making at the London College of Furniture followed... Read More →

Thursday May 29, 2014 3:00pm - 3:30pm PDT
Regency Room