Object Conservation

Most of the 1,600 objects in the museum’s collections, and many of the 10,000 documents housed in our archives, will require conservation treatment at some point during their time with us. The museum has a long track record of providing high-quality care for these objects and documents, but this care and conservation is not inexpensive. Below are some of our recently completed major conservation projects.

French Gilt Chair

In 2008, the museum celebrated the return of a French gilt chair, conserved at the studio of Richmond-based furniture conservator Rick Vogt. The chair is from a set believed to have been purchased by the Monroes during one of their trips to Paris, circa 1803. Other pieces from the set are owned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and are on view at the White House.

The chair’s structure has been stabilized, its gilt finish has been restored, and it has been reupholstered with replicated period fabrics. The chair is now a major component of the museum’s permanent exhibitions.

Many thanks to our Friends for their support of this major project!



Pianoforte 001Astor Pianoforte


In 2005, the museum welcomed home a pianoforte, which had been undergoing conservation for more than a year. Tim Hamilton, a renowned historical piano conservator based in Massachusetts, completed the work. The pianoforte is made of beautiful mahogany with fruitwood inlays and ivory and ebony keys. We believe that Mr. Monroe purchased the instrument in London while Minister to France, Spain and England (1803 – 1807) from the George Astor Company, and used it in several of his homes, including possibly the President’s House. Although the pianoforte has been in the museum’s collections since the 1920s, no one had heard it played for decades. It was missing its soundboard and its internal workings had suffered serious deterioration.

After extensive treatment and restoration, the pianoforte returned to the museum in full working order, producing music just as the Monroes would have heard it. The instrument is featured on the recording “Mrs. Monroe’s Music,” available in the Museum Store, and is played at the annual Holiday Open House.