Screen materials are the best option to reduce sunlight coming through the state Capitol dome windows that is damaging portraits and murals, an expert in the care of paintings said Thursday.
Lyzanne Gann, a conservator with Blackthorne Associates, said customized acrylic storm windows would be more affordable, but would block out less light and would have to be replaced often because they lose their effectiveness.
Gann, of Dallas, said much of the cost with screening involves the installation of scaffolding so workers can install it. The expense could be reduced substantially if the screening would be installed at the same time repairs and renovations are made to the Capitol.
The Capitol's architect has said the nearly 100-year-old crumbling building needs about $160 million of exterior and interior repairs as well as replacing outdated plumbing and electrical wiring. Lawmakers have yet to agree on a way to pay for the work.
“As long as you're taking the time to address other issues in the building, try and get your timing coordinating and address those issues,” she told members of the State Capitol Preservation Commission. “The largest hurdle is deciding to do it and then committing funding for it.”
Commission Chairman Richard Ellwanger appointed several commissioners to join him in reviewing proposals and developing cost estimates. He said he hopes to present estimates on two proposals at the commission's meeting in December.
The dome erected 10 years ago contains windows that allow light to directly fall on the surface of several works of art. Sunlight reflected on the marble floor also is reaching paintings hung in corridors.
“Something's got to be done,” Ellwanger said. “We've talked about it for 10 years.”
Gann said blackout screens would block most light in the dome's 16 windows from getting to the murals. But they also would make the inside of the Capitol as dark as a cave.
“You'll have people bumping into each other,” she said. “People need to see where they're walking.”
Commissioners discussed the frustration of dealing with protecting the artwork while not hindering people who work there, as well as tourists.
“This building was never designed to be an art museum,” Commissioner Trait Thompson said.
Gann said commissioners will have to consider their best option. “You will not be able to achieve perfection,” she said.
The dome was added to the Capitol in 2002. Before the dome, no sunlight entered the rotunda, where murals and framed paintings on canvas are installed around the base of the dome and in locations along corridors beneath the dome.
Blackthorne Associates, which looks at ways to conserve and preserve artwork, recommended installing screens, also called scrims. But a company that installs scrims and shades told commissioners earlier it would be too risky because of the cost of repairing any of the 16 motors that might malfunction while under the first year of warranty. It suggested exterior scrims, which commissioners agreed would not last long in Oklahoma's extreme weather conditions.
Ellwanger said determining cost estimates will help commissioners move forward in making a decision.
“I do feel that coming up with the money is actually the easy part,” he said. “The hard part is deciding what appropriate action to take.”
I do feel that coming up with the money is actually the easy part. The hard part is deciding what appropriate action to take.”