I started work at the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Partnership in early May. There were projects to be started, projects to be completed, and ongoing projects that I could dive right into. One of these ongoing projects was the refurbishing of ER’s sleeping porch at Val-Kill. I had luckily entered in at a point where there was still work to be done but much of the groundwork had already been laid down by the professionals. How did I dive in?
I didn’t. I stuck a toe in and then walked down the stairs taking my time to figure everything out and try to make sure I covered all the ground I needed to. Everything begins with research and as any researcher can tell you, diving in leaves you grasping at too many strings. It's better to ease in and have a plan.
We are highly fortunate to have photos of the sleeping porch that were taken before anything had been removed from the house in 1962. These provide the basis for our research. From these photos we are able to form a visual of what the sleeping porch would have looked like, essential in creating an accurate reinterpretation. That visual also helps us to track down the original pieces of furniture or to help make or buy accurate reproductions.
An item we are still puzzling over is her bedspread, which may seem odd, seeing as it is still in our collections. Putting the original on the bed seems the obvious choice, after all, plenty of house museums do this. The sleeping porch however creates an interesting conundrum.
We are still at this stage in which we discuss and research and discuss some more. Each decision we make is important. While to some it may just be a blanket on a bed, to us it is accurately recreating the space that was so important to ER and accurately recreating it for visitors who wish to come and see this part of her life. I could spend an entire post talking about what furniture says about the person who owns it (I won’t) but this level of attention, accuracy, and dedication to getting it right is important and we hope you can bear with us as we make our way towards our finished product.