The Museum’s delicate lighting fixtures are small but mighty. Each lampshade is just one handheld piece of glass, but experienced in total, the 300+ glass lampshades create an stunning effect. These glass art pieces surround the columns that stretch 50 feet to the ceiling, they line the outer walls of the sanctuary, and in the case of the central chandelier, 75 shades unite on one brass fixture to create a truly grand display. The green etched-glass shades give the sanctuary an unmatched old world beauty.
And now, that old world is meeting the new! Last week, the experts at Aurora Lampworks set up shop in our sanctuary to begin a major lighting project. For the first time in over ten years, Aurora is cleaning each individual glass lampshade, as well as their intricate brass sconces and fixtures. And while they’re at it, each light will be getting a new LED bulb. But don’t worry! If you’re someone for whom LED bulbs bring to mind images of harsh, too-bright light, you’re not alone. But LEDs have come a long way in recent years, and ours have been meticulously matched in tone and color to our previous lighting scheme. You’ll never know the difference, unless you look at our electric bill! These modern LED lights will allow the Museum to cut energy consumption to a tenth of what we were previously using for lighting. We’re proud to be reducing our energy footprint with this project.
We know the sanctuary is in good hands with Aurora Lampworks – they managed the initial restoration of the sanctuary’s lighting. During the restoration, they meticulously repaired and polished each individual piece of the central chandelier. They also managed the salvage, repair, and replacement of the original green lampshades in the space. Some shades were damaged beyond repair. So Aurora was able to locate the French firm that manufactured the original glass shades. To fabricate replacements, old-century molds were used to create replicas. Nothing in the 20th century can perfectly mirror the original shades’ level of artistry, but the new ones Aurora commissioned come very close.
It has now been ten years since the restoration was officially complete. And ten years since the lampshades have had a comprehensive cleaning! Beginning last week, Aurora has been carefully removing the lamp shades in small sections of the sanctuary. Each glass shade is being cleaned with a gentle solution. Brass fixtures that hold the glass shades are being cleaned (even vacuumed)! And then each shade will be returned to its rightful place, this time bearing a 6 watt LED bulb instead of a 60+ one.
Perhaps the coolest thing about the whole project? In order to work on the 75 lights that comprise Eldridge’s central chandelier, the massive structure was lowered from the ceiling! It’s not something that happens often, but the historic chandelier was originally constructed to lower for just these instances. It was fun to see, and allowed an up-close-and-personal view of this beautiful fixture that normally hangs so high above our heads.
We’re so grateful to Aurora Lampworks for their incredible expertise! We thank them for helping the Museum to usher our 19th-century gem into the 21st century.