Summer Salon: Christine Thomson

July 23, 2021 @ 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Salem Athenaeum—online
Members: Free; Suggested Donation for General Public: $10
Salem Athenaeum

Adventures in Architectural Paint Analysis

Historic paint analysis is critical to understanding the history of a building’s evolution through time. Paint color trends change with the years, so sometimes the identification of specific paint colors can help with dating alterations in the appearance of a particular space. In earlier times, those studying paint would simply sand an area of woodwork or down to the wood, creating concentric circles of paint layers.

In the 1980’s, beginning at Historic New England (then known as SPNEA) architectural researchers began using the microscope as a tool to more closely examine paint layers. This approach provides more information than the sanding method, making it possible to identify paint treatments made up of multiple layers, and also decorative paint treatments, such as marbleizing and faux wood graining.

Identification of pigments is also another way to aid in the dating of specific paint layers. We know the dates that most pigments were first commercialized and used in architectural painting, so the information gained from pigment analysis can also provide clues to dating specific layers. It is always exciting to “read” a room full of paint and reveal the color schemes of the past!


Christine Thomson provides architectural paint analysis services for museums, historic sites, and private homeowners. A graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, she apprenticed in woodworking and wood finishing in California before moving to Boston in 1988. She was Senior Furniture Conservator at the SPNEA (now Historic New England) Conservation Center, and Senior Conservator at the firm of Robert Mussey Associates in Boston. She is now self-employed in Salem, Massachusetts, and serves both museums and private collectors. She performed a paint analysis of the Salem Athenaeum exterior in 2018.


PLEASE NOTE: This event will be held online via Zoom.

The link for the event will be sent to all registered participants

30 minutes before program start.

Upcoming Events

View Entire Calendar