With 105 silver objects, the Paul Revere collection at the Worcester Art Museum is one of the largest in the world. The collection surveys the entire career of this Revolutionary War patriot and helps to interpret American colonial and early national, social, cultural, and political history. Additionally, the collection includes two objects from Paul Revere, Sr., who emigrated from France and taught his son the craft of silversmithing.
In 1999 the UnumProvident Corporation donated 56 pieces that had been collected by their Worcester subsidiary, the Paul Revere Life Insurance Company. This generous gift, which more than doubled the Museum’s holdings, catalyzed a renewed interest in this extraordinary collection, inspiring curators and conservators to study and conserve the collection with the ultimate goal of organizing a traveling exhibition.
Never having received comprehensive conservation treatment, the objects were in various states of deterioration, including the disfiguring silver sulfide corrosion on their surfaces, more commonly referred to as tarnish. Every time the tarnish is removed during polishing, original surface is lost. Each object in the Revere collection was manually cleaned by carefully removing the sulfide corrosion with a calcium carbonate abrasive; then each object was examined under the microscope and any polish residues were removed. Lastly, each object was lacquered for protection against future tarnish.
Under the supervision of the museum’s Objects Conservator, this conservation campaign ensured that these unique objects will be preserved and never have to undergo an abrasive treatment again. Funds to hire a conservation technician to undertake the painstaking work of polishing were raised through bids at the Worcester Art Museum’s gala auction; many generous donors responded to this creative appeal and chose to support the preservation of this national treasure.