Ethical Considerations in Reproducing Furniture for Historic House Museums

David Bayne presented this paper on his experiences making reproduction furniture for display in historic house museums.  The rationale behind the reproduction of furniture is always to give a sense of wholeness to an interior, and in many cases there is sufficient evidence of what the furniture was like in the room to easily have the reproductions made.

However, in some cases the evidence is more difficult to find, for example the Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House where the original furnishings were not well-documented.  It is very important to the interpretation of the space, but there will be some guesswork in the execution of these reproductions and the David Bayne was grappling with his role in this negotiation as the conservator.

This lecture reminded me of the the lecture about the ‘Frankenstein syndrome’ by Salvador Munoz-Vinas during the general session.  There are hard decisions we make as conservators and sometimes we just hope that our personal moral compass will guide us down the right path.  I admire David Bayne for his honesty about his personal struggles in the use of reproduction furniture in historic interiors.