Bensalem Township Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo discusses the conservation of the historic diorama depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
In March of 2021 the 1960’s era picturesque diorama, which re-enacts the signing of the Declaration of Independence, found a new home at the Bensalem Township Municipal Building’s lobby, after originally being located at the former Strawbridge and Clothier in Neshaminy Mall. (See original article https://tinyurl.com/fvphh4u)
This diorama was created in 1968 by Tommy Rowland, Inc. and is constructed using painted textiles, paper, feathers, wood, metal foils and even doll hair. This diorama and six others were commissioned in 1968 by Strawbridge and Clothier for the opening of their location at Neshaminy Mall. The dioramas depict seven historic events that occurred in the Delaware Valley. Each was created to be historically accurate and have electronic animated figures. The "Freedom Wall" was the first permanent series of this size and scope created by Tommy Rowland, Inc. In 2006, Strawbridge and Clothier was converted to a Macy's department store, which closed its doors in 2017.
After decades on display, the diorama has collected dust and grime, and has endured minor water damage. In addition, there are several material losses. Some figures are cracked and unstable, and one figure’s hand is detached. Bensalem Township has acquired the services of art conservators and preservation specialists Albertson & Nunan, Inc. who are tasked with preserving the diorama.
Before the art conservators and preservation specialists at Albertson & Nunan, Inc. began treatment, the diorama was photographed and condition issues were documented. Fragile and unstable areas were consolidated using a conservation grade material. The diorama was first carefully cleaned with sponges, and then lightly wet cleaned with custom-made, aqueous-based solutions. Broken fingers and architectural elements were reattached with a reversible adhesive of the appropriate strength. As of today the restoration of the diorama is nearing its completion.
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