By collecting a paint chip from an 18th century home, Middletown native and scientist Catherine Matsen can essentially deduce the homeowner's quality of life.
Matsen, an associate scientist for Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, will deliver a presentation on an architectural paint analysis of four interior rooms in the historic Corbit-Sharp House in Odessa, during a Middletown Historic Society meeting on Tuesday. She'll also give a presentation on the nondestructive testing of Winterthur's collection of silver objects.
Painting a picture
Nowadays folks can have specialty paints mixed at Lowe's at any time. But this wasn't the case back in the 18th century. Paint in general was more costly, let alone the purchase of custom paints, since it wasn't easy to come by. Homeowners interested in hiring a painter needed to pay for the raw materials (which the painter mixed on site), as well as the painter's services, and also room and board for the painter, because the job usually took a few days to complete, said Matsen, 37, who now lives in Wilmington.
Hypothetically, if Matsen examines a paint chip from a home that's of a similar texture and pigmentation of a high-end paint, she can infer that the homeowner was well-to-do, she said.
On the contrary, "If we found cheap, inexpensive paint throughout a house, it would've suggested the homeowner had more expensive furniture in the room, or maybe they had expensive wallpaper," she explained.
Matsen said she's decided to give a presentation on the Corbit-Sharp House since she did an architectural analysis on it for her thesis paper in grad school (while earning her master's degree) at the University of Pennsylvania in 2003.
Matsen's presentation on the nondestructive testing (or analysis) of Winterthur's collection of silver objects will shed light on how she's able to determine whether an item is made of genuine silver. This examination is significant because it's performed in Winterthur's scientific analysis lab.
"Winterthur is only one of about 15 labs that has a scientific analysis lab," Matsen said.
Moreover, nondestructive testing is useful for concluding whether an antique dealer is attempting to sell fraudulent silver objects to Wintherthur, she explained.
Nondestructive testing, the process Matsen uses to examine a silver object, involves the use of an X-ray Fluorescence spectrometer (or XRF machine). In short, the XRF shoots low-energy X-rays at the silver object, which reveals whether the alloy composition of the item matches that of a genuine silver object, Matsen said.
Page 2 of 2 - IF YOU GO
WHAT Presentation by Winterthur Associate Scientist Catherine Matsen
WHEN 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19
WHERE Middletown Historical Society, 216 N. Broad St., Middletown
INFO middletownde.org or 378-7466