Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Search this
Making a Traditional Chinese Drying Wall
From 2015 to 2017, the Freer|Sackler closed to undergo extensive renovations. We also used this time to improve facilities in the East Asian Painting Conservation Studio. Our Chinese painting conservators and cabinetmakers built a new drying wall, modeled after traditional walls found in studios in China. We can now attach humidified paintings and mounting materials to the wall to dry, facilitating conservation treatment of the museums' Chinese painting and calligraphy collections. The drying wall’s foundational structure is a lattice constructed of basswood. The lattice was attached to wooden studs, creating a gap between the existing wall and new drying wall to facilitate air circulation. Fabric and different types of paper, purchased from China, Taiwan, and Korea, were applied to this lattice using wheat flour paste. Xiangmei Gu, senior Chinese painting conservator; Grace Jan, Yao Wenqing Chinese Painting Conservator; and Zhichao Lyu, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow, worked together for several months to complete the complicated process, covering the wall with a total of twenty-eight layers. This project, made possible by the generous support of the Stockman Family Foundation, has enabled us to expand our capacity for conservation work. It also became an educational opportunity. Watch the video to follow our conservators through the multistep process of covering the wooden latticework with fabric and papers to create a traditional Chinese drying wall. Special thanks to our two staff cabinetmakers, Scott Coleman and Bill York, for their work on the lattice substructure, and to Hutomo Wicaksono, multimedia producer, for producing this video.