Cather wallpaper preservation project

Experts are working to give the original wallpaper in Willa Cather's childhood room some tender loving care.

This unique preservation project is happening inside Willa Cather's childhood room. "We are looking ahead to the future to do some interpretive projects, and thinking about what we'd like to do to preserve these properties for the long term," Tracy Tucker with the National Willa Cather Center said. "The first step in that, and one of our highest priorities, was to talk about Willa Cather's childhood room, and the wallpaper that's in it."

The wallpaper does need some work. "This house has been open for tours since the late 1960's, so decades of damage from light, dirt and heat has caused the wallpaper to come off the walls in sections, and it's faded." Hilary LeFevere and Megan Griffiths from the Ford Conservation Center at History Nebraska were recently on site to do some initial cleaning and testing, to try to see what can be done to make Willa Cather's wallpaper look new again.

"Willa Cather moved into this house in 1884, and she would have lived in the home until 1890 when she went to the University of Nebraska," Tucker said. Cather apparently got the wallpaper in trade for work in town, and she put it up herself. Experts believe that Cather also talked about this room in the book "Song of the Lark". "In the book, a young artist is in her room spending time thinking about how she wants to spend her life. And she describes this room in really minute detail. And what Cather is describing is really her own childhood room," Tucker said.

The work on the room and the wallpaper is just beginning. "I think a lot of people would like to see Cather's wallpaper stay there as she left it, but paper products do have a lifetime," Tucker said. "We have to do this testing so that we can-- years down the road-- have that wallpaper in place, or at least have an idea of what it looked like, or preserve it in the archive."