To welcome its new president, Robert Wilburn, Colonial Williamsburg decided among other things to repaper the entrance hall of his residence, the Coke-Garrett House. The curators chose a mimosa yellow pattern called Classical Urn to replace a dark 19th-century French scenic paper.
Classical Urn and other reproduction papers are the result of a three-year collaboration. First Frank S. Welsh of Philadelphia, a well-known color analyst, chemically tested wallpapers produced in Europe in the late 18th and early 19th centuries that are part of Colonial Williamsburg's historic collection.
By using tiny samples taken from beneath seams and calculating how much the colors had faded over the years, Welsh determined what the original hues probably looked like.
Williamsburg curators traveled to England and France to authenticate their samples against those in museums and in manufacturers' archives. Working with the New York-based manufacturer Schumacher, they reproduced a score of coverings for the new Colonial Williamsburg wallpaper collection. Prices vary; suggested retail for Classical Urn is $97 per roll.
Besides having more intense coloration, the designs have been restored to their original size. Previous 20th-century versions of antique wallpapers often were muted interpretations, and designs were scaled down for lower ceilings and smaller rooms.
Four papers from the Williamsburg collection also are offered in block-print versions for persons seeking the ultimate in historic reproduction. One is Fox Grape, which will be applied in the north octagonal bedroom at Monticello in time for next year's 250th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson's birth. This trellis pattern was among 144 rolls of wallpaper Jefferson ordered from Paris in 1790, said curator Susan R. Stein.