One of Lightner Museum’s most brilliant treasures is back after a hiatus of two years.
Following Hurricane Matthew, museum staff discovered that several pieces in the stained-glass window collection had sustained water damage and needed stabilization.
The windows were carefully removed and restored by Miami-based RLA Conservation, a group of professionally trained conservators and artists specializing in historic architecture, artifacts and sculpture. The windows were cleaned and repairs were made to stabilize the lead supports and wooden frames.
The museum then engaged Building 4 Fabrication of Atlanta, Georgia, to build light boxes that would allow each window to be illuminated from behind and facilitate display.
The end result is “Illuminate: Lightner Museum’s Stained Glass Rediscovered,” a 12-piece exhibition in a new gallery space on the mezzanine above the old pool. The exhibit opened Thursday, Sept. 10.
Museum registrar Kristin Zimmerman called the collection a Lightner staple.
“A lot of people have come in over the years asking where the original stained-glass window room was,” she said. “So, it was really important to take good care of (the windows), to get them restored and put back on display.”
A donation from Inez McDonald, along with additional donations by the Treasury Venue Collection and St. Augustine Historic Inns, funded the restoration of a total 15 windows from the collection of Otto Lightner.
McDonald first got involved after learning that the museum asked for people to “adopt” pieces for restoration.
“I said, ‘That would be a good idea,’” she recalled.
She adopted the largest of the windows, a life-sized image of St. Augustine created circa 1900 by Tiffany Studios. A year later, she inquired about the restoration’s progress and was inspired to do more.
“I asked, ‘What would be the cost of restoring the lot?’” she said. “They gave me a figure, and this is what happened.”
Another of McDonald’s favorites is a window from a German Gymnastic Community clubhouse in Chicago. It was created at around 1880 and depicts an early version of the German flag and a modified American flag.
While some pieces were created by Tiffany Studios, others were the work of Willet Stained Glass and Rudy Brothers Glass Studio. There are portraits, mythological scenes and Art Nouveau designs. Also on display is a Tiffany lamp with dragonfly motif.
The Lightner Museum is located at 75 King St. in St. Augustine.