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Conservation work continues at Scotty’s Castle

Scotty’s Castle, located in the northern region of Death Valley National Park, has been closed since Oct. 18, 2015 when almost three inches of rain fell on the Scotty’s Castle area in Grapevine Canyon.

The flash flood that ensued dramatically changed the landscape. The road and utilities were destroyed and some buildings damaged. Repairs are estimated at $47 million.

Repairs are being funded over multiple years from a number of sources: park entrance fees, the Federal Highway Administration, National Park Service deferred maintenance accounts and donations.

Post-flood, Death Valley National Park has requested funding from the Death Valley Natural History Association (DVNHA) to assist with funding several curatorial projects at Scotty’s Castle, including treatment of the silver collection, conservation of the Scotty’s Castle Upper Music Room Curtains and repairs to the Scotty’s Castle Welte-Mignon Theatre organ currently underway.

The Death Valley Natural History Association presented a check last week in the amount of $41,420 to fund the reproduction of eight leather curtains in the Great Hall of Scotty’s Castle. The original painted and tooled sheepskin curtains are severely deteriorated, the Death Valley Natural History Association said in a news release providing the update on conservation work at Scotty’s Castle.

After 90 years of use in the desert, they have desiccation, tears, fading, cracking and loss of tassels. A professional conservation examination in 2012 determined that the curtains are beyond repair. All curtains at Scotty’s Castle have an important function in protecting sensitive historic furnishings and textiles from further UV damage and also allow visitors to visualize the space as it was when occupied by the Johnsons in the 1930s.

A complex project, leather stamps for this project were manufactured in 2018 using NPS funding and artisans capable of stamping, cutting, coloring, and sewing the fully replicated reproductions took years to find. Appropriate weight and color-matched leather is being sourced and artisans are now ready to begin work.

“This is the perfect timing for preservation and conservation work to take place while the collection has been taken out of Scotty’s Castle.

Due to lack of temperature and humidly controls, the entire collection normally housed within the castle was removed for its protection. We have been working as fast as we can to raise money so that necessary repairs to collection items can be made and so that the historic house can be reopened as complete as possible,” said David Blacker, executive director of the Death Valley Natural History Association. “It all takes time and people willing to contribute.”

The Scotty’s Castle Historic District is scheduled to reopen in October 2021. During the closure, there are limited opportunities to visit Scotty’s Castle with a park ranger and see firsthand how the power of water shapes the landscape of Death Valley, listen to the stories of this unique palace in the desert, the people who called it home, and the projects underway to reopen this unique historic district.

This season’s tours are offered on Sundays from Dec. 8 through April 12, 2020. Reservations are required in advance. Tickets are $25 per person, available at www.dvnha.org. Proceeds from the tour benefit the Scotty’s Castle Historic Preservation Fund to support projects like the aforementioned. An additional $25,000 is needed for conservation treatment of the Scotty’s Castle dining room curtains.

For more information on the Death Valley Natural History Association or to make a donation to the Scotty’s Castle Historic Preservation Fund, go to www.dvnha.org on the web.

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