Issue 12 T.O.C. – “The Courage of Curiosity: An Interview with Furniture Conservator Donald C. Williams”

This post is part of a blog series revealing the table of contents of upcoming Issue Twelve. As is our custom, we’ll be discussing one article per weekday in order to give you a taste of what is come. 

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“The Courage of Curiosity: An Interview with Furniture Conservator Donald C. Williams”

Living legends are hard to come by these days – especially in the world of period furniture. Specialization has created an outsized focus on very niche areas of research, and few conservators or scholars are able to maintain both the depth and breadth of the classical “Renaissance man.”

But Donald Williams is one such individual. He has translated Roubo and written books on the Studley tool chest and furniture conservation. He was Senior Furniture Conservator at the Smithsonian Institution for nearly three decades until his retirement in 2012, but his work has not slowed in the least. 

Recently, M&T editor-in-chief Joshua A. Klein traveled to rural Virginia to meet with Williams and discuss the projects he has underway. Working out of a massive 1890 timber-frame barn, Williams explores trades and materials like a mad scientist – testing theories and experimenting in such diverse realms as bronze-casting hardware, workbench design, and marquetry. “There’s no shortage of things to be interested in,” he says. “You’ve got to keep learning.”

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