In the lobby of the newly renovated Delaware River and Bay Authority
building near New Castle, Delaware, Amanda Kasman and Karissa Muratore
work diligently, cleaning what is known as the Micarta Mural.
The mural, named for the commercial resin that seals it, shows a map
of the East Coast and is made up of six, 4-by-8-foot panels that stretch
the entire length of the administration building’s lobby.
Kasman, a junior majoring in art conservation at the University of
Delaware, and Muratore, a recent graduate of the program, were hand
selected for this cleaning project.
The two met two summers ago on a UD study-abroad trip to Sardinia,
Italy, where they worked on conservation of pre-Roman statuary. They
spent the next summer cleaning, repairing, inventorying and reinstalling
the contents of a 6-by-3-foot, 18-room dollhouse at Winterthur Museum.
The mural is their third project together.
“It definitely helps that we have a similar work ethic,” Muratore said of their collaborations. “We do our utmost possible.”
The Micarta Mural, painted in the mid-1960s by Aurion M. Proctor, had
been in storage for several years. When the Delaware River and Bay
Authority (DRBA) began its lobby redesign project, the idea of using the
mural as a centerpiece came up immediately. The final color scheme of
the lobby, featuring blues and greens, uses the mural as its
“We wanted to make [the lobby] a little more colorful and inviting
rather than just a dull government institution,” Joseph Gibbons, the
DRBA’s director of maintenance and operations, said.
Early in the redesign process, the DRBA contacted the University’s Department of Art Conservation
to see if a partnership would be possible. Kristin deGhetaldi, who
earned her doctorate in preservation studies last year and is
supervising the mural conservation work, conducted initial tests and
found that the project was suited for students.
“When we figured out we didn’t have to use noxious and potentially
toxic solvents, we saw that this could be a great project for students
that are involved in the program because we can do this safely and it
can be done carefully,” deGhetaldi said.
The mural had not been washed since it was made, so Kasman and
Muratore have been cleaning dirt that accumulated in the years it was
previously displayed as well as what built up during its time in
storage, which deGhetaldi referred to as a “superficial tenacious grime
The sealing material allows Kasman and Muratore to clean away the grime without risking damage to the original painting.
“In most conservation you’re going down to the paint layer itself,
which has a lot of risks, for example removing paint that you can’t put
back,” Kasman said. “It [this project] is satisfying because there’s not
that much risk that we’re actually touching the material that he made.”