Governor portraits return to Capitol after conservation treatment

Eight portraits of former governors were returned to the Capitol hallways Monday, Dec. 19, in Pierre after being away at a conservation center for treatment.

Dan Brosz, left, curator of collections for the South Dakota State Historical Society at the Cultural Heritage Center; and Mike Mueller, special projects coordinator for the state Bureau of Administration, rehang the portrait of Gov. Samuel Elrod. (Photo courtesy South Dakota State Historical Society)

The portraits were sent to the Midwest Art Conservation Center in Minneapolis for cleaning, retouching, and in some cases remounting after an assessment by the South Dakota State Historical Society found them in need of preservation work.

"We're pleased to have them home in the Capitol," said Jay D. Vogt, director of the State Historical Society. "They are part of a unique historic collection.  The work done on the portraits will help preserve them for continued display for many years."

The portraits of Coe Crawford, Samuel Elrod, Ralph Herseth, William McMaster, George S. Mickelson, Robert Vessey, Tom Berry, and Frank Byrne were returned to the first floor of the state Capitol in Pierre where the collection of 30 former governor portraits is publicly displayed.

The preservation work was paid for with what remained of private funds raised last year for the Capitol's centennial celebration.  The limited amount of those funds precluded two of the portraits – those of Berry and Byrne – from receiving treatment.  The cost of preservation work on the six portraits totaled $11,995.

"With initial estimates we were hopeful to get all eight completed," Vogt said. "But once they got to the conservation center and could be closely reviewed, there just wasn't enough money to get them all done."

Vogt said the Historical Society would continue to monitor the portrait collection and watch for other private funding opportunities for continued preservation work.

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