Friday, January 2, 2015

Thousands of wallpaper designs — from the early 18th century to the mid 20th — are now online.

This French wallpaper was manufactured by Zuber et Cie between 1830 and 1831. It was printed in gray, green, and white on a polished green background and features leaves framing floral medallions.
In the mid-1930s, a woman named Dorothy Waterhouse was scraping wallpaper from the interior of an old Cape Cod house when she developed an unusual obsession. “Suddenly I spotted beneath the drab looking top layers some beautiful colors,” she later told a newspaper. She soon opened her own wallpaper business, and throughout the rest of her life, she would take many trips into the countryside to expose and preserve the wonders hidden in other people’s walls.
Waterhouse isn’t alone in her fixation. Wallpaper has been the subject of exhibitions at institutions like New York’s International Print Center and Manchester’s Whitworth Gallery, and artists like Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst have even created their own designs. It surfaces throughout literature, too — in books like Crime and Punishment and short stories like The Yellow Wallpaper. 
Now all of us who share Waterhouse’s fascination with wallpaper can explore her 1,400-item-strong collection online. After her death, the archive was donated to Historic New England, which recently finished digitizing it along with 4,800 other wallpaper samples. “The collection is searchable by date, location, and manufacturer, and by keywords like color and type of pattern,” cataloguer Peggy Wishart said in a press release. “You can zoom in to see every detail.”