Friday, November 7, 2008

Wood Graining

Well, I am back in my desk after having spent a day in meetings at the Kings County Museum in Kentville. For those of you unfamiliar with this site, the museum is housed in the old Kings County Courthouse. This is a very professionally run museum with a good genealogy centre for those who are tracing their Kings County roots. It is well worth the visit if you are traveling through Kentville.

The meeting itself was held in the old courtroom. This is a very impressive meeting room as all of the courtroom fixtures including the judge's bench and the prisoner's box are still in place. Despite a bit of urging, I chose to sit at the table rather than in the prisoner's box. Perhaps the most impressive part of the courtroom is the extensive decorative use of wood graining.

Wood graining is a technique which developed in England and France in the 19th century. By starting with a less expensive type of wood (locally this would be pine, spruce or fir), an artisan could create the look of an expensive wood through the application of a faux finish. In many cases, this was done for economic reasons as mahogany, oak, maple and rosewood were often beyond the means of average families. Essentially, this was an economical way to make cheaper wood look expensive. This decorative technique became common in Nova Scotia through the late 19th century. In fact, the Annapolis Heritage Society's O'Dell House Museum and Sinclair Inn Museum have sections which include wood graining.

The artisan who did the graining in the Kings County Museum had a good sense of humour. Hidden within the wood grain are a number of images. I have included three images but there is also a bear, a horse and other imagery. As there is a great deal of wood graining and the images appear randomly and in subtle ways, they are very effective. Had the artisan made the images more distinct, they would not be as effective or as clever. In fact, one could easily miss the designs if they were not told that they were there. I am sure that many prisoners sat in the box at the front of the room and never noticed the fish behind their head.

All for now,
RGS

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