Thursday, August 29, 2013

Progress on the Missing Soldiers Office

     Just yesterday I had the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. to see some of the restoration work which has been done on the building which housed Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office.  My museum has been working with the owner of the building, the General Services Administration, to open the Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office Museum in this space.  There is still a lot of work to be done, but already there is visible progress!

Recently, a small Welcome Center was opened on the first floor of the building.  At the moment, it is open on weekdays. 

The space isn’t finished, so no artifacts can be displayed here yet.  There are some great informational panels and a video presentation on display though.

     The main part of the new museum will be located on the third floor of the building, where Clara Barton lived and worked.  A restoration crew is still hard at work preparing the space for visitors. 

Here’s a "before" look at the room which housed the Missing Soldiers Office.

Here you can see that the walls and ceiling have been restored, and the wood trim around the windows has been painted. 

Most of the interior doors looked like this one.

Here a conservator carefully removes the dirt and the top layer of finish from one of the doors.  You can see the lighter area at the bottom of the door that he has already cleaned.

While I was there, he uncovered the original number on the door!

Here’s a look at the hallway outside the Missing Soldiers Office doors, before any restoration.

The hallway is looking much better now, and a skylight has also been added.

This is Clara Barton’s living space before restoration.

Here is what her living space looks like now. 

At the moment, most of the walls are covered with white wallpaper liner.  Several of the original wallpaper patterns from these rooms have been reproduced and will be put on the walls.  There are some places where the original wallpaper is being preserved on the walls though.  These sections will be covered with Plexiglas so that they will be visible, but protected.

Another section being preserved shows a signature from a previous wallpaperer. It reads, “Papered by Andrew Frye, Apr. 29, 1898.”

It’s a bit hard to read through the liner paper, but the tradition of signing the walls before applying the wallpaper is being carried on by the current crew!

One reason I visited yesterday was to place this data logger in the space.  This little unit records hourly readings of the temperature and relative humidity.  This data will help me to better plan for how to exhibit the artifacts. 
     So, the Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office Museum is closer to being finished!  There isn’t an official opening date yet, but be on the lookout for an announcement sometime this fall.

Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.


  1. This is so exciting. To think that the history of this place is so well preserved. Wish we could thank whoever closed off the third floor of this building...

  2. I'm looking forward to visiting. I was there several years ago, on the outside reading a note on the door with two phone numbers if one wanted to arrange a visit. I featured the Missing Soldiers Office in my mini-encyclopedia THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR FROM A TO Z and always include Clara Barton and Dr. Mary Edwards Walker in Civil War lectures.

    Thank you for your efforts to restore and preserve this important piece of American history.

    Anita Quick, author