The Conservation Management Plan (“CMP”) is a critical conservation tool. The CMP process is a holistic one: the identification of the significances that must be preserved and the vulnerabilities that must be addressed, leading to the conservation policies that are laid out in the CMP, all framed in the context of the site’s history, actual condition and possible usage.
Charles and Ray would have loved it. They wrote in their 1958 India Report:
“One should be prepared to follow an investigation with a restudy of the problem, to look upon detailed problems as if they were being attacked for the first time; to restate solutions in terms of theory and in actual prototypes; and fully explore their cultural meaning. In order to insure the validity of such an investigation and such restatement it will be necessary to bring together and to bring to bear on the questions all the disciplines which can restate the questions of familiar problems in a fresh clear way. The task of translating the details will be difficult, painful, and pricelessly rewarding.”
Indeed, as part of the development of the Eames House CMP, there have been many investigations into the nature and condition of the site’s fabric. Led and funded by the GCI, an enormous amount of data has been collected. While this is not a collections or landscape management plan, the CMP considers these elements as an integral part of the structures’ environment, and will direct us to prepare future plans for these elements.
For several years, the GCI’s climate and environmental data collections studies have measured temperature, humidity, light, and more recently, dust within the house, as well as outside the house. The resulting report will enable us to understand how these factors impact both the structure and its contents. The geotechnical and tree studies, which have been completed, address how the surrounding environment impacts the structure. The CMP emphasizes the integration of all these elements and how necessary it is to understand their points of connection so that choices are made holistically.
The CMP reminds us to stay focused on priorities. For the Foundation, a major priority is to continue to research key significances before memories fade, records are lost or personnel leave. The small, easily-forgotten details matter, such as Ray’s rejection of double azaleas or daisies with a too-large eye-to-petal ratio for the site’s pots.
We started exploring how to create appropriate flower arrangements years ago, whether bouquets or potted arrangements. We have focused on presentations documented in historic photos and on oral histories identifying preferences, recognizing that holiday-specific arrangements often are atypical. We do our best to acknowledge our personal preferences, whether colors, favorite flowers or styles of arrangement, and try to avoid applying them.
While difficult, this is critical. Flower color, shape, scale, stiffness and patterning, as well as leaf shape and color, are all important and must reflect the Eameses’ preferences.
In addition, we must also incorporate the Eameses’ philosophies and approaches, in this case, their appreciation for the cycle of life, whether that of human celebrations or nature’s seasonality. As such, we are focusing on using seasonal flowers, cut from the surrounding pots and planting beds, as well as purchased from farmers’ markets.
The CMP must be carefully and precisely articulated so that future generations who don’t have that direct contact and intuitive understanding of that earlier period, can still appreciate what was exciting and innovative about the house. By increasing understanding, it will help future stewards to avoid damaging the site’s significances and interpretations as cultural fashions shift.
Simply going through the process has helped to clarify site needs and to develop solutions that will address multiple needs. By informing our decision making as we consider multiple approaches, the CMP will help ensure that the best solution for OUR institution is found, and that our cumulative solutions continue to enhance our long-term conservation goals. A perfectly Eamesian approach.
We are very grateful that the Getty Conservation Institute has led and funded the CMP project along with the environmental data investigations, geotechnical and tree studies, and that they chose to bring in Sheridan Burke and Jyoti Somerville of GML Heritage Consultants to develop the CMP.