ShareThis Page

Project preserves stories behind paintings in Greater Latrobe Special Art Collection

| Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review
Barbara Nakles (right) chairwoman of the Greater Latrobe School District Art Conservation Trust, provides a collection of paperwork, sketches, correspondence and clippings to archivist Nicole Danforth of Laughlintown to digitize and organize all pertinent information as they gathered on Friday morning, October 25, 2013, at the Greater Latrobe Center for Student Creativity.
Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review
Archivist Nicole Danforth of Laughlintown catalogs a collection of paperwork, sketches, correspondence and clippings amassed by Barbara Nakles, chairwoman of the Greater Latrobe School District Conservation Trust, on Friday morning, October 25, 2013, at the Greater Latrobe Center for Student Creativity.

Each of the more than 200 works in the Greater Latrobe Special Art Collection purchased by the students of the district since 1936 has a story to tell, and the Art Conservation Trust is working to share those stories.

With the help of archivist Nicole Danforth, the trust has worked to digitize four filing cabinets “overflowing” with those stories behind the paintings: letters, newspaper clippings and other corresponding documents.

“We always talk about conserving the paintings, conserving the works of art so the students in the future will have them, but we're also conserving information and making it usable,” said Barbara Nakles, chairwoman of the trust.

The project was a part of the Preserve the Vision campaign with the assistance of Emily Uhrin, archivist for the Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent College, and took about a year to complete.

Many of the files were initially acquired and retained by James R. Beatty, who first suggested that students vote and raise money to buy works of art. Included with the other papers is a transcript of more than 30 hours of conversation about the collection between Nakles and Beatty from 1991, when Beatty was 90.

“Maybe his memory wasn't exact, but that doesn't matter; it just matters that it's here,” Nakles said.

Danforth had worked with the art trust previously and was given the nod as the perfect candidate for the project, scanning and making consistent files for possible online searches one day.

“She is meticulous, which is necessary,” Nakles said. “She is extraordinarily skilled at doing this.”

Each of the stories — such as a letter on nearly translucent paper from the subject of 1944's “Mimi” to the artist — is a part of an ongoing legacy, Danforth said.

“How do we: one, preserve what we have, and two, make it good for research?” she said.

Everything has been scanned. New hard copies were made, staples and clips were removed, and important files were placed in acid-free folders.

Related books, like the one about the Sewickley family of “Mimi,” called “Misfortunes of Wealth,” have been filed together with the paperwork.

Anyone interested in the paintings or their corresponding file can contact the Center for Student Creativity to review the information.

Now the trust is working to determine how to best present the archives along with the works online, in order for more people to search and learn about particular artists or works of art.

“We are slowly moving into an electronic world, but we look to a future where the images and perhaps the material and catalog would be immediately available,” she said. “It's going to take us some time.”

Paintings are highlighted online in the trust's e-newsletter as well as a “painting of the month” on the Greater Latrobe School District website.

The organization is working to digitize the minutes and archives of the art trust.

Danforth said she appreciates the original vision of the art collection and its accessibility to students.

“It's chaos” in the halls of the school where the art hangs, but “they're living every day with history and incredible works of art,” she said.

The work is never done in the “living” files, as new information about the artists, subjects or work are unearthed, Nakles said.

“It's something that will not be completed,” she said.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.