The restoration of the Lost Shul Mural is a multi-phase project.

The mural was originally painted on the plaster walls of Chai Adam Synagogue. After that congregation merged with Ohavi Zedek, the original building became a commercial property, and the mural was concealed behind a wall. Significant damage occurred over subsequent decades. Fortunately, the unusual mural, which communicates so much about Jewish tradition and Eastern European culture, has been rescued and is now being restored and interpreted for varied audiences.

This complex project has been divided into four main phases over six years:

 

Phase I:                Planning / Testing / Engineering (2012‐13)

Phase II:               Outreach / Mural Conservation (2013‐14)

Phase III:             Mural Relocation and Restoration (2015-18)

Phase IV:             Education and Interpretation (2015-18)

 

Each project phase is described in further detail below.

 

Phase I: Planning / Testing / Engineering (2012‐13)

  • Transfer of property ownership, negotiation with new owners for access to the mural.
  • False wall is removed to reveal mural in former Chai Adam Synagogue.
  • Conservator Constance Silver carries out preliminary examination and tests on the mural, concludes that building conditions over 30 years have damaged it severely, and recommends that the mural be removed to stable environment for conservation as soon as possible.
  • Through initial treatments, Silver establishes that deteriorated paint can be stabilized over a period of several months, ascertains degree of difficulty to remove unsightly obfuscating accretions, and lays out corresponding action plans.
  • Architect Marcel Beaudin, Great Northern Construction, and Engineering Ventures carry out engineering studies to determine feasibility and costs of moving the mural.
  • Historical research for Vermont Public Television documentary ‘Little Jerusalem,’ The Story of the Jewish Community of Burlington, Vermont, focuses attention on the mural.
  • Website is developed, testimonials are provided, and fundraising begins.

 

Phase II: Outreach / Mural Conservation (2013‐14)

  • As is essential before relocating the mural, paint on plaster is stabilized and consolidated to prevent further flaking.
  • Photography and video documentation of process
  • Project committee accelerates organizational planning and media outreach.
  • Publicity and fundraising: design and printing of new brochure; launch of Lost Shul Mural website (www.lostshulmural.org); fundraising at the local and national levels.
  • Ohavi Zedek scholar‐in‐residence Samuel D. presents the history and artistry of the mural to the community.
  • Little Jerusalem and two Gruber Scholar-in-Residence lectures are produced as DVDs.
  • Publicity efforts result in generous television and radio coverage and dozens of articles in online and in local, national and international publications.
  • Removal of grime and discolored varnish; test patches reveal brilliant colors beneath the layers of grime.
  • Removal of all obfuscating accretions and overpaint continues with preliminary cleaning of paint to restore original colors and brightness.
  • Continuing photography and videography of conservation process
  • Additional engineering, lab and conservation studies carried out in preparation of moving mural.
  • Computer modeling of former Chai Adam Synagogue begins.

 

Phase III: Mural Relocation and Restoration (2015-18)

  • Preparation of formal project plan and other essential project documents and permits.
  • After conservation and consolidation, the mural is packed and moved to Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, where is installed in a raised position in the public vestibule.This work consists of several carefully sequenced stages. The mural is now seen at a height similar to its original location at Chai Adam.
  • Once the mural is stabilized and cleaned, a temporary facing is added to strengthen the paint, allowing for capture of any paint during the move.
  • After the slate and wooden roof over the mural is removed, the mural shell is consolidated and strengthened. Prior to being cut from its present position, a steel frame is installed around the mural and its plaster and lath backing. It is carefully wrapped for protection and padded to minimize vibrations. The framed structure is lifted by forklift and then transported the .4 miles to Ohavi Zedek Synagogue on nearby North Prospect Street.
  • Subsequently, the roof of the former Chai Adam building is reconstructed, slate by slate, and a new apartment wall is created.
  • In order to bring the mural inside Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, part of the entrance wall to the synagogue vestibule is removed. Once installed, the mural is elevated to the proper position and suspended, projecting out and over the public lobby.
  • When the mural is secured in its new position, the final stage of conservation and restoration begins. Areas of loss are being filled in with a putty‐like material, and these areas will then be textured and inpainted with appropriate museum‐quality paints. Using 1986 archival photos, studies are being made of the original appearance of lost compositional areas to create templates for recreating them.
  • Throughout, fundraising continues.

 

Phase IV (2015‐2018): Community outreach, education and interpretation 

  • The mural’s installation for public viewing is part of what will be a larger educational exhibition detailing the work’s unique significance within the “lost” but not forgotten worlds of Eastern European Jewry and of American Jewish immigrants and refugees.
  • Informational and educational components will likely include affiliated exhibits, wall text, printed materials, a computer terminal with multi‐media components, web‐based information, and apps for mobile devices.
  • Interpretation will address the history and art of the Lost Shul Mural, Lithuania and Lithuanian Jewish culture, Burlington’s Jewish history, the Holocaust, and related topics. Notable historians, conservators, art historians, museum directors, archivists and religious leaders are advising on these presentations. Content will be written and/or reviewed by these and other eminent scholars.