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Stoneham Historical Society and Museum Introduces Campaign to Save Historic Mural

STONEHAM – Stoneham Historical Society and Museum is pleased to introduce a new initiative to save a longstanding local mural. 

The catalyst for the campaign, ARTchiving Stoneham, was the closure of the Bank of America branch on Main Street in June 2021 and the possible destruction of the historic “Stoneham, Yesterday and Today” mural by artist Richard M. Gibney that was housed inside the bank. 

In fall 2021, Stoneham Historical Society and Museum and Stoneham Historical Commission volunteers Bee Russo, Angela Binda and Marcia Wengen decided to take action and began the process to secure ownership of the mural from the bank. Because of their tireless efforts, the mural was donated to the Stoneham Historical Society and Museum in the fall of 2021.

In January 2022, Russo, Binda and Wengen hired Gianfranco Pocobene Studio in Malden to remove the mural from the bank wall. Gianfranco Pocobene Studio then prepared the mural for climate-controlled storage until a new location could be identified and sufficient funds could be raised to have it cleaned, repaired, restored and once again displayed for public viewing. 

After much consideration, it was decided that “Stoneham, Yesterday and Today” will be reinstalled and permanently displayed at the Stoneham Historical Society and Museum located at 36 William St. The anticipated date for reinstallation is fall 2023. 

To date, the Stoneham Historical Society and Museum has partnered and collaborated with StonehamBank, MELD, and Bank of America, in addition to individuals and organizations who have provided funding and in-kind services. The first phase of the project was completed through the generosity of two private donors. 

Phase two of the project involves the cleaning, repairing and conservation of the three-panel mural. Phase three of the project involves the stretching, mounting and installation of the panels at the Stoneham Historical Society and Museum.  

Additional information about the upcoming phases of the project and sponsorship opportunities will be shared at a later date.

“For decades, this mural was part of the everyday experiences of bank customers, but perhaps just thought of as ‘wallpaper’,” said Russo. “Upon closer scrutiny and deeper research and analysis, there is no doubt that this vintage artwork has become truly more valuable to all observers than initially thought. There are many educational entry points in addition to the history of Stoneham including the artist, his connection to the WWII Combat Artist Program, which still exists today in the military, the artistic process and conservation of artwork.” 

About “Stoneham, Yesterday and Today”

Artist Richard M. Gibney was commissioned in 1968 by the then Middlesex County National Bank to paint “Stoneham, Yesterday and Today” to be displayed at the Main Street building. 

The vignettes within the mural depicted a cordwainer in his “10 footer” shoe shop; a stagecoach on the turnpike, now Main Street, with the First Congregational Church on the village green; the railroad station with a Union soldier; a bare-knuckle boxing match on Great Island in Spot Pond; the grounds of the former New England Memorial Hospital; and surveyors and the building of I-93.

To learn more about  “Stoneham, Yesterday and Today,” click here.

About the Conservators

The Gianfranco Pocobene Studio in Malden, established in 2004, specializes in the conservation and restoration of paintings, murals, and historic paint decorations. The studio undertakes treatments of the highest quality for museums, religious institutions, universities, private galleries and collectors across the country. Gianfranco received a master’s degree in conservation (M.A.C.) from Queen’s University, Kingston Canada in 1984 and a Certificate of Advanced Training from the Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Harvard Art Museums in 1989. In addition to directing the studio, his conservation experience includes fifteen years working at the Straus Center for Conservation, Harvard Art Museums and sixteen years as Chief Conservator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.