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Throwback Thursday: When the Mural Was Removed

Pocobene’s team gently tug on the middle section of the mural to lift it from the wall.
Photo Courtesy: Gianfrano Pocobene Studio

Thursdays are for throwbacks, so here’s a look at how “Stoneham, Yesterday and Today” was removed from the Main Street Branch of Bank of America. Over the course of two days in January 2022, conservators from Gianfranco Pocobene Studio detached the mural from the wall and prepared it for storage.

It was a multi-step process, which required planning and patience. The mural is three panels, each six feet in height and 12, 15 or 18 feet in length. Day one, the first and third sections of the mural were removed. The middle, and longest section, was removed on day two.

The first step was to loosen the canvas from the wall. This was accomplished by gently pulling at the edges and sliding a thin spatula between the canvas and the wall. Moving side-to-side in sections, Gianfranco Pocobene and his team, Corrine Long and Gianpiero Pocobene, gently separated the canvas from the wall. As they worked, they would drop the mural a few inches and secure the top of the canvas to the wall with push pins.

Once the entire length of the mural was loosened and then resecured with push pins, Long attached small tabs to the edges of the backside of the canvas.

After the tabs were in place, the mural was ready to finally come off the wall. 

Pocobene’s team used large cylindrical tubes, called sonotubes, to remove and store the mural. The tubes stand vertically and are attached to casters so they can be rolled along the wall. The canvas was anchored to the sonotube using the tabs Long attached. Gianpiero Pocobene then rolled the sonotube along the wall, taking the mural with it. Long removed the push pins and attached the top tabs to the tube as they worked.

While the mural was off the wall and on the tube, the process was still not complete. Next, the mural had to be properly prepared for storage.

With a large sheet of plastic laid out for protection, the mural was unrolled onto the floor and then flipped over so the painted surface was facing down. Once the mural was facedown, it was rolled back onto the sonotube. Rolling the mural facing out, Gianfranco Pocobene explained, prevents the paint from cracking or flaking

Once the mural was rolled back onto the sonotube, the entire thing was again wrapped in protective plastic. The plastic served as a way to protect the mural from both light and water damage while in storage.

Finally, short legs were added to either end of the sonotube so it could stand horizontally off the floor.

From there, the three sonotubes were put in climate controlled storage, where they remained for the next year. Gianfranco Pocobene Studio is expected to begin restoration and conservation work in September.