Conservation and Restoration of Fine Furniture and Objects
Restoring the Artifacts of Mother Cabrini and Discovering
Her Legacy,
by Diana Bernacki
Mother Cabrini's chair restored by Bernacki and Associates, Inc.


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December 22, 1917, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini – the first US citizen to be canonized by the Catholic Church - died in Chicago. Her significance in Chicago’s history included time at Columbus Hospital, which was demolished over a decade ago. But a hidden Shrine to the Saint remained within the hospital. Assigned to the task of restoring Mother Cabrini’s artifacts, we at Bernacki & Associates gradually uncovered the legacy of a dynamic businesswoman, leader, and faithful servant. We came to realize her notebooks, clothing, chairs, desk, tables and accessories carried out honorable purposes - providing care for the sick, poor, and young.

Furniture items were of genuine craftsmanship, but suffered from well-intentioned attempts to “freshen them up” over the past 90 years. When disassembled, Mother Cabrini’s Eastlake chair revealed nail and staple marks penetrating the wood. After stabilization and finish conservation, we began work on the upholstery. To our surprise, a second covering was discovered beneath the top layer…the original. After reassembly, cleaning, and wood consolidation, the original upholstery was returned to the chair. Now, the chair evokes the Saint’s legacy more than ever.

After officially re-opening on October 1, 2012, possessions of Mother Cabrini continue to educate and inspire visitors. Objects are on display for viewing at The National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, 2520 N. Lakeview Ave, Chicago IL, 60614.

Read the full version of “Restoring the Artifacts of Mother Cabrini and Discovering Her Legacy” in the Conservation & Design International Newsletter

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