Preserving Our Future

The permanent collection of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame celebrates the sport of thoroughbred racing in America. The Museum houses more than 27,000 objects in its diverse collection of art, artifacts, and memorabilia that showcase the sport's history from the 1800s to today. These objects allow the Museum to share stories relating to the history of thoroughbred racing in America in our galleries, special exhibits, and educational programming. In order to preserve these historic objects for the future, the staff at the Museum follows industry best practices for climate control, collections storage, exhibit installations, and museum environments. However, some objects require outside conservation treatment from professionals to ensure their longevity.

In a new initiative, "Preserving Our Future," the Museum seeks sponsors to help underwrite these ongoing conservation and digitization projects. This year, one of the works we will be conserving through West Lake Conservators is James McLaughlin by C. C. Markham. This prominent painting in our Post-Civil War Gallery depicts Hall of Fame jockey James McLaughlin, who rode from 1876 to 1892. He won many races during his career, including the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and six editions of the Belmont Stakes.

The goal for the conservation of James McLaughlin is $6,000. A gift of any amount truly makes an impact! Gifts are 100 percent tax-deductible and each donor will be acknowledged in our Annual Report, on the gallery page on the Museum’s website, in What’s Happening emails, on social media, and in the 2025 Hall of Fame guide. Gifts of $1,000 or more will be acknowledged on the exhibit label in the Post Civil War Gallery for one year.

A painting of a person in a red shirt

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Donation link: Preserving Our Future

The museum has already had two paintings which are featured in our Pre-Civil War Gallery conserved this year: John Cox Stevens by Charles Loring Elliott and Andrew Jackson by John Wood Dodge. In addition to the work West Lake will perform on James McLaughlin they will also be conserving three steeplechase paintings by Thomas Percy Earl.

Summary of Condition

The painting is generally in good structural condition with the exception of an area of lifting paint. Aesthetically, the painting’s current varnish layer has become discolored with age, causing the painting to appear more warm orange-tones than the artist intended. The frame generally in very good condition structurally and it would be providing good support for the painting, but the frame fit is currently too tight for the painting. This tightness is not allowing adequate expansion of the canvas, and this is inducing slackness in the canvas. This slackness in the canvas may also be exacerbating an area of insecure paint by not allowing even tension across the surface. The foam core backing board still functions to protect the reverse of the artwork, but it has become degraded and would be advisable to replace it.

The proposed treatment to the painting would be to set the area of lifting paint into place, reduce the current varnish layer overall, increase the tension on the canvas, and retouch areas of loss and abrasion. The proposed treatment to the frame would be to expand the frame interior, apply toning to areas of abrasion, install padding to the interior of the frame rabbet, and install new hardware.

The goal of this treatment is to stabilize the artwork structurally and to return the appearance to the artist’s intention.

A person in uniform with a stick

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Figure 1. Condition diagram — condition as received, front, raking illumination; Green area indicates insecure paint that is lifting and at risk of loss; Magenta areas indicate portions of the composition where previous restoration retouching is visible.

Figure 8. Condition as examined — front, raking illumination; detail, figure’s upper right thigh showing an area of insecure, lifting paint; the area of lifting paint is indicated in with a black arrow; adjacent area of secure paint is indicated in white.

Figure 9. Condition as received — front, normal illumination; detail, cleaning test area; white arrow shows the surface after reducing the discolored varnish; black arrow indicates surface appearance before reducing varnish.

Please contact Museum Curator Jessica Cloer at (518) 584-0400 ext. 113 or for more info


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