Exploratory exposure windows are used during finishes investigations (along with microscopy) to establish the original visual intent of a space by identifying finish type, color, and pattern. Exploratory exposure windows are designated areas on a surface where conservators gradually remove layers of decorative finishes to uncover past decorative campaigns.
Exploratory exposure windows can reveal the layout and extent of historic decorative techniques that have been over‐painted, such as stenciling and glazing. The scale of exposure windows is based on the size of the underlying design and the architectural details of the building. The paint layers are removed one at a time until the desired layer(s) are reached. An exposure window can reveal the colors, patterns, and techniques of an element, but its success is dependent on the building’s current conditions.
The ultimate goal of performing exploratory exposure windows is to inform an overall design intent as well as substantiate the microscopy portion of the study. If decoration is discovered, a proposal to enlarge the exposure window big enough to reveal a section large enough to copy the pattern will be discussed. The time required to reveal the design (and corresponding cost) depends on the complexity and size of the design, as well as the ease with which our conservators are able to chemically or mechanically remove the post-historic paint.