Just over 30 years ago, the city of La Cañada Flintridge was bequeathed a white elephant of sorts: a rundown and overstuffed home that had been built in 1915 by the scion of the pioneer Lanterman family.
The Encinas Drive property established by Dr. Roy Lanterman for his wife Emily and their two sons, Lloyd and Frank (who in his later years served as a member of the state Assembly), showed more than just a little wear when, on the 1987 death of the last remaining member of the family, Lloyd, it was given to the city.
After years of debates over what to do with the gift, it was decided it would become a museum celebrating the area’s history and culture. The Lanterman Historical Museum Foundation was established to oversee its transformation from private to public space.
Lanterman House museum’s first executive director, Melissa Patton, worked, with the support of her board of directors, for 25 years to manage the property’s rehabilitation and to organize countless materials left behind by the Lanterman family.
In the wake of Patton’s 2017 retirement, Laura Verlaque, then the Pasadena Museum of History’s director of collections, was hired to become executive director of the La Cañada institution.
In her job at the Pasadena museum, Verlaque learned of the CAP (Collections Assessment for Preservation) program, wherein independent experts tour museums over a short but intensive period and then write up their findings to help the facilities establish maintenance and preservation priorities.
The Lanterman board agreed with Verlaque it would be worthwhile to apply to the Foundation for Advancement in Conservation, which administers the CAP program through a cooperative agreement with a federal grant-making agency, the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
On Tuesday, Verlaque announced Lanterman House had been notified it would be one of 79 museums from around the nation that would be granted the assessment teams to study their properties and prepare recommendations.
“They’ll provide us with short-term assessment goals and long-term assessment goals,” Verlaque said in a telephone interview.
Verlaque recalled that when the Pasadena Museum of History was selected for the CAP program during her tenure there, one of the key discoveries by an expert was that the thousands of photo negatives in that museum’s hands were not being kept in ideal conditions.
“It got us on the road to completely redoing how we preserved the negatives,” she said, citing one example of the benefits of working with independent experts.
Lanterman House has been given a full CAP grant this year, which means it will be allowed two teams, one to consider the building and the other to study the artifacts, Verlaque said. The experts will consider all elements of the property, including light levels, climate control and what needs to be done to conserve the museum’s collections.
The program covers the tab of $3,900 per assessment team and each team must file its report and recommendations by Dec. 31.
In the end, Verlaque said, the local repository of La Cañada’s history will be given “an independent road map into the future.”