In early 1989 restoration began on all five Edwin Austin Abbey murals in the House Chamber. Deterioration of the murals was due in part to particulate degradation, such as smoking in the chamber, which is no longer allowed. The uneven application of the white lead adhesives used to originally attach the murals to the wall had caused flaking and pigment loss within the murals. This problem was corrected through consolidation and the removal of dirt from the murals, which revealed the beautiful colors that Abbey had originally used in these works. It was also discovered during the restoration that Abbey had painted the large Hours ceiling mural on a circular wheel in his London studio, as the drips of paint were in a circle on the canvas.
In 1994 the House Gallery underwent complete reconstructive restoration to reverse prior non-historic interventions. The project was completed and the gallery re-opened to the public in 1995. In 1998 the Committee began restoration of the ceiling and walls within the House Chamber, which was done in conjunction with the placement of sprinkler heads and electrical upgrades by the Department of General Services. At this time the House installed wiring for laptop computers at each member's desk. The House anterooms at the rear of the chamber including the vestibule, lounge, and telephone room were also restored. The Committee also undertook the restoration of all mahogany member desks in the House Chamber.
The massive bronze chandeliers within the chamber were missing many of their crystal beads, which infill the bronze frames. The small chandeliers originally had 18,000 beads and the large ones had approximately 81,000. The contractors used silver-coated copper wire, which increased reflectivity and was the same method used when the beads were originally strung on the framed panels. Following World War II, the Federal government had a surplus of battleship gray paint, which was offered free to various states for their use. Consequently, the House Chamber walls and many of the buildings' ornate corridors and spaces had been painted in this color.
Paint analysis revealed the original paint color for the chamber and the walls, and they were then repainted to match the original blue and gold color scheme. The paint analysis revealed the same tonality in both the walls and the murals, which was architect Huston's overall plan. Fortunately, the gold leaf in the chamber had not been over-painted and needed only to be conservation cleaned.
SCAFFOLD ERECTED TO HOURS MURAL
UPGRADING MEMBERS' DESKS
REWIRING CRYSTAL BEADING
CHECKING PAINT SAMPLES