Museum of the Gilding Arts


June 6, 2015: Below, left--Cutting the Ribbon;  right--President Naomi Lipsky presents Peter Miller and Annie Lemarie with special awards for their monumental work on the Museum        PontiacMuseum04Edit     pontiac-ln3

In June of 2012, the Society of Gilders formally opened the Museum of the Gilding Arts in the city of Pontiac, Illinois.  It was initially a part of the Walldogs Mural Museum, located on the square in the heart of Pontiac, but by 2015 the City of Pontiac gave us the entire ground floor at 217 North Mill St. The front half includes exhibits of the methods and applications of gilding, with some hands-on demonstrations.  There is a gift shop, and an exhibit of members' work.  The back half features a meticulous re-creation of the M. Swift and Sons gild beating room.

Gilders-014The exhibts include "What is Gilding?",  "How Gold is Made" with photos and video from Guisto Manetti Battiloro - SpA (gold leaf manufacturer), a case of gold beating tools, antique signage, a section on "How To Gild" with various gilding tools, leaf and equipment, a visual demo of the steps involved in both mordant and water gilding, and then two walls of member works entitled "Where Do You See Gold Leaf?".  The latter is an opportunity to show visitors the everyday places that they can see gold, from window lettering to fine art, to architectural items, frames, mirrors and everyday items.

Gilders-015Pontiac, Illinois is a vibrant small city about an hour drive southwest of Chicago, located on the historic Rt. 66 highway.  When the recession hit, and most small towns were hoping for state and federal government intervention, the City decided that their fate was in their own hands and banked on tourism to keep their city vibrant.  As a result, the City is a model community for restoration and tourism development.  Pontiac boasts an variety of museums and attractions which, together with frequent regional events,drawing visitors from around the world to this charming mid-western city.

Below, Smith Coleman works on a wall display.


The Swift Collection

The Society of Gilders became the proud owner of the Swift Collection in 2007.  M. Swift & Sons was a Hartford, Connecticut business whose specialty was gold beating and the manufacture of gold leaf products. When the business was started in 1877, Swift was beating gold by hand in order to produce leaf. In the early 20th century, machines began doing part of the process of making leaf. M. Allen Swift, a fifth generation gold beater and the last owner of the business, was one of the last people in this country to beat gold entirely by hand. When the business closed in 2005, Allen had the foresight to save the gold beating shop as it was used. He created a private museum where the shop was rebuilt exactly as it had been.

Swift packing desk with tools

Swift packing desk with tools

The Swift family donated the collection to the Society of Gilders in 2007.  The collection includes eight gold beating stations, gold packers desks, chairs and stools, mallets, cutches and packing materials, melting crucibles and other tools and equipment used on a daily basis from 1877 until approximately 1920.  The collection also includes signage, items from other companies that the Swift Company acquired over the years, documents, photographs, awards and even some trade show display items.

With much painstaking work, artists from the SOG, led by Annie LeMarie, re-created the aged interior of the factory, down to trompe l'oiel views out the windows that were the same seen by the original goldbeaters.

Street Address:
217 N Mill Street
Pontiac, IL 61764

Phone: 815-842-1848

Summer Hours (April - October):
Monday - Sunday
9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Winter Hours (November - March):
Monday - Sunday
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Donation Only

See the City of Pontiac's tourism web site