There is always something happening at Powis Castle. Rarely does a morning go by when we just get on with the normal routine without there being deliveries, tours, specific tasks needing doing or items needing special attention. My first day filling in paperwork in the morning, which should have been fairly quick and simple took most of the morning before tea break due to so many other things going on. It was a brilliant way to start, getting thrown right into the buzzing atmosphere of the place, a real departure from quiet Greyfriars. This past week was no exception.
On monday we put up some scaffolding for new sun blinds due to be installed in the Oak Drawing room. One of my six objective for my time here at Powis is to go up scaffolding so I was excited to see how it is built even if I wasn’t going on it this time (and it gave me more chance to get my head around the height!). It amazed me how well the team worked together here and the scaffolding went up quickly in a way similar to flat pack furniture. The part of the process that took the longest was brining the pieces down to the Oak from the top floor. The metal poles clip onto one another and screw to secure, I never thought it was so quick!
After the scaffold was up I was doing the morning clean downstairs. The morning clean is a set routine split into different areas of the castle; the Coach House, Clive Museum and Ballroom, the upstairs rooms, the downstairs rooms and if there are enough of the team the very downstairs floor rooms including the staff area. This allows us to be able to allocate an area to one person each morning, so we will know where we are going and we are to do with little explanation. I still haven’t decided which is my favourite area to clean (yes I enjoy cleaning! however cleaning my own home is not quite as satisfying).
The scaffold came down after tea break, so that was my first quick foray into scaffold construction and de-construction. It is amazing the amount of new things I have learnt already having been here only just over a month. Them me and a colleague took the light levels and relative humidity readings. Light levels are taking twice a day every day (more on that in another post) and the relative humidity readings were being taken twice a day for two weeks to check the calibration of the automated system that controls the heating. The environmental side of conservation really interests me, the way the environment and the way it changes and affects the collections. There are set limits for all environmental factors but the biggest danger to collections is fluctuation in the environment.
That afternoon I was working in the stores as is the usual activity scheduled for monday afternoons. This is a fantastic opportunity to go behind the scenes and see the amazing collection not on display in the property. National Trust policy is to check store rooms annually for environmental damage, pest activity and that all the items are still where they should be. I was sorting through a box of Ivory Ganjifa Cards condition checking them and ensuring they were all still accounted for. Working for the Trust here feels like having VIP access to this amazing building, it is such an amazing position to be in.
Here is a link to the National Trust Images web page with an image and information about the Ganjifa Cards in the Clive collection: http://www.nationaltrustimages.org.uk/image.aspx?id=29737&loggedIn=False
I finished the day by applying wax to the Library and Gateway floors. Even though I have done this several times before at Greyfriars there are differences between how the two properties operate even within the same organisation. At Greyfriars wax is applied by hand with a folded cloth but here at Powis it is applied with a soft headed flat mop. I must say this is quicker as the mop has a larger surface area, and involves less kneeling down, so is slightly better from my knees point of view! It is no surprise that methods differ from property to property, due to difference staff training and the size of the properties. Powis is much larger than Greyfriars, so it makes sense they have developed a quicker method of applying wax to the vast amounts of wooden floors!
Tuesday also brought another new experience, and Wednesday my first National Trust training course! but that is a story for another post! I’m going to have an early night to prepare for day 4 out of my first 7day-in-a-row stint. I will leave with a photo of my shorter route to work (the longer one being through the castle gardens):