One area I had very little experience with before starting this internship was interpretation; the signs, notices, labels and even the guidebooks that tell visitors the story of a place. And to be honest it was not an area I was that interested in, prefering the conservation side of things. However already this experience has already changed my mind and ignited my inspiration where interpretation is concerned.
I already have a fair few projects under way, and several more on the horizon. I am working on case by case guides for the Clive museum, picture lists for all the paintings in the castle, information about new paintings the castle has on loan from the British Museum, my object of the month and making new warning signs about the damage touching objects causes. The Trust are trying to promote a friendlier demeanour, whilst still proving the needed protection for all the objects in the collection. This idea fits in with the Trusts move to ‘bring places to life’, ensuring these properties feel like homes. I have been lucky that both the places I have worked with the National Trust have felt very much like homes and not museums.
Doing interpretation work is a great way to get to know information about the property. My first projects was writing information about a case in the Clive museum containing miniatures members of the Herbert family. Through doing the research for this I started to get to grips with the history of the family and how they impacted on the property and it’s connection with India. I am really enjoying doing the research for all the projects I am helping with. I especially enjoy searching for information about objects in the National Trust Collections Management Systems. This is an on-line database listing all the objects under Trust ownership, at every property. It also shows a photograph and gives a brief description of the object.
I have also been able to carry out some of my conservation work in-front of the public and help out the visitor services team when they are short on volunteers. It is essential that we have volunteers to be able to open all the rooms we have available in the castle. If we do not have enough volunteers then certain rooms have to remain closed, which is such a shame. To combat this we have been carrying out some conservation work on the Long Gallery so as to be able to open a further two bedrooms and a bathroom of the Gallery.
The work we have been doing is updating the ‘bits boxes’. We have a box for each room in the castle and if something is chipped off, broken or removed then it is stored in the box for that room. Nothing is ever thrown away. We have been replacing these items from the envelopes they were in and putting them into airtight selable bags, which are much better for the conservation of the objects. Then a small label written in pencil on acid free paper, to adhere to Trust conservation standards, is also placed in the bag. The information recorded includes where the object was found, a description of the object, which room it belongs in and the date it was found. There is an inventory list for each box and these must be checked to keep them up to date. Ideally all the items in these boxes would be repatriated at some point. However some of these bits are so small, flakes of paint or chippings of plaster, that they will not be restored. Others have to wait for specialist conservationists, or funding. Trust policy states very conservation action taken must be reversible.
I have really been enjoying this project, getting a further in-depth look at the collections in the castle and being able to talk to members of the public. It is really nice to see how interested people are, and to be able to give the visitors a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes. It will hopefully give them a better understanding of the amount of work that goes into maintaining these historic properties. I really enjoy interacting with visitors and telling them something they may not have know or found out otherwise. helping them to enjoy their day and maybe even inspiring them to take an interest in the heritage industry and benefit its future. Questions asked about the conservation side are my comfort zone, and I feel very confident in what I’m talking about in this area. However people have also been asking me questions about the property and the Long Gallery specifically. Most of these questions I have been able to answer but it has pushed me to read up on the history and specifically the items in the Long Gallery. I was much more prepare for my second afternoon on the Gallery after hearing the questions asked during my first day. People will always ask obscure questions but I shall do my best to learn all I can about the property and answer all the questions I can.
Hopefully I will be able to carry on this type of work in wherever I go next as I am really enjoying it here at Powis! And it is so fascinating and is quite exciting to think of people reading my work and it being a little bit of a mark I leave behind when I move on from Powis.