When writing this post it turned into a rather long one so I have split it in half. Here is the first part.
On Wednesday I was lucky enough to visit Erddig, and it was counted as a work day! Some of my colleagues were going on a training day being held at the property so I took the opportunity to travel with them and spend the day there. After my visit to Penrhyn and the day I spent at Benthall Hall I am eager to visit as many properties and see how all the different House Teams operate. The Trust has a company wide standard but there are distinct variations between properties, due to size, number of employees, funding and other factors.
My day started with joining the house team on their tea break – timing, I know – and talking with them about their daily routine. Erddig is bigger that Powis, with 30 rooms and a series of out buildings, mostly all open to the public. They have two interns, it is the first year Erddig have run such a scheme so it was interesting to compare what they are doing to what we are, as Powis have had interns for many years. It seems their daily routine is much the same as ours, but a little less in depth due to having to cover a larger area with a smaller team than we have too.
I was taken around the property to see the store rooms and behind the scenes space. They have an amazing collection of items as the donor family never threw anything away, and have now died out so the Trust own the whole collection. I got rather jealous of their collection as they can move thing around and put new things out without having to get permission from anyone, which makes things simpler. They also have a large collection of toys, there were never really any children at Powis and I do miss the ‘nursery’ scene when visiting other properties that have that. I especially loved to Doll’s House in a cupboard!
My favourite room in the property, not an easy decision in such a spectacular place, was the State Bedroom. This was not only because of the beautiful furniture in the room but also because of the way the room is displayed. The room was badly damaged after a fire and the bed was especially damaged. It is a really stunning bed and was restored at the V&A. It stayed there for two years and was returned under one condition, it be placed behind glass in order to keep the conservation work sound. Instead of placing the bed inside a glass case it was decided to create a glass walkway for the visitors to enter the room inside.
I think this is a really good idea, as it keeps the environment in the room constant, preventing harmful fluctuation. It also means less dusting has to be done, only the visitor route has to be vacuumed and the glass cleaned. This not only saves time but means the objects are touched less often, which lowers the effects of cumulative wear. This also allows the visitor into the room without causing damage, a nice alternative to a rope across the door. To me this seems like a tidy solution to improving access into room without increasing risk, wear and tear, and dirt. However it would be a very radical step and I could see that it would be disagreeable to many.
Talking to one of the two interns based at Erddig was very interesting. They started off their internship learning with the conservation assistants inside the house and were then given the outside areas as their responsibility. At Powis we have the coach house and stables, but Erddig have a large range of different vehicles house in the out houses. Due to lack of staff time these areas had been neglected in the past so the interns have their work cut out, cleaning, condition checking and deciding what to do with them in the future, regarding interpretation. Similarly to here at Powis they have been shown the ropes and then allowed to carry on under their own steam. We both agreed this is a great way to learn, it encourages us to be self-reliant and the strive to do our very best, relying on ourselves. I really enjoy the sense of responsibility I get from my work at Powis.
All picture from the National Trust Picture Library.