The second week of our closed season was a real treat for us Chaps as we had the textile conservators from Blickling Studios to train us how to clean our more delicate textile covered pieces of furniture.
We cannot clean these objects too often as we risk doing more damage than good by removing the fibers from the fabric. However it was decided that these objects needed cleaning now as the dust was really visible to visitors. Once we are trained then we can clean these objects in-house, and hopefully avoid the unsightly build-up of dust.
To clean these objects we needed to build some more scaffolding (yay!) so we could reach them. The first thing we started work on was the Lapierre Canopy in the Long Gallery. We had a tall scaffold tower and a short one to clean this.
The next object we were going to be working on is possibly my favorite thing in the collection: the Cut Velvet Bed. So beautiful. For this bed we also had two sets of scaffold, one on the outside and one spanning across the inside of the bed. It was amazing to get really up-close with these stunning things, and the difference when we were taking the dust off was unbelievable. When they were cleaned they looked really different, so much more colourful and you can see much more detail now.
We use different techniques on the different textiles, depending on how sturdy they are, what conservation work has been done on them and how dusty they get. The ones we clean annually or bi-annually are usually done with a museum vac through an ironing cloth or net in a hoop. We use flat headed vacuum attachments or with a tube and crevice tool.
To clean the Lapierre Canopy and most of the Bed we used artist brushes to brush the dust off into the hoover, similar to how we clean wooden furniture but the brushed are much softer.
On the vertical bits, like the bed hangings we used a soft goat’s hair brush hoover attachment. The tassels on the Cut Velvet Bed were particularly interesting. I never noticed there were three different types, and they were soooo dusty! We used a small goat’s hair head attached to the tube attachment on our museum vacs.
I love learning new skills and I love textiles so this week was just thrilling for me, and once everything was cleaned it looked tons better, really rewarding work! We also had a chance to ask the conservators about a few other objects we were concerned about, so that hopefully we can clean them now we are trained up! This will make so much difference to us, as we can keep the presentation of our textile objects up to a higher standard now (so long as we have the time!). And I got to clean one of the Scipio tapestries in the State Withdrawing Room that was looking particularly dusty! I am such a lucky girl.
One of the other conservators came up to do some work on two chairs in the Long Gallery. These chairs were in a particularly sorry state and the conservators came to put net on chairs. This helps protect the fabric from dust, keeping the loose pieces from sustaining any further damage. We have had this treatment done on many of our textile objects in order to conserve them for the future, and to help us care for them.
A huge thanks to the conservators for their time and training us! To have a look at the Blickling Studio Blog and all the amazing projects they have been working on follow this link. I look forward to working with them again, and putting my training into action!