After a slight hiatus over the last couple of weeks to send Gideon on his way we have jumped right back in to our Deep Cleaning. We are getting along with it so well I couldn’t be more pleased, and … Continue reading
This week has been a very big week for us at Hardwick Hall, we have been re-hanging two of the largest Gideon tapestries in the Long Gallery, after their return from two years of conservation work. Monday and tuesday were full of preparation work, we had to re-route our visitors as we were going to be working directly over the door where people usually come into the Long Gallery. We used two scaffolding towers to hang the tapestries, so these needed to be built. I love working on the scaffolding, it usually means were doing something exciting and it allows for a really different perspective of the beautiful rooms I get to work in!
Then we had to staple the velcro strips onto the wooden batons on the walls where the tapestries will hang. originally the tapestries would have been nailed up, and later were attached with poppers, but now we use velcro. Many people find this surprising, but it gives a really firm hold and allows use to easily remove the tapestries, should we need to for any reason. Next the walls then had to be cleaned, we did this with a backpack hoover and a veeerryy looonngg pole.
The Textile conservators arrived on tuesday and set about doing the final prep on the tapestries (which had been delivered some weeks ago). The ladies who worked on the Gideons have been working with Hardwick for a long time, on many different projects, and have been responsible for the conservation work on all the Gideons so far. They are based at the National Trust Textile Conservation Studio in Blickling, Norfolk.
Here is a link to the blog of the fabulous ladies at the Blickling conservation studio, I am so very jealous of their jobs and they do such amazing work. Seeing the before and after on the Gideons they made some areas that were really badly damaged barely noticeable! They have also been working on an embroidery from Hardwick, Penelope, so there are a lot of entries about that process, really interesting reading! Another project they are undertaking is the tapestry from the Ballroom at Powis Castle, that I helped to take down a couple of months ago.
After the velcro is sewn onto the top and side of the tapestries more velcro is pinned along another side. The tapestry then needs to be re-rolled so the end the will be hung first is on the outside. The side with velcro pinned on goes on the inside of the roll, as it is attached to the velcro on the plastic pipe the tapestry is being rolled onto. This prevents the tapestry from slipping when the roll is held vertical. I was lucky enough to get to help re-roll the second tapestry, and to pin some of the velcro on!
We started to re-hang the first at twelve and we had hung them both by three. It was a much easier and smoother process than I had been expecting. The team worked really well and by the time we were hanging the second tapestry we had quite a crowd of public watching. For a moment I did feel a little stage-fright then, but it was soon forgotten! As well as the crowd we had several cameras and there were a couple of newspaper reporters who came to join in the fun so here are a few videos of the event. The first at the beginning of putting up the first tapestry, and the second after it had been re-hung.
The rest of wednesday afternoon, and thursday we got to spend talking to the public about what we had been doing, and the Gideons project in general. I love talking to the public, and I am so glad we got to show them this fantastic event, it was so nice to hear people saying how much they enjoyed it. It is wonderful when someone responds well to me enthusing about work, and I am so lucky that I have always had opportunity to interact with the public and share with them what I do. As you can probably tell from the length of my blog posts, I am rarely short of things to say! Thursday evening I got another opportunity to talk about what I do by taking my second ever ‘Last One Out’ Tour with a lovely group of people from Australia.
Talking to the conservators the couple of days they were here was really interesting and enlightening. They had brough photos of the damage to the Gideons and then pointed out the conserved spots on the tapestries. The difference was amazing, from a distance you can hardly notice the damage. Cleaning the tapestries makes a huge difference in their appearance, taking off the dirt and dust. Before this point these tapestries had never been cleaned, and they have been hanging in Hardwick for 400 years! Then the conservators work to ensure and damaged areas are stabilised, so that they can hang for another 400 years without ending up in any worse a condition. Holes are backed with fabric in colours sympathetic to the original tapestry, meaning you can see what has been lost if you look for it. I think this is brilliant as it is not blurring the lines between what is original and what we have done to the tapestry.
After looking at the restored tapestries we looked closely at the three still in need of conservation. With the returned tapestries hanging one side of the door, and those awaiting conservation the other the difference is startling. The damage the conservators were pointing out was so awful, and the more they showed us I thought I was going to cry! What is really working is the fact that in many placed these tapestries are literally hanging on by a thread, and if it takes us too long to raise the rest of the money it is really scary to think how much more damage will have occurred. I know I have already asked once but after taking a closer look at the tapestries I feel no shame in posting the link to our Just Giving site again. These tapestries are in dire need of major conservation work and it would be wonderful to see them on their way before too long!
Thankfully I had Friday off because as fab as this week has been, I was knackered by thursday evening and really looking forward to a lazy day! This gave me a couple of days to prepare for working my first solo shift on sunday! Although I have been the only team member in the house before there has always been someone else in the office who was in charge overall, however usually procedure for weekends is to only have one house team member in and they be responsible for everything. Sunday was my first turn to be in charge, including being main point of contact within the Hall for the other departments on site, and delivering the morning brief to the volunteers. While I was a little nervous I wasn’t too worried as I knew as long as nothing terrible went wrong before 11, after that the Vols would be in, and our Vols are brilliant! Everyday there is a Voluntary Day Leader that organizes the team and they do such a good job. It frees up an awful lot of time for the House Team to be getting on with the morning routine and our other projects. Sunday went really well and I enjoyed having more responsibility for the day, looking forward to more work as a team this week though!
I mentioned in another post about the Gideon Tapestries and the huge project Hardwick is undertaking. The project has been going on for many years, and many more remain until all the tapestries have been conserved. I have been lucky … Continue reading
A large part of our work here at the Castle is monitoring the environment to keep those factors which can damage the collection within certain, less harmful, parameters. There are several environmental factors which are monitored at least daily, if not constantly; Temperature, Relative Humidity and Light.
We record the lights levels in the castle twice daily. Ultra Violet levels in certain areas are also monitored constantly on our automated system and the records stored on the office computer with the temperature and relative humidity, which is recorded by the same system. Ultra Violet cancelling film has been installed on all the windows in the property and cuts out most of the UV, making a vast difference to the light levels in the castle. Other than the morning clean the light readings are the only regular part of routine done daily. Afternoons are used to complete conservation tasks, do admin, research, or work on our interpretation projects.
I really enjoy reading the light levels, especially in the afternoons. I am very interested in the environmental monitoring side of conservation. It is especially rewarding in the afternoons as the castle is open and it gives us an opportunity to interact with the public, which I very much enjoy!
There are set points in all the rooms in the castle that have natural light entering them. Often these points are not on the visitor route, they are located behind the ropes. One of the points is on the forehead of our taxidermy bear, Balu, which amused my mother, hence the title. This results in a lot of curious looks about what I am doing and hopefully curious questions too. I really enjoy explaining to the public what I am doing, especially as it helps make them aware how much work the House team do in order to care for the castle. When I say we do this twice daily people often can not believe it. Doing the readings and conservation work in front of the public helps show them how much work it is looking after the physical history of the country and hopefully inspire them to support us, or keep supporting us.
I was privileged enough to shadow the regional conservator when she came to Powis for the annual review of the light levels and this gave me a good understanding to how they are worked out, and why they are set as they are. We have an annual budget, worked out by taking into consideration how often we are open, how long our days are, what objects we have in the rooms, and their vulnerability to light and location with regards to the window. The light levels are set from readings taken with blue wool dosimeters. These dosimeters are left in vulnerable positions in Trust houses and degrade at a known rate. They are set out for 12 months and then sent to a lab for analysis. From this we can tell how much light is affecting that point in the room and work out a safe light level which will hopefully preserve the objects in that area well into the future.
Light is very damaging to objects, and when it fades them it is also damaging them structurally. It damages textiles most quickly but will damage most objects given time, fading dark wood but also lightening dark woods. Something I have learnt is that oil paintings are surprisingly more resilient to light damage than I would have thought. Some of the curtains at the castle are fraying on the edges most often in the light, and the curtains in the Oak Drawing Room have been sent away for conservation to repair the effects of the damage done by the light. These are the most obvious effects of light damage at the Castle.
The annual light allowance establish by the information from the dosimeters and other factors mentioned above is divided up by the number of days the property is open, giving us a daily budget. This daily budget is printed onto our record sheet, which has room to record AM and PM readings for each location. When we go on our rounds, once while opening up and once after we come back from lunch, we adjust the blinds to get the light reading below our set points.
We used to record the light levels using a device called a Meagtron (unfortunately it does not transform into a robot, it just measure light levels). Now however we have a ne Elsec that can not only record Lux but also Ultra Violet, Relative Humidity and Temperature. This new bit of tech’ is very handy for spot reading of the other factors, rather than having to take two different implements round with us. When we were doing the two-week spot check of temperature and relative humidity to check our automated system was calibrated correctly I could have done with another pair of hands for the clipboard and the two different instruments!