Back to the Deep Clean!

November has been a very busy month, and when we have not been decorating for Christmas we have been getting stuck back in to our Deep Annual Clean! As with last year we have lots of other projects scheduled over the winter so getting all we need to done will be an interesting challenge. But in the mean time I have been enjoying having some time with the objects.

One clean, one Dusty

One clean, one Dusty

We start our Deep Clean on the top floor in the High Great Chamber where I have been cleaning the Farthingale Chairs. These chairs were supposedly designed so that ladies wearing Farthingale Petticoats, with large hoops underneath their skirts, could perch on them to rest between dances.

Some of the embroidered detail on the chairs

Some of the embroidered detail on the chairs

These chairs have stunning 16th Century embroidery on them, featuring flowers and insects. They match the Canopy I had the opportunity to clean last year.

The High Great Chamber Canopy

The High Great Chamber Canopy (before cleaning)

As well as chairs we have stools and two throne chairs, which have really interesting scenes on them in beautiful gold-work.

The back of one of the Throne Chairs

The back of one of the Throne Chairs

Embroidered Deer

Embroidered Deer

To remove the dust I used a mixture of techniques. We use an adjustable suction ‘Museum-Vac’ with crevice tool attachment through bridal netting and using artists brushes as we were trained by the Textile Conservators last year. The brushes work better on certain areas because the can remove strands of clothing fibers that have landed on the velvet which would otherwise be left underneath the bridal netting.

One of the Throne Chairs

One of the Throne Chairs half way through cleaning

I also used the brushes near the metallic embroidery, this removed the risk of the metal threads getting hooked on the bridal netting and pulled. However the bridal netting method is better for the rest embroidery, it is so delicate that the brushes could cause damage by removing any loose pieces.

I love the Deep Clean because we get a chance to really look at the objects we care for, and they are such amazing and beautiful objects. It is one of my favorite things about this job!

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The little things

With all the huge projects we have had happening at Hardwick this summer it is easy for the little things to get glossed over, however the little things are so important as well. Our weekly clean on a Monday, daily cleans on Wednesdays to Sundays, checking for pests, monitoring environmental conditions, managing volunteers, talking to visitors and millions more tasks still have to happen even when we are preoccupied by opening exhibitions or installing art work!

We have achieved an amazing amount this season aside from all the bigger things I have been blogging about. So hear are some of the smaller tasks I have been doing recently.

We finished the Annual Deep Clean!

A big deal that unfortunately we were too busy to really celebrate. In contrast, we didn’t get our Deep Clean finished last year before we closed at the end of the season so this is an amazing achievement for the team. Thanks to good planning and our wonderful team of staff and volunteers we got a huge amount of the Deep Clean finished over the closed season, and we have kept up the momentum until we had checked everything on our list off!

Cleaning the Over-mantle in Miss Webb's Room

Cleaning the Over-mantle in Miss Webb’s Room

We’re half way through our summer works program!

The ‘summer works’ are the conservation cleaning tasks that happen several times a year, not just once in the Deep Clean. Things like cleaning bed flats and chairs that get too much dust landing on them for us to leave them. We split all our summer works into the things that need to happen at the start of summer, and those which we won’t do until the summer ends and our visitors numbers drop. Thanks to the fact that we had already finished our Deep Clean it meant we could focus our effort on these task, and last week we finished the first half of our list.

Cleaning the velvet cushions in the Long Gallery

Cleaning the velvet cushions in the Long Gallery

Bits Boxes.

One of my personal projects has been to revitalise the Hardwick Bits Box. I did a similar project at Powis, however this was a much bigger undertaking! Where Powis’ Bits were already in organised boxes, the Hardwick’s Bits Boxes were two huge crates full of years of bits! So my job involved going through the bits, cataloging every one, writing labels for each and putting them in a bag, putting these bags into location specific boxes. Believe me when I say, there are only so many ways you can describe a broken piece of wood!

Before . . .

Before . . .

The new and improved bits box system allows the bits to be easily identified if ever there comes a time when we have a conservator in who could re-attach some for us. As a result of my work several bits have already been returned when we had our furniture conservator here for one of our big projects. Now I have overhauled the system hopefully it shouldn’t get in that state again, so I have helped out the future Conservation Assistants of Hardwick Hall (you’re welcome! 😛 )The final part of this task is for me to just finish typing up all the bits records, all 340-odd of them!

. . . and After!

. . . and After!

Felting the Still Room.

A small task that has needed doing for a while was to put pieces of felt underneath the objects that have been added to the still room. If you have even noticed when you go around Trust properties, often objects that sit on pieces of furniture have a layer of something between the two. This protects not only the surface an objects sits on, but also the base of the object.

A felt pad for a pot

A felt pad for a pot

The protective layer can be several things, felt or cork pieces, and type of foam called plasterzote or a thin type of clear plastic like laminate. I chose to use beige felt for the Still Room as it blends nicely with the paint colour of the surfaces. For most of the objects it was just a case of cutting circles that fit the base closely so the visual effect is not spoiled. The only tricky part was when it came to cutting the felt for the fish shaped mould!

The Fish

The Fish

More 50 things!

Last summer we decided to adapt the ’50 things to do before you’re 11 and 3/4′ so that we could bring some of the activities into the Hall. This year we decided to do the same, but not to make things easy for ourselves we wanted to chose different activities so any children visiting us again would get a new experience. I love this idea, and anything that gets us to look at how people interact with the Hall differently! We have barefoot walks on our lovely new matting in the High Great Chamber (something I love to do), caves to explore, dens to be built, birds to be spotted, and my personal favourite ‘catch a falling leaf’. Each leaf has an interesting Hardwick fact written on to be discovered, which I really enjoyed writing as I learnt something new as well! This particular ‘thing’ was a real team effort with the original idea coming from Sadie, me researching the facts, Jen practicallising the idea and writing the facts onto the leaves and Claire going over the words in black pen. The finished product almost looks like a work of art!

Our leafy installation

Our leafy installation

So there we go, just some of the other wonderful things that have been keeping me occupied. But don’t think that just because these are all now finished I shall be sitting on my bottom eating cake (that only happens at tea break, honest!) we have so many other projects in various staged of fruition at Hardwick, getting these done just frees up my time for me to get stuck into the next task! Nothing beats the satisfaction of getting thing done!

And we’re open!!

We have opened our doors to the public again, but it doesn’t seem very long since we closed after Christmas! However, getting the house ready for the public made me realise just how much our team has achieves over since … Continue reading

A New Year full of Old Objects

As soon as we were back at work we were straight back into our Deep Clean, finishing the top floor and moving into the Entrance Hall. However we’re not just thinking about the closed season, we have already begun preparing … Continue reading

We’re closed!

Well sort of closed, for a little while . . .

So it is finally the ‘Closed Season’ at Hardwick Hall. Traditionally this would have been the time when the house could be cleaned from top to bottom and then ‘put to bed’. However for us, we’re open again in December, for Christmas and more then doing the Deep Annual Clean we also have a few little projects planned. Projects which include laying new matting in the High Great Chamber and getting trained by the NT textile conservators on how to clean some of the larger textile objects in our collection.

The High Great Chamber

The High Great Chamber

This week we have mostly been getting ready for our up-coming projects, and starting our Deep Clean. We started by emptying the High Great Chamber of everything we could carry, and covering the rest with dust sheets.

The covered canopy

The covered canopy

This meant we got to build the scaffolding tower not once but twice! I really enjoy building scaffolding because we get to all work together as a team, and we always have a laugh together! Before we covered the scaffold we had to clean the top of it, and it really needed it!

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Before cleaning

Mid-clean

Mid-clean

After we had moved all the furniture out then we cleaned to cornice around the top of the room from the scaffold. Actually cleaning the cornice doesn’t take that long, but moving the scaffold what feel like every five minutes takes up the time. Every time the scaffold tower is moved it has to be re-leveled, which on our less than flat floor definitely needs doing! I think I was up and down that scaffolding about 20 times!

The scaffold tower in the High Great Chamber

The scaffold tower in the High Great Chamber

After finishing the cornice I moved on top deep cleaning some of the amazing pieces of furniture that live in the State Withdrawing Room. I dusted the Sea Dog Table and the Spice Cabinet, both pieces are believed to have been gifts to Bess from Mary Queen of Scotts.

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This is believed to be the case because both pieces are of royal quality. To dust our furniture during the deep clean we use different types of brushes, so on these partially gilded pieces of furniture I used two types of paint brushes. We use hog’s hair paint brushed on the main pieces of carved wood, and a softer pony hair brush on the gilded wood. this is to help preserve the gilt as much as possible.

One of the Seadogs

One of the Sea Dogs

This also means we get a chance to look inside the objects we are cleaning, like opening all the doors inside the beautiful spice cabinet! I was told that originally it was lined with silk inside, and must have looked stunning!

The Cabinet open

The Cabinet open

While I was cleaning some of the wooden furniture the other Chaps were turning their attention to the Farthingale stools from the High Great Chamber. Because of the delicate embroidery on the top of these stools we have to clean them very carefully. We use one of our adjustable suction Museum Vacs and a fine tool, and clean the piece through net to avoid pulling up any fibers.

Cleaning the Farthingale Stools

Cleaning the Farthingale Stools

Sorry for the lack of posting recently, I’ve been having technical problems (ageing laptop is refusing to co-operate any more)!

More cleaning!

After a loooong period of being very busy and down a few chaps we are currently slightly less so, on both counts, so we have been taking this opportunity to crack on with our annual deep clean! We had left off in the Dining Room and we are now in the Drawing Room!

The Entrance Hall, and Gallery

The Entrance Hall, and Gallery

I love getting into the deep clean aw we get to take our time with each objects, to really look at them properly and notice new things about them, that many people will not notice when visiting. We also get to see what a huge different the work we do makes, especially when we are cleaning certain textiles and see what they look like underneath the dust!

I’ve talked about the problems we have with dust on textiles versus how often we can safely clean them, and briefly mentioned that we are experimenting with using volie covers on some of the objects. The stools on the Entrance Hall Gallery are some of the object we are doing this on. Ideally putting voile on the stools means we can clean the volie more frequently than we could clean the textile. One of the stools does not have a cover for comparison, and the difference was clean when we removed the covers from the other ones, the were much less dust.

The seat of the one of the Gallery stools

The seat of the one of the Gallery stools

These beautiful stools are Elizabethan embroidery on red velvet, featuring a range of cute and interesting creature great and small. I think the covers are a good idea, as even though they change the look of the objects you can still see the detail, and it is much better for the object. These stools are a particular concern as people cross the Gallery twice, and this embroidery is very delicate.

The Gallery, featuring our Irish Elk

The Gallery, featuring our Irish Elk

Claire was tasked with climbing up our big ladder and in between the massive antlers of our fossilized Irish Elk skull, a tricky fella to clean but good fun. While she did that I cleaned the glass lanterns that hang on the Gallery, and notices how beautiful these seemingly plain objects actually are up close!

Birds on the lanterns

Birds on the lanterns

Detail around the base of the lantern

Detail around the base of the lantern

Moving into the Drawing Room, what people often say is our ‘homeliest’ room, meant lots more textiles to clean. Some of the textiles are more mundane, like the chairs and the sofas, and others are beautiful examples of Duchess Evelyn’s embroidery. Duchess Evelyn was the last family member to live at Hardwick, choosing it as her dower house after the death of her husband the 9th Duke of Devonshire. She lived there until her death in the early 1960’s.

The Drawing Room at Hardwick Hall

The Drawing Room at Hardwick Hall

One of the most noticeable changes after we had finished cleaning it was actually the plain red sofa in the Drawing Room, which had a very odd pattern on it when we removed the cushions, but looked bright and spiffy when we had finished!

Dust on the drawing room sofa

Dust on the Drawing Room sofa

We shall be carrying on our deep clean in earnest, around all the other exciting things we’ve got coming up. Our tasks over the coming weeks will include, but are by no means limited to, building scaffolding, moving paintings, going on training courses, planning events, daily dusting, bit of vacuuming, and maybe we’ll even find time for a cup of tea and slice of cake (or two!)

 

Conservation Week

We Chaps have been taking a break this week from both the Summer and Winter clean works programs to educate and entertain the public with what exactly it means to be a Conservation Assistant at Hardwick Hall. Last weekend I went back to Huddersfield for a catch up with college friends, we realised that the last time all of us had been together would have been about four years ago! A lot has changed in that time. Instead of talking about teachers, A-Level results and University we were talking jobs, salaries and weddings! Very odd. Once again I got asked the very familiar question of  ‘So what is it you actually do?’.

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I get this question all the time, from family and friends who know I work for the National Trust, but don’t really know more than that. And the usual response I get when I tell people I am a Conservation Assistant is ‘ a what?’. Explaining exactly what I do is not that easy either, my job is so varied. I either burble on about all the different things I do, or try to sum it up and end up really underselling it. When people do have an idea of what we do it is either a bit of an under-estimation ‘Oh, so you’re a cleaner then?’ or we get a brilliant promotion without the pay-rise ‘You restore the tapestries!’.

This is one of the reasons I love having this blog, if people are really interested I point them in this direction and they can see for themselves what I get up to, I find the pictures help. It is also one of the main aims of Conservation week, showing the public what our jobs entail and just how much work goes in to looking after these magnificent places! The feedback we get is fantastic.WP_000804 (2)

People are often really shocked by how much work we do, how careful we have to be and how much detail we go into. Often these responses are accompanied by people commenting on how rewarding it must be (it really is!) and even the occasional appreciative remark. I love seeing the shock on people’s faces when we talk about everything we do, it makes me realise how hard we work everyday and I feel really accomplished. It is also really lovely to hear people tell us to ‘keep us the good work’ or comment on the standard of the Hall.

Education people about what we do will also hopefully help them to realise what is achievable and why something are they way they are, like the comment about ‘dusty textiles’. It is really difficult for us to hear criticism like this when we spend each and every day working hard, and we care so much about the Hall and collection. Weeks like this will help inform people, so they can rest assured that whatever it looks like we definitely do not neglect the collection.

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I really love talking to the public about my job, and sharing all the interesting things I get to do, so I have really enjoyed this week. We have been running Conservation Tours this week and I back-stopped one on thursday. Hearing the volunteer leading it tell the visitors about my job was really quite cool. Their reactions reminded me yet again how lucky I am to work here, and talking about the things that are now second nature to me showed how much we are responsible for on a day-to-day basis.

The Conservation Team had a table set up in the Long Gallery all week, where we invited visitors to come and meet us, and have a chat. All week we have been telling people about what we do, daily, weekly and on an annual basis. We have also been offering advice to people with antiques of their own in need of TLC. The main topics of conversation have been the rush matting, pests and the tapestries. I collected a few sample pests for the visitors to have a look at, and think I may have weirded out one or two people with my passion for pests!

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All through-out the week we have been delivering talks about various elements of conservation. I have been giving a talk on the Gideon Tapestries in the Long Gallery. I can’t believe how much I enjoy writing and giving talks and tours now, when only a few years ago doing the same at uni was practically torture and I was always so nervous. Today you struggle to get me to shut up once I start going on about something conservation related! Which you may have noticed in these long rambly blog posts.

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Hopefully this week will have enlightened a few visitors to what conservation means, and how much work goes on behind the scenes at Trust properties. Conservation is such a prominent issue at Hardwick; there are always textiles away in workshops and the issue is getting more pressing with increasing visitor numbers. If we can inform our visitors more about the issues it will make our jobs much easier, and more understanding will hopefully lead to more opportunities for us too. I hope a few people will go away looking at heritage properties differently now, and will be more informed about why certain decisions are made. Even is not, we have had a lovely week out on the front lines, and are looking forward to doing it all again in September!