Conservation in the house

Conservation is an ongoing process for the conservation team here at Ickworth.  Dangers from, light, dust, pests and people, that are not usually a problem in more modern buildings, can all have a devastating and often irreversible, effect on our precious collection.

Read about the different challenges that our conservation team face inside the house on a regular basis, and learn how they tackle the problems that can lead to more lasting damage.

    Light and textile damage

    light damage to the curtains

    We need light to see the unique collections we have here at Ickworth. However, you may notice when walking around that some of our rooms are not too brightly lit. Light can seriously harm objects and this damage is irreversible.  It can break down the structure of fabrics, varnishes, finishes and paint.  You can usually spot the damage easily by looking at the change in colour and texture.  As you can see in the picture here the light has damaged the threads and left holes in this beautiful silk material which has given the appearance of tears in the fabric.

    Danger from insect infestations

    checking for bugs

    Imagine spending a lot of money on a pure new wool carpet only to find that it has been eaten by something that's much smaller than a pound coin. It would be very upsetting to say the least.  Our carpets here are made of wool as there was no such thing as synthetic materials when the house was furnished. There is a very real danger that they'll be attacked by an insect like the carpet beetle.  In order to prevent infestations our conservation team spend a lot of time checking for pests in our collection both behind the scenes and in front of the public in our conservation in action days.

    Damage caused by dust

    dust in curtains

    Dust is a major problem in a historic house like Ickworth.  The most obvious problem with dust is that it can be seen on a daily basis on many surfaces.  Dust quite often makes shiny surfaces seem dull and can even affect the colour of an object.  One way of combating dust in the house is by vacuuming everyday.  This is a time consuming job, but luckily we have a dedicated conservation team to ensure that the house and our collections are always looking at their best.

    Dust can also damage objects by scratching and abrading, these are bigger bits of dirt that have sharp edges which can cause irreversible damage.  It is essential to keep our collection free from dust as it can be an appealing food source for certain insects.

    Wear and tear

    wear and tear

    We love to invite visitors to spend the day with us admiring our beautiful collection.  However, opening our doors almost everyday does have an affect on the wear and tear of our house.  Lots of people visiting the house does create damage to our floors and furnishings.  While we are aware this is unwittingly done we still need to protect our historic collection.  Dirt and small stones brought in on the underneath of shoes can cause similar problems to dust and this is why, in some National Trust properties, you're asked to put overshoes on to reduce any damage to floors.  We also ask visitors to leave things like backpacks before entering the house in case of any damage to objects or even other visitors!

    Awareness of the small animal population

    mouse on chair

    At the moment we don't have any problems being caused by members of the small animal kingdom, but we've had furniture being eaten by mice in the past. In our house, we are sometimes visited by bats, mice, and the odd friendly toad who likes to visit the basement where it can be dark and cool. We do have a cupboard outside the basement door that bats have taken a liking to and we encourage them to make their home there, well away from their predators. While we do not deter them from visiting us, we do have to be aware that there is a potential for damage to be caused by our smaller visitors. As you can see in the picture, a mouse took a fancy to the arm of this chair.