Conservation in the house
Our house has lots of areas where conservation is needed as an ongoing activity. Dangers from, light, dust, pests and people can all have devasting effects on the furnishings of the house that perhaps might not be an issue in more modern buildings.
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 if they're not addressed.
Light damage to delicate materials
When you walk around the house, you may wonder why some of the rooms are not as brightly lit as they would be in a more modern house. The answer, you will often hear quoted, is to protect the collection from light damage. But have you ever seen what light can do to such delicate materials as silk? Probably not, but as you see in the picture here, it can break down the threads and leave holes in the material which makes it look as though the curtains have been ripped.
Danger from the insect population
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 small finger nail. 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 carpet beetles. Our conservation team spend a lot of time checking for pests in the furnishings when the house is not open to the public.
Damage caused by dust
On a daily basis, the most obvious problem with dust is that it can be seen on surfaces. This can make shiny surfaces seem dull, and can affect the colour of an object and how we view sculptural pieces. This is why we vacuum the carpets and dust all flat surfaces along the visitor route everyday. It's a time consuming job but it’s vital to keep dust levels down and also ensure the house and the collections look at their best for your visit.
Less obvious is the damage that dust can cause by scratching and abrading objects.This is caused by bigger bits of dirt and stones that have sharp edges. These can rub against surfaces and get caught between carpets and flooring causing irreversible damage.
Damage caused by the human population
While we love to invite lots of visitors into our house, we have to be aware that unwittingly, people can cause damage to the floors and furnishings. High heels in particular can cause piting on some of the floor areas and if this is not reviewed on a regular basis it could cause longer term damage. Dirt and small stones brought in on the underneath of shoes can cause similar problems to dust and this is why in some properties that you visit you are asked to put overshoes on to minimise damage to carpets.
The picture shows the area of the floor inside the main entrance being examined for any damge caused in this way.
Awareness of the small animal population
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.