For the last three winters, volunteers have been helping us to re-organise the attic spaces. We have twelve attic rooms which were something of a jumble with things stored wherever there was a space. Following a strict plan we cleared a space to decant items into and having given them a good clean they were restored in a more appropriate way, on shelving in room specific spaces. The end is in sight with the metal store being tackled this winter - we hope.
We have allocated one room as the painting store where they have been gathered, but we keep finding more than we expected and have about a hundred so far. Some of our volunteers are helping to make a giant 'toast rack' to store the paintings safely.
The attics house around a thousand items in total consisting of bits of wood, bedframes, costumes, an alabaster jardiniere, lots of furniture, old electric fires, doorknobs, a 1608 beam, a fur coat, 18th century gentlemen's and late 19th century ladies' clothes, old curtains, chairs of all sorts, mattresses, mirrors and a picnic basket. Nothing was ever thrown away.
Other winter tasks
With the bribe of a free lunch, volunteers come in on a cold winter's day to help us polish the wooden floors in at least three rooms. Polish is applied by hand and machine buffed. Hard work but the end result makes it all worthwhile.
To comply with accredited museum standards we have to mark every item in the collection with it's own number. We have enlisted our volunteers to help with this and given them all the training they need to mark the various types of materials. This gives them the chance to explore parts of the collection not on display with some 14,000 items to be marked.
Our team of volunteer book cleaners at Felbrigg take about three years to clean all the 8000 books using a pony hair brush and small museum vaccuum cleaner. This year we have laid silk taffeta across the tops of the books on the lower shelves to prevent dust landing on them. This ingenious method allows us to remove the taffeta to hoover which is much quicker than cleaning each individual book.
Following traditional techniques this winter, for the first time, volunteers came in to help us beat the dust out of some of the rugs in the house. One of the rugs had to be beaten six times as there was so much accumulated dust in it.
Checking the wallpaper this year revealed significant damage from silverfish. Yet another group of volunteers have been trained to monitor the insect activity. They take detailed photos which will be used in future to monitor the state of the wallpaper and any additional damage. Interestingly in the red bedroom the insects don't like the gilded parts.
We have five beautiful plaster ceilings at Felbrigg which we clean on a three-five year cycle. Initially we need to clear the room and build a tower scaffold. Then we focus on removing the dust from the ceiling with a vacuum cleaner and a large hogs hair brush. Using the vacuum stops dust from spreading around the rest of the room. This process takes two people approximately four days to complete a ceiling.
Fire extinguisher training
Every few years staff are trained to use the fire extinguishers. This is less daunting than it sounds and is actually great fun.
Every winter with our volunteers we clean the silver on display in the house In the first week of opening our conservation volunteers also help us to clean the copper in the kitchen. This is done just once a year and as you will see when you visit us it looks a treat.
Very successful for the second year, with over 80 volunteers involved. The Felbrigg choir did a flash mob; the gardeners were in the kitchen talking about the dig for victory campaign; an Evacuees party in the bird corridor was great fun and the Home Guard "Civil Defenders" were, as always, a great success. We look forward to doing it all again in 2014.
Great Hall carpet
Due to rising damp, the great hall carpet was lifted about ten years ago and is currently rolled up in the stone corridor. We needed to review its condition to check that the way it is stored is not damaging it and look for any pest damage. It needed 20 people to move it so they came from the house the estate and the gardens - volunteers and staff - typical Felbrigg team spirit.
Textile and Regional Conservators took a look and did some remedial conservation work to strengthen some areas.
Once laid it made a huge change to the room - many of us hadn't seen it laid before. This carpet was exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and in the corners are the initials V&A and the date 1851.
The conservator shaved the very top layer of the pile in a small space and demonstrated the colour beneath which showed how the carpet has faded badly in the light. It would have originally been very vibrant with blue and purple tones matching the stained glass windows in the Great Hall. The carpet has now been re-rolled for storage in the stone corridor.