Conservation in Action - Looking after Lord Fairhaven's collection

There are over 10,000 items in Lord Fairhaven's collection. Discover the hard work that goes into conserving the collection by our dedicated team of staff and volunteers.

We want everyone visiting Anglesey Abbey to feel as if Lord Fairhaven is still at home. That's why we don't put our objects in display cases and we try and keep everything just as it was.The downside to this is that they are more affected by agents of deterioration.

The work we do is known as preventive conservation; this means that we monitor the environment to try to stop change before it happens.

Each day before the House opens its gets a good vacumming; its amazing how much dust or dirt comes into the House everyday, whether from shoes or the dead skin cells we all leave behind.

In the cold winter months and early spring the House and collection gets a really deep clean.

The agents of deterioration  

Water - Water can be damaging in lots of ways, causing staining, swelling and corrosion, as well as mould. Water enters a building through leeks, damp, condensation and spills. The moisture on our hands can affect objects, and so metals and fabrics, should be handled with nitrile gloves - never cotton gloves.

Physical - However hard we try and look after artefacts, there's always the chance of accidents, which can cause breakages. There's also cumulative 'wear & tear', which can be caused by people walking on or touching surfaces. Dust causes wear & tear because repeated removal can cause surfaces to rub away.

Biological - These agents include moulds, insects, birds and rodents. They mainly cause damage to materials like paper, wood & leather, which they like to eat. Beetles, moths & silverfish are the things we normally have to deal with.

Chemical - Chemical agents can be solid, liquid or gas, and can include gases from traffic, particles of dust, or misguided care, such as using silver dip too often. Chemicals that cause damage can be part of the objects themselves: historic paper, contains acids that can make it brittle and discoloured.

Light and UV - Visible light & UV radiation can cause serious damage, but light is needed to enjoy what's on display. Light causes changes in colour & a loss of strength in some objects. It's easier to manage UV radiation because we don't need it to see objects, and it can be filtered out by using film on windows, sun curtains and changing to LED lightbulbs.

Relative humidity & temperature - Damage happens when they are changing quickly, or when they are wrong for the material. Objects grow & shrink with changes in relative humidity & temperature, & break when they are stopped from doing this freely. Examples of this are damage to paintings (lots of layers of paint), & furniture which has veneers and inlays.

In addition to our routine conservation work we also undertake a number of special Conservation and Restoration Projects. Here are some recent examples:

Very early portrait of Henry V111

Looking after Henry

Lord Fairhaven's art collection, which he placed in our care, includes one of the earliest known portraits of Henry VIII. Vital conservation work to safeguard this nationally important work is about to start. Find out more...

All these activities are an expensive business

Looking after the collection and keeping the agents of deterioration at bay is a time consuming and costly business. We have a team of four Conservation Assistants, supported by a dedicated team of volunteers. The equipment they use is very specilaised, with backpack vacuum cleaners costing £250, and specialised cleaning brushes costing £5 for a hogs hair brush, up to £50 for a squirrels hair brush.

In total we spend around £200,000 per annum looking after Lord Fairhaven's collection, We simply couldn't do this without your support. Your membership & admission fees, purchases in the restaurant, shop, secondhand bookshop and generous donations, all help support our vital conservation work.

Thank you for your support.