Hands On or Hands Off at Attingham?

A close up of damage to an item in the collection at Attingham.

How do we ensure everybody gets to experience and explore all that Attingham has to offer, at the same time as continuing to care for and protect the objects left in our care?

Hands On or Hands Off?

Through the National Trust's Hands On or Hands Off? project we will be involving visitors in our dilemmas and debates around balancing conservation with access at one of the National Trust’s busiest places. 

The ‘Dark Museum’ space has been installed in two rooms on the first floor display in the Mansion. This creative, interactive, and immersive space explore the causes, impacts and mitigation of wear-and-tear, and how we can all help prevent it.

A Conservator at work on an historic chair in the collection at Attingham.
A Conservator at work on an historic chair in the collection at Attingham.
A Conservator at work on an historic chair in the collection at Attingham.

Damaged items

Often when an object in a collection gets too damaged it is removed from open display and put into a storeroom pending conservation treatment. If a piece of an object becomes detached it is put into a box of ‘broken bits’ to hopefully be reattached one day, usually kept in a store out of sight of visitors. 

In the stores at Attingham damaged parts of items are kept, pending conservation treatment.
A close up of damage to a historic chair in the collection at Attingham.
In the stores at Attingham damaged parts of items are kept, pending conservation treatment.

The Dark Museum

The Dark Museum brings some of these items back out for people to see, displaying them in an innovative, impactful and dramatic way, and engaging people with the dilemmas we face when balancing access to collections.

" In recent years we have seen an increase in accidental damage and wear-and-tear to our collections and interiors. Sharing the objects in our care with our visitors is really important to us at Attingham – it helps us tell the stories and history of the estate. Exploring ways to do this, whilst also preserving the objects is a really exciting challenge"
- Helen Rowse, House and Collections Manager at Attingham.

As part of the exhibition we've created an interactive 'conservation lab'  with samples of silk and gilded wood, together with a microscope, a special toolkit and a Conservation Champion volunteer on hand to tell you more about the project and answer any questions about the collection and conservation work on items.

Have you ever wondered what happens to silk when you spill fizzy drinks on it? Now's your chance. Visitors will also be able to experiment with trying to remove or reverse the damage that previous visitors have done to the samples.

Sharing the stories of the estate and its collection is an important part of the work at Attingham. Throughout the year the team carry out conservation on the collection in front of visitors.
A close up of the historic shells in the collection at Attingham Park.
Sharing the stories of the estate and its collection is an important part of the work at Attingham. Throughout the year the team carry out conservation on the collection in front of visitors.

Visiting the Dark Museum

During 2020 visitors will be able to visit the Mansion on a free-flow basis to see the Dark Museum on the dates below:

Saturday 15 to Sunday 23 February 

Weekends from Saturday 29 February to Sunday 22 March

Daily from Saturday 28 March until Sunday 1 November

The Mansion is open from 11am with last entry at 4.30pm on the above dates.