The Attingham Re-discovered Project
Attingham's Re-discovered Project is a ground-breaking, top quality, award-winning conservation project that has inspired and fascinated our visitors. The project aims to bring the Mansion 'back to life' and bring the history, collection and interiors of this impressive regency building alive.
Attingham Re-discovered began in 2006 as a plan for a long term programme of improvements to the Mansion’s interiors, but it quickly became much more than that. The main aim was to refresh the way that Attingham’s Regency rooms were displayed in order to reveal and enhance the significance of the place, its fabric, contents and human stories. This involved the conservation, restoration and re-creation of the Mansion’s historic decorative schemes and collections based on several years of detailed research and consultation.
In the early days the project was ground-breaking in it's focus on carrying out conservation-in-action, in full view of the public, rather than behind closed doors. Even more than this, Attingham Re-discovered broke even more new ground by engaging the visiting public with the details, skills, dilemmas and cost of conservation. Closely involving our volunteers and the conservators themselves, it was one of the first conservation projects to actively invite visitors to join in the debates and discussions that the project team were faced with: asking them questions not just passing on facts. What would they do in our shoes?
Year after year, room by room, Attingham Re-discovered has put the slow and painstaking processes of conservation out there in front of the public and drawn them into its fascinating, detailed micro-world of mixing rabbit skin glue, couching silk damask threads, taking crystal chandeliers apart piece by piece and cleaning decorative schemes over months with cotton wool buds. This is not just to give the visitors an enjoyable day out, but provide a more meaningful, memorable experience. In order for Attingham to survive, and for us to be able to continue our conservation work, it needed to be full of life and locally-loved, and we wanted our visitors care about it and support it. Witnessing our painstaking conservation work and being asked to consider what their approach or decision might be, has been a compelling way of achieving this and helping to build a relationship between people and a place.
Since the beginning of the project visitor numbers to the house have almost doubled: 35,000 per year in 2006 rising to almost 80,000 in 2015, and a record breaking 100,000 in 2016; interest in the Attingham Re-discovered project has been a key factor in this. The pioneering approach of conservation-in-action has been presented at several national and international conferences and has been recognised within the National Trust by winning the Director General’s Award for Engagement-through-Conservation.
Now in its eleventh year, and still going strong, Attingham Re-discovered’s engaging and transparent approach is being rolled out across the property and applied to projects such as the restoration of the Walled Garden and the Pleasure Grounds. Our conservation work is not confined to the Mansion, but is an on-going process in the outdoors as well, caring for the gardens, parkland, estate buildings and natural habitats.
Such is its success that the project has no end date, but has become our natural way of working. Here’s to the next decade of brilliant conservation!