Hands On or Hands Off?

Please Do Not Touch sign on a glass display case at Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire

Have you ever wondered why National Trust properties have different types of messages about where you can and can’t sit, what you shouldn’t touch and which carpets or grass you can walk on? Why some rooms have ropes and barriers, and some do not? Ever found the different messages confusing and inconsistent?

The places the National Trust looks after have changed enormously over the last ten years. We’ve taken away many of the ropes and barriers and softened our language around not touching, blurred the boundaries and at times caused confusion. We’re also busier and open longer all of which can sometimes mean an increase in wear and tear on the places in our care.

More visitors than ever before enjoy National Trust places
Crowds of visitors on paddock on busy summer day at Charlecote
More visitors than ever before enjoy National Trust places

So we have set up the 'Hands On or Hands Off?' project to look at how we explain our conservation work in a consistent, clear and creative way. The project includes staff and volunteers from five very different properties: Attingham, Greyfriars, Sudbury, The Workhouse and Upton, who are going to be trialling and testing methods of conservation messaging. Look out for the 'Hands On or Hands Off?' Project at these properties over the spring and summer and see which approaches work best for you.

The occasional touch over time can lead to long term damage
Damage to terrestrial Bardin globe in Charlecote library
The occasional touch over time can lead to long term damage

We recognize that we need to be much clearer in our conservation messaging to help you experience and enjoy our places and also to inspire you about our conservation work. We want to involve you in looking for solutions that make sense and work for you and that also address our responsibilities of care.

Conservation work is a constant feature at the places in our care
A Conservator at work on a chair
Conservation work is a constant feature at the places in our care

The National Trust is a conservation charity that looks after special places and things, and we define conservation as ‘the careful management of change’. But we also aim to balance our conservation work with providing access to those special places and things For Ever For Everyone - we want people to be able to get as close as possible to the places and objects we look after.

We want people to feel able to touch things when appropriate - and know when they shouldn't
Man looking at items on a mantelpiece at Berrington Hall, Herefordshire.
We want people to feel able to touch things when appropriate - and know when they shouldn't

It’s a tough mission. In order to achieve this balance we need help from our visitors, members and supporters. You are what we are here for: public benefit.  But, like saving the planet, it’s not going to work unless we all act together.

Places taking part