Caring for the Collection

A vintage dog toy on display at the Hardmans House

The Hardmans' House is open to the public from March to October. But what do we get up to during the winter? Our team are always busy with important conservation work behind closed doors to ensure that our collection can continue to stand the test of time.

For a museum of its size, the Hardman’s House has a surprisingly large collection. Over 13,000 objects are tucked away across the house, encompassing a wide range of items relating to both its business and domestic functions. Not many places have to care for items ranging from historic cameras to egg rations from the 1940s! The huge range of items and materials come in many different shapes and sizes and they all require different degrees of care.

Caring for and cataloguing such a varied collection is no mean feat. Fragile objects such as our plastics collection (which is the largest in the National Trust) and Mrs Hardman’s clothes require particular attention, while updating our inventory to ensure we have a detailed record of everything in the house is an ongoing project.

Closing our doors for the winter season allows us to give this vital work our full attention. Over the winter period of 2015/16 we were able to completely empty our storeroom and begin compiling a detailed inventory of its contents. This includes items ranging from a large body of magazines and supplements dating back to the forties, to Mrs Hardman’s wedding dress and numerous other items of clothing.

The winter lull also meant that we were able to take stock of some of the house’s more unusual items which are in need of conservation. Objects that pose particular challenges include the fragile contents of the kitchen cupboards, such as the increasingly unstable tins which threaten to empty their aging contents over our conservators when handled!

Our historic photographic chemical collection also poses a significant challenge to our attempts to fully catalogue its contents, with the presence of Hardman’s own unique chemical mixtures preserved in their original bottles.

One of our objects which is certainly beginning to show his age is Carruthers the taxidermy leopard. Most likely collected by Mr Burrell during his travels in India, Carruthers spent much of his time in Liverpool as a prop in the photography studio. The ravages of both life spent as an aide to Mr Hardman’s business and the effects of moths means that Carruthers is in much need of some professional help.

Happily however, we have been able to raise enough funds through our visitor raffle to pay for a specialist conservator to come in and give  Carruthers some TLC. We also hope to have a visit from a National Trust clock conservator to look at the clockwork pictures unearthed in our storeroom inventory.