Joining the team at Polesden Lacey

A view of the library at Polesden Lacey

Polesden Lacey is a large property and there are many interesting volunteer and internship opportunities available. In this week's blog post intern Oliver explains his journey from volunteer to intern and the experience he is gaining along the way.

When Beverley Nichols declared that the 1920s are ‘not grey; the whole decade is drenched in colour,’ he probably had the weekend home of his good friend, Margaret Greville, in mind.

It has been a privilege to begin an internship at Mrs Greville’s beautiful house Polesden Lacey, containing not only her collection of artwork and artefacts, but also countless stories of a highly colourful social life throughout the early 1900s. 

Gaining practical historical experience

Finishing university with a degree in history, I knew that I needed strong practical experience in a historical setting to balance my theoretical knowledge of the subject. I began by volunteering on an archaeological dig abroad, and came back with more awareness of the importance of physical material in our perception of the past. 

Volunteering at Polesden Lacey

Having enjoyed many visits to Polesden in the past, I thought that here might be a good place to continue gaining experience, and thus applied to become a room guide. Alongside my internship, I have continued volunteering as a room guide, such is my passion for talking to the public about history, and Mrs Greville and Polesden Lacey’s place within it. 

Visitors' book research

Prior to my internship and during Polesden’s winter closure, I also joined the research team, volunteering to transcribe Mrs Greville’s visitors' books, containing all the individually signed names of the ‘great and the good’ who visited Polesden over the years. 

I have begun transcribing the period from 1918 to 1926. The visitors books really are fascinating historical documents and I am continuing to help co-ordinate the other members of the team to help transcribe or write short biographies for the names that we have so far. 

The leather-bound visitors book at Polesden Lacey
The red leather-bound visitors book from Polesden Lacey
The leather-bound visitors book at Polesden Lacey

Becoming an intern

As a conservation assistant intern, my roles in the house are varied, from helping to clean the house before it is opened to checking the light levels in all the showrooms to ensure that the collection is not damaged by the sun through the windows. Working in a house of this historical importance means that the simplest task has to be approached carefully, from picking up objects from the collection in a certain way, to making sure that your duster is folded in the correct way so that it doesn’t catch edges, to making sure your vacuum cleaner does not contact any valuable pieces of furniture. 

The historic interiors log

My internship project is the historic interiors log, which involves meticulously charting the damage, deterioration and damp that has befallen the beautiful showrooms here at Polesden. Looking at the architecture of the house in such intimate detail has been fascinating and it is good to know that my efforts will directly benefit the visitors’ experience at Polesden by highlighting which areas of deterioration are in most need of attention.

The west lawn at Polesden Lacey from the tea room loggia
a view looking across the west lawn at Polesden Lacey
The west lawn at Polesden Lacey from the tea room loggia

 

Working with the house team

Thanks to the house team at Polesden, I have already been taught so much about the work here and the importance of the National Trust. Members of the house team have gone out of their way to ensure that I develop my skills, while giving me the independence to realise for myself where I can improve. Always intriguing and fascinating, my time at Polesden so far has been as enjoyable as it has been informative for my understanding of the work of the National Trust and my own ideas of a future career.

 

Mrs Greville speaks with some guests with a Facebook logo in the corner of the picture

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Mrs Greville chats with some guests with a twitter logo in the corner of the picture

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