Polesden Lacey Conservation Plan Jan 2018

A volunteer cleans a silver teapot

With a big house and extensive collections to look after, the house team are always working on conservation projects to protect Polesden Lacey. This month on the house team blog, House Steward Helen explains what goes in to planning the conservation calendar for the year.

New year, new plan

With the start of a new year it’s time to look at which conservation works need to be planned for the year ahead.  Until 2016 the house was closed in the winter, which allowed a lot of the cleaning to be completed behind closed doors.

With the house now open 363 days a year, we spread our conservation work throughout the year and complete much of it in front of our visitors. There are some jobs, of course, that can’t be done this way but where possible we like to demonstrate to our visitors what we get up to and how we care for the special collection here at Polesden Lacey. 

A conservator delicately brushes a ceramic dog of fo

Where to begin

Planning starts with a series of maps of showrooms that indicate which are open when, and which seasonal programmes are happening through the year, together with a whole lot of post-it notes!  This enables us to work out which tasks will fit in with our programmes during the year.

For instance, as part of our current programme Adventures in Asia, we have been cleaning some of the beautiful Asian ceramics in our collection.  We have also been busy setting up our new exhibition, Beyond the dragon, which opened at the begining of February. 

There are a few tasks, such as cleaning the reredos (the carved screen above the fireplace) in the Central Hall, which we have to do during quieter moments as the scaffolding required takes up so much space. We sometimes have to close rooms when we're working on larger and more complex conservation tasks. 

The reredos at Polesden Lacey
The reredos at Polesden Lacey taken from a Christopher Wren church.
The reredos at Polesden Lacey

Other highlights in the first few months of the new year include cleaning the 4,000-piece chandelier and the furniture in the Saloon.

Although we make a plan for the year ahead, some tasks do get moved around due to changes in staffing availability, building works and other factors, but having a plan in place means that we don’t forget anything.

The annual collection audit

Working behind the scenes and in front of our visitors also allows us to carry out the annual collection audit, a  key task that every accredited museum has to complete.  This year is a full audit year; we have to check the location of every piece our collections both in storage and on show, including those in the gardens.

There are nearly 10,000 items to check, so this is a mammoth task that the whole team contribute to. 

If you see us working when you visit the house, do stop and chat with us - we love talking about what we do and sharing the stories of our collection. 

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