Take a seat at Sudbury

The Great Hall at Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire

In 2020 we need your help to take part in a conservation experiment like no other. We often get asked how certain items in the Hall are protected, so we’re taking part in a project to show exactly what happens when items are handled.

We’ll be testing the effects of touch and looking at the practical impact that ‘bums on seats’ would have on our chairs. But don’t worry; we’ve got hold of some new chairs especially to test this out!

See how we care for our collections
A woman conducting chair conservation
See how we care for our collections

Spot the difference

In 2019 we put two new chairs on display at Sudbury Hall.  The two chairs sat side by side, but lead two very different lives.  The first chair was strictly ‘hands off’ and received our finest conservation cleaning and care to keep it in the best possible condition.  The second chair was used as much as possible, defintely more 'hands on'. Visitors were able to touch it and sit on it. Over time, we saw wear and tear, and how the condition of these chairs differs between the one that receives conservation care and the one that doesn’t.

One chair received the highest quality care, and the other had several thousand people sitting on it. You can see for yourself below how conservation preserves items and protects them for the future.

Can you guess which chair was Hands On?!
Two Hands On Hands Off Chairs in Sudbury Hall Long Gallery
Can you guess which chair was Hands On?!

Share and chair alike

Many of the objects we care for are hundreds of years old, and we hope to care for them for hundreds more.  These special chairs at Sudbury will help us learn more about the effect of a year’s worth of visitor interaction with an object. But the project doesn’t end there. We wanted to be a bit more ambitious than that! 

To help simulate many years of use, we’re going to be taking two more identical chairs out on tour with us in 2020 to some of the busiest locations in our region. We've already taken the chairs to a local infant school where we were able to talk to young people about the importance of conservation. The chairs had another trip to Derby bus station where we talked to lots of people about the project, and offered them a seat!

Sitting comfortably!
Young boy sitting on a conservation project chair
Sitting comfortably!

We’ll be recording a video diary to show how our chairs change during this project, so keep an eye on our social media and webpages for updates, as well as a video feed at the property.