Caring for the future at Sudbury Hall

Project
House and Collections team erecting scaffolding for high level cleaning

The House and Collections team is busy with all sorts of conservation work preparing for extended opening in 2019.

See what they have been getting up to over the past few weeks, from putting up scaffolding to conservation cleaning. They’re going to be assessing and cleaning some hard to reach areas, getting to know some dragons and even saying hello to William Shakespeare, all in time to welcome visitors back fully in 2019.

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11 Nov 18

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

The Hall has gone back to bed for a few weeks after opening for October half term. It was nice to say a fond goodbye to the last of the ‘Women of Sudbury’ interpretation and also to try a few new ways of lighting rooms in the dull autumn afternoons, ready for January opening. We’re trying all sorts of different lights, from uplighters to coloured spotlights. We’ve found warm light looks good, particularly if the colour is close to candlelight. LEDs are making a huge difference in conservation lighting as they don’t get hot and they don’t emit UV light, which makes them perfect to use in sensitive locations. Although we aren’t open to visitors yet the Hall is buzzing with activity. We’re beginning to decorate for our Regency Christmas! The first task is to look at where we want to put decorations and make sure the surfaces are protected. Although we want the Hall to look wonderful we don’t want to risk damaging the collection. So we are very careful with what we use and where we put it. Lots of our decorations this year are knitted which means they are light and soft and can go on some surfaces with just a piece of conservation grade plastic underneath. This looks nearly invisible once the decorations are put on it. For fresh greenery decorations we have to put more protection in place. One of our most impressive decorations is going to be on the Great Staircase. This is one of the most important objects in the hall so we need to be very careful. The balustrade is covered in white jiffy foam to protect it from scratches and this is tied into place with conservation cotton tape. Once it’s decorated the foam is completely invisible to all but the most careful conservation spotters!

Handmade knitted mistletoe at Sudbury Hall National Trust

16 Oct 18

Film star

We’ve been having window film fitted to the last few windows which have not had their film renewed over the past few years. This is the end of a three year project to look at the equipment we have to restrict light damage and upgrade or renew it where necessary. The film being fitted to the windows is to block ultra-violet (UV) light. This frequency of light is outside of the visible spectrum but, just as it can cause people to get sun burn, it can cause a lot of damage to our collections and interiors. Using the film is one of the balancing acts of conservation as, although it protects the interior decoration and objects, it can also break the historic glass where it is used. The team from Sun-X are carefully removing the old film and cleaning off all the old glue before putting on the nice new film. Some of the windows we haven’t been able to see out of properly for years will now be giving us a clear view of the Deer Cote once more. The paintings we referred to last month have arrived back at Sudbury. It’s been a team effort to get them into the Hall and we were able to rehang two of them. Although we’ve seen the photographs of the work, it’s breath taking in person. Particularly seeing the detail in the backgrounds. It’s always a bit nerve-racking when we need to move objects, particularly paintings, but we soon had the largest painting back up on the wall looking resplendent!

A UV filter is prepared for the windows at Sudbury Hall

10 Oct 18

It's all in the detail

It’s been an interesting week for the House and Collections team. The side hall floor is gleaming after being scrubbed and waxed and the section of ceiling we have been working on in the Great Staircase is complete. We tidied away a lot of our conservation equipment temporarily in order to have a company called V21 scan the visitor route in the Hall to make a new virtual tour. It’s nearly ten years since we had a virtual tour made and the technology has come on in leaps and bounds. Being able to give visitors good access to our collections is really important to us and this will mean that visitors, on site and off site, will be able to enjoy the best bits of Sudbury Hall. Another important job this week has been quite a routine one; looking for insects. This is called integrated pest management and it is a vital part of making sure our collections don’t get eaten by pests large or small. Nearly every room in the hall and museum has at least one sticky trap, often called a blunder trap as the pests ‘blunder’ onto the trap but it isn’t treated with anything to attract them. Every three months we check these traps to see if there are any insect pests which could eat our collection, from tiny booklice (they eat paper but only if it is damp) to deathwatch beetles (they like to eat damp structural timbers like oak) to so called woolly bears (the larvae of the varied carpet beetle). These finds are collated and sent to the central conservation team who can look for trends across properties. If we find we have a pesky pest problem they can also help. Checking all the traps, we’ve got nearly 100, is a long job but it can be very interesting. In an ideal world we wouldn’t want any insect pests, but it does get a bit exciting when we see one we haven’t seen before! We’ve also had some good news about some of our paintings. Four portraits went away to paintings conservators Critchlow and Kukkonen for conservation work in the summer and the reports came back this week. It is fascinating to read the all that goes into doing detailed work to clean and stabilise the canvasses. From dusting to selecting the right chemicals to remove and reapply varnish, their work is precise and shows where art meets science. The photographs they sent have given us a tantalising hint of how much better these paintings will look when they are back at Sudbury.

Painting conservation before and after at Sudbury Hall