Conservation in action at The Firs
Our collection is small but intimate. Family photo albums, scrapbooks and heirlooms reveal the things Elgar and his loved ones held most dear. Smoking pipes and writing utensils take us to the moment where pen was put to paper and inspiring music was written. The cosy birthplace cottage transports us to a childhood filled with joy and wonder.
Elgar’s daughter Carice gathered the collection on her father’s death in 1934. Upon opening the Birthplace Museum in 1938, she said of it:
‘When you have seen the little house where my father was born and its collection of intimate personal belongings which he constantly used, you may be interested to read an impression of him, and may serve to bring to life the picture you may have formed of him from your visit to his birthplace and your knowledge of his music and life’.
Carice sought to preserve the legacy of England’s foremost composer, but more simply, she wished to create a touching and lasting memorial to her dear father.
It is a huge privilege to care for such a personal collection. Knowing that it would have meant so much to Elgar really makes you feel closer to the man and preserving the legacy Carice created adds even more emotion to the task.
Our dedicated conservation team are motivated by the will to preserve and share these special artefacts: forever for everyone.
In 1931 Elgar was living at his last home in Worcester, Marl Bank. In its attic he had stored a small upright piano. He gave it as a special gift to his valet’s young daughter, Bettey. Bettey cherished the piano all her life, keeping it as a fond reminder of the kindly old man in her childhood. In 2017, the piano was formally donated to the care of the National Trust at The Firs.
Fortunately the piano was in relatively good condition. Bettey had refrained from playing it often so the internal mechanisms of the piece weren’t too worn.
Since its donation specialist conservator Chris Farthing has been able to carry out careful restoration of the piano to improve its condition and stability. As well as carefully tuning the fragile strings, he has also removed a century’s worth of dirt and has even been able to install measures to help control the internal humidity.
‘It’s been such a wonderful addition to the collection here. In a museum where most artefacts are protected behind glass, it’s a wonderful opportunity to allow visitors to engage with an important piece of cultural history and to feel a genuine connection with the genius of Elgar’. – Joe Tierney.
Specialist conservator Chris Farthing has been able to carry out careful restoration of the piano to improve its condition and stability. As well as carefully tuning the fragile strings, he has also removed a century’s worth of dirt and has even been able to install measures to help control the internal humidity. This is important as pianos will often react to variations in relative humidity, causing structural changes which affect the tuning.