Making conservation clear

Conservation work on the Bosch triptych at Upton House

We want our visitors to have the best experience possible, that’s why we’re taking part in a regional project called Hands On or Hands Off?

Alongside four other National Trust properties in the Midlands, we are looking at introducing innovative ways to engage visitors with our conservation stories. At Upton House and Gardens, we are focusing on the language we use across the property to explain what can and can’t be touched.

From visitor research carried-out last year, we know that it can sometimes be unclear what visitors can and can’t touch in the house. Using this feedback, we are now designing new signage to be displayed on a variety of items.

House and Collections Manager Michelle Leake explains: “We found that people are more receptive to positive language. That’s why we’re trialling new signage that shows visitors what can be touched, as well as what needs to be left alone. We’re also giving our volunteers extra training so that they can have meaningful conversations with our visitors about why certain items need to be left alone."

Michelle continues: “We’re keen to keep our displays as open as possible, but it’s crucial that we protect the incredible pieces we have here at Upton.”

The new Hands on Hands off display in the library at Upton
The new Hands on Hands off display in the library
The new Hands on Hands off display in the library at Upton

The house and conservation teams have created the above display in the Library showing the kind of signage we want to avoid at Upton, and why it's important to have a clear and consistent message. This display also enables our volunteers to engage with visitors about the project, and why we’re involved.

Our volunteers are currently taking tallies of the number of incidences of touching, leaning etc. in three key rooms. We will then use this information to make appropriate changes to the new signage before rolling out across the whole property.

This is an ongoing project and we very much welcome your feedback. Please come and see what we’re up to and feel free to ask a volunteer if you’ve got any questions.