Caring for the Hardmans’ House collection
In 2022, the Hardmans' House is open to the public in September and October. But what do we get up to while the house is closed? Our team are always busy with important conservation work behind closed doors to ensure that the Hardmans’ collection can continue to stand the test of time.
A wide and varied collection
For a museum of its size, the Hardman’s House has a surprisingly large collection.
Over 15,000 objects are tucked away across the property, encompassing a wide range of items relating to both its business and domestic functions.
This huge range of items and materials comes in many different shapes and sizes, from historic cameras, to egg rations from the 1940s and they all require different degrees of care.
Making a detailsed record
Cataloguing such a varied collection is no mean feat.
Fragile objects such as the plastics collection (which is the largest in the National Trust) and Mrs Hardman’s clothes require particular attention, while updating the inventory to ensure we have a detailed record of everything in the house is an ongoing project.
An inventory of contents
Closing the house’s doors allows us to give this vital work our full attention. A few winters ago, we were able to completely empty the storeroom and begin compiling a detailed inventory of its contents.
This included items ranging from a large body of magazines and supplements dating back to the 1940s, to Mrs Hardman’s wedding dress and numerous other items of clothing.
The storeroom and kitchen contents
The winter lull also meant we were able to take stock of some of the house’s more unusual items, which are in need of conservation.
Objects that pose particular challenges include the fragile contents of the kitchen cupboards, such as the increasingly unstable tins which threaten to empty their ageing contents over our conservators, when handled.
The historic photographic chemical collection also poses a significant challenge to our attempts to fully catalogue its contents, with the presence of Hardman’s own unique chemical mixtures preserved in their original bottles.
Weird and wonderful objects
One object that’s certainly beginning to show his age is Carruthers, the taxidermy leopard.
Most likely collected by Mr Burrell during his travels in India, Carruthers spent much of his time in Liverpool as a prop in the photography studio.
The ravages of both life spent as an aide to Mr Hardman’s business and the effects of moths, mean that Carruthers is in much need of some professional help.
Happily however, we were able to raise enough funds through our visitor raffle a few years ago to pay for a specialist conservator to come in and give Carruthers some TLC.
We also hope to have a visit from a National Trust clock conservator to look at the clockwork pictures unearthed in our storeroom inventory.
If you’d like to lend a hand to any of the tasks mentioned here, why not apply to become a volunteer at the Hardmans’ House? Our work is always ongoing so we’d love to hear from you.
Discover the people behind the Hardmans’ House photographic studio and the thousands of prints and negatives they left behind.
Discover what life was like for the Hardmans in the 1950s, with the house presented as it was during the height of this talented couple’s business. As seen on BBC Two series Hidden Treasures of the National Trust.
Adorn your walls with the Hardmans' photographs by purchasing a quality print or browse our selection of Hardman-inspired gifts and souvenirs at Reception while you wait for your tour to begin.
See the breadth of our collection of works of art, furniture and more: we care for around a million objects at over 200 historic places, there’s a surprise discovery around every corner.
Discover the stories behind some of the greatest artworks and artefacts looked after by the National Trust, as told in a dedicated book, 125 Treasures from the Collections of the National Trust.
The art and heritage collections we care for rival the world’s greatest museums. Learn more about the collection of paintings, decorative art, costume, books, household and other objects at historic places.