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Caring for the Hardmans’ House collection

The Dark Room at 59 Rodney Street, Liverpool, the E Chambre Hardman Studio, House and Photographic Collection
The Dark Room at 59 Rodney Street, Liverpool, the E Chambre Hardman Studio | © National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

In 2024, the Hardmans' House is open to the public in May, and again 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 kitchen at the Hardmans' House, Liverpool
The kitchen at the Hardmans' House, Liverpool | © ©National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

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.

Conserving Carruthers

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.

Volunteering at Hardmans'

The Mounting Room at the Hardmans' House, Liverpool

The Hardmans' House's collections

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at the Hardmans' House on the National Trust Collections website.

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