Gold dust

Of late we have been undertaking a deep clean of the Saloon, also known as the Gold Room for reasons which will be very apparent indeed. We do as much of our conservation work in front of the public as possible – in this case by roping a small area of the room and setting up shop. Regular readers may remember that we’ve been getting up to similar hijinks in the Dining Room recently, with our work on the table display.

Our strategy is to work round the room clockwise, assessing each piece on its merits as our aim is a middle way between under- and overcleaning. As showrooms go the Saloon is amongst the showiest, meaning high foot traffic and corresponding dust levels to keep up with.

A conservation volunteer, Vivian, cleaning a marble side table

A conservation volunteer, Vivian, cleaning a marble side table

On the first day we were working on the east wall, dusting furniture and skirting with a range of specialist brushes and a mini vacuum cleaner either known as an “Ergo” or “ghostbuster hoover” depending on who you talk to. We use hogshair brushes on more robust items and ponyhair on those less so, with a range of specific brushes for each type of material. Luckily nothing was delicate enough for us to have to break out the very soft squirrel hair brushes.

We removed items to a central table, allowing both access to the furniture and a chance to condition check each object. I also took the opportunity to wet clean one of our Dogs of Fo, which was looking a little grubby. Our very low-tech but effective method for this is to use a homemade cotton bud and a tiny bit of saliva. Dogs of Fo (or guardian lions) usually come in pairs with a male and a female. The female often has a cub – sometimes curiously hatching from an egg – and the male a ball or globe. In this case the female has lost her cub and a few other pieces besides. An accurate condition report is particularly vital here so that we know whether damage is old or new.

One of our interns, Freya, cleaning a Kangxi vase

One of our interns, Freya, cleaning a Kangxi vase

It took five days and a team of eight staff and nine volunteers to complete the deep clean, so it’s not a small job. Fortunately we shouldn’t need to clean it so thoroughly again for another year, instead only dusting bits and pieces as they need it.


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