Playing house – hosting Housekeeping Study Days

Last week Polesden Lacey hosted ‘Housekeeping Study Days’, the National Trust’s annual course on the foundations of preventative conservation. Many months in the planning, we were delighted to finally welcome over 100 delegates and their tutors to Mrs Greville’s country retreat. All of the team were involved (four of us were lucky enough to be attending the whole course) and our tasks ranged from set-up the week before to leading the delegates between sessions, assisting the conservators during their practical demonstrations and manning the phones!

The course focused on teaching the basic principles of preventative conservation, something that we do everyday at Polesden Lacey and right across the Trust in our historic houses. It’s really important that all House staff are well trained and that we understand how to look after our collections properly. Sessions included classes on the nine agents of deterioration – light & UV, relative humidity, & temperature, mould, mechanical damage, dust, pests. This was in addition to practical sessions on waxing wooden floors and furniture and hanging and moving paintings.

A particular favourite was the practical session on carpets and rugs.Conservator Ksynia showed us how to find the ‘pile’ of the carpet, the quickest ways to identify the weave, the most effective way to roll a carpet  or rug and how to prepare it for rest or storage – you can read more about our carpet rolling experiences in Charlotte’s post.

Rolling carpets

Rolling carpets

We also learnt how to ‘tamp’; this process involved beating a rug with a large rubber bats, which encouraged the dirt to fall out onto the tissue that we had placed underneath. I was horrified to see just how much dirt came out of the rug during the ‘tamping’ process, especially as the rug we were using had already been cleaned and wrapped for storage over the winter!

Delegates 'tamping' the carpet with rubber bats

Delegates ‘tamping’ the carpet with rubber bats




Look at all that dirt!

We also had in-depth sessions on books & paper, ceramics, wood & furniture, stone & plaster and metalwork. One of my favourite classes was Textiles; we learnt all about the raw materials that textiles are created from (cellulose and protein) and undertook several exercises where we had to identify different types of materials. We also looked at how the agents of deterioration can affect textiles.

Identifying examples of the agents of decay on textiles

Identifying examples of the agents of decay on textiles

It was an excellent opportunity to meet House staff from other properties (Dunham Massey, Mottisfont, Anglesey Abbey, Tyntesfield and Cragside to name a few!) as well as plenty of networking with regional conservators and national specialists from across the country. A really huge thank you goes out to everyone who was involved or who attended – we couldn’t have done it without you either!


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