All Creatures Great and Small

Hi, my name is Ellie and I have been here at Polesden Lacey since March as a Conservation Assistant Intern. From Chandelier cleaning (spot me in the photo on the recent blog post about this) to insect identifying and light monitoring to costume organising, the variety of the job is immense and I’m only here two days a week!

Collecting the blunder traps for Intergrated Pest Management

Collecting the blunder traps for Integrated Pest Management

I came into the role having done a variety of volunteering for heritage organisations but wanting to further deepen my understanding of housekeeping in a historic house and the different aspects of interpretation used to tell the story of the house and collection. I have not been disappointed, everyday brings more challenges and new things to learn; one of the reasons I enjoy heritage work.

My normal day starts with the whole house team doing the daily housekeeping which includes dusting, light bulb checking and vacuuming the carpets in the showrooms, particularly the red carpets as they seems to show off all the dirt. Then at 11 o’clock it’s time to open the doors to you, our visitors and the tours begin. Just before free flow starts at 12:30 you may spot members of the house team creeping around the house trying not to disturb the tours while opening the shutters and blinds. This is the time when we measure the light levels using a nifty gadget in the house to make sure the collection isn’t being scorched by the sun, the height of the blinds is set accordingly to let in as much light as possible while not compromising the collection. The light levels are also checked later in the afternoon once the sun has moved and the blinds often get re-positioned up or down. In the afternoon I am then often involved in the Conservation in Action events (such as the chandelier clean) or many of the other projects and duties that need attending to.

Although there is a lot to do, I find that it is important to make time to have a good look at at least one item a day. Having been here for a relatively short period of time I am still discovering new parts of the collection or details in a room I hadn’t noticed before. I thought I’d pick out one of my recent ‘discoveries’ to share. It is in the showiest room in the house, the Gold Room or Saloon, with lots of competition for your attention so here is your chance to get to know it a bit better.

Kangxi jug

Kangxi jug

This Kangxi silver mounted porcelain jug in one of the glass cabinets has a beautiful floral design on a rich green background; the flowers were once white and aubergine darkly outlined but much of the aubergine has unfortunately faded. The handle bears the head of a duck and dates from between 1662-1722 which is when Emperor Kangxi ruled much of China. Its size and relative simplicity is more appealing to me then some of the other more glitzy pieces amongst the collection and with such beautiful craftsmanship and perfectly complimenting silver and porcelain this would certainly be the piece I would take home if I could. With such a vast collection I’m sure I will have another new favourite discovery before too long, what are your favourite items in our collection?

On that thought, have you noticed the number of animal related items in Mrs Greville’s collection? Charlotte was also thinking about this in her Easter post (https://polesdenlaceyhouse.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/objects-of-the-month-easter-eggstravaganza/) but there are so many other creatures and not just in the Gold Room. There’s the pair of goose shaped turreens in the Dining Room, a horse in a Gun Room tapestry, photographs of Mrs Greville’s beloved dogs in the Study, painted insects on porcelain in the Tea Room and that’s only the start of it. When I think about it there are animals throughout the house on all objects great and small. Maybe see what other animals are lurking in the collection, although hopefully not alive and wriggling, when your next visiting Polesden Lacey.

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