Hi! My name is Paola and I have been doing an internship as a Conservation Assistant here at Polesden Lacey. The work is extremely varied and as well as getting involved with the day to day conservation care of the house and collection I also have my own project to work on.
Every day I am involved in the regular housekeeping duties such as vacuuming, deep dusting the show rooms and ensuring the house is ready to be opened to the public as well as learning to recognise pests and insects that may harm the collection and monitoring the light levels to ensure that collections care is balanced with visitor enjoyment.
I have also been involved with more in depth cleaning of various parts of the collection for our ‘conservation in action’ where we work in front of our visitors. Working with other volunteers I deep cleaned the tapestry chairs in the east corridor (which involved, carefully inspecting each chair for signs of any new damage before dusting and buffing the wood and vacuuming the fabric) and was also involved in cleaning the paintings in the south corridor. This involved removing each painting from the wall (which can take up to 3 or 4 people depending on the size of the painting!), inspecting the painting under a bright light for any signs of damage to either the frame or the painting itself and dusting with a soft pony hair brush, collecting any dust in an ergo vacuum cleaner.
If you want to know more do look at the other blog posts that talk in more depth about our conservation in action activities.
All my spare time away from these conservation duties is spent on my project which involves helping to complete the Historic Interiors Log. This involves inspecting and recording all of the house’s visible interior structure, fixtures, fittings and decoration.
The aim is to build up a comprehensive picture of the state of the interiors and categorise any problems so that any budget we have to improve them can be concentrated on the areas that most need it. Carrying out this inspection at regular intervals will enable us to build up a picture of any changes over time and also improve our presentation of the house for our visitors.
First I make a photographic record of the room as a whole and then make a more detailed inspection recording any issues such as cracks, stains, scuffs, flaking and damage, and any losses to paintwork, moulding, gilding and plaster.
I inspect the floors, walls and ceilings and also look at the fixtures and fittings such as doors, shutters, fireplaces, panelling and glazing. All issues are recorded and photographed and saved to a large database that everyone can then refer to.
As a visitor to Polesden Lacey it can be easy to miss so much when there is such an amazing collection to look at but having the opportunity to look so closely at the rooms here has made me appreciate the beauty and workmanship that went into the building and decoration of the house. My favourite area so far has to be the stunning ceiling in Mrs Greville’s Boudoir.