Hi, my name is Naomi and I am one of the Intern Conservation Assistants. After 9 weeks here I think I have finally found my feet. The days are filled with a diverse range of tasks and opportunities to learn many new skills. The most daunting of which has to be a toss-up between carrying chalk pastel portraits “just think smooth thoughts” and cleaning and inspecting the Meissen porcelain in the Study. Both were great experiences once I got used to the idea but it was scary to start with.
For the first few weeks I took part in the daily housekeeping tasks such as dusting and vacuuming the showrooms. I was also involved in getting the house open and ready for visitors at the start of the day and closing up the showrooms at the end of the day. This included many fights with the blinds, struggles to remember all the different light switches, and several sessions of room guiding while volunteers had their tea/coffee breaks.
Having got to grips with the Open Season, it was now time for me to get used to the routines of the Closed Season, learning about the balance between the deep cleaning in the week and the glorious glimpses tours at the weekend. It has been strange to see some of the rooms emptying as the furniture is moved to the study in preparation for Christmas.
Last week we cleaned the study from the top to the bottom cleaning every nook and cranny. We used hogs hair brushes to brush the dust from the crevices into a specialist museum vacuum cleaner before covering the furniture and preparing for the ‘Furniture Tetris’ game to begin.
Next on the list was the Hall. The furniture was cleaned using a mixture of pony hair and hogs hair brushes as well as the specialist museum vacuums. The tapestry chairs and table were moved to the study. The hall was now ready for the main carpet to be rolled and moved to make room for the Christmas tree which will arrive in a few weeks. It took 4 people over an hour to roll the carpet and 8 to lift it to the study. Once this momentous task was complete we could then move on to the floor. House steward Helen added a layer of wax to high foot traffic areas and then Amy painstakingly buffed it which took her a little over 4 hours. Needless to say the floor looks sparkling.
During my time here I am continuing the Basement stores project started by Amy earlier this year, so I spend many an afternoon sorting through architectural objects in the basement. My first foray into the basement was a little intimidating in that despite the noise of people walking round the house it was still eerily quiet. Thanks to the pianists, my second trip was far more comfortable as I had some music to keep me company through the floor while I continued my adventure into the depths of the store. After several weeks down there I have now become accustomed to the silence and environment, which is a good thing as the house is now closed to visitors in the week.
I have also made great swathes into the initial inventory record sheets with more than half the objects in the basement now ready to be put onto the collections management system. My favourite find so far has been a piece of coving that I found in the middle of a pile that looked to be made up of primarily plain lengths of wood but in fact when you turned the pieces over most were covered in intricate engravings. When I turned the piece of coving over I found that as well as texture it still had gilding on it. I also like to wonder about the different rooms the items came from which although some have clues written on the back some have no markings at all.
Overall it has been a busy few weeks with me getting to grips with the housekeeping routines and my project work. Now that I am settled in I am enjoying searching through the basement and learning more about looking after the collections and rooms which make up Polesden Lacey House.