Monthly Archives: October 2011

Depending on the décor as well as the collection within a room, a good way to work is to start at the windows/sills, and to work round the edges, towards the middle of the room. This isn’t the only way but it’s how we roll…The most obvious areas that dust will collect will be angled and flat sections. The more problematic areas dust gets to are corners and in carved bits of furniture. That’s when the soft brush comes out to play. You can use the flexibility of the brush to follow the contours of the object to flick off the dust on to a duster or into a vacuum cleaner. A good tip is to have plenty of light and look at your object from slightly different angles so you can see the dust in the right light. Another tip if you don’t have good light in a room, or can’t have because of the sensitivity of the objects in the room, is to use what is called in the trade, ‘raking light’. This is basically a source of light hitting the surface at an angle, so you can then change the angle you view it until you see the dust layer. Sounds way more complicated than it actually is…


With the change in season, comes a change in open days for the house. (We are now closed Wednesdays/ Thursdays) This has given the house posse the chance to do some more in-depth cleaning… This involves taking each room and/or corridor, and cleaning top to bottom as usual, with the added bonus of not needing to be so aware of the time. On a day the house is open to the public, we only have from 8.30 to 10-ish to get the whole visitor route cleaned through the house. So this is when cleaning gets serious. The main addition to the conservation arsenal is a very long pole with a pink fluffy feather duster at the end – very macho… This bad boy is used to catch cobwebs and to start cleaning at the higher areas and then work down.

After many days cleaning in the house, a recent highlight and temporary reprieve from the schedule came thanks to our very own ceramic specialist Margaret Jones. Her idea was for a little pottery workshop/team building exercise/bit of fun, so we had all took a seat in the staff kitchen, and awaited instructions. Once the clay had been handed out we all set about moulding our creations, that will be glazed and finished when we can get round to it… The designs ranged from plaques to plates to candle stick holders. (Katy’s monkey head design had absolutely nothing to do with the picture of a monkey on the old newspaper she was using, it was a carefully thought out concept too complex to explain…..) My creation was a moon gazing hare and I unfortunately forgot to engage my obsession pacifying filter and was so intent on getting his little legs, tail and ears all the right proportion I sat back realising every one else had pretty much finished and I had yet to add any detail…. This culminated in a design in the style of Henry Moore, (one of my favourite sculptors) so the hare is now called ‘Henry’. Once completed, the next stage is drying. This is to let the clay dry out at a steady rate so that when it’s fired in the kiln, it doesn’t crack. More on Henry, (sorry…) in the coming weeks….

One of the benefits of an un-seasonably warm October has been some lush cold mornings, beautiful sunrises and the emergence of mother natures more ‘rusty’ palate of Autumnal colour. On the downside is the almost Biblical infestation of ‘Cluster flies’… These pesky little pests are most unwelcome. They don’t pose too much of a threat in that they aren’t trying to eat the collection, but they have a very short life span in the adult fly form, so there are lot’s of little bodies to vacuum up. And when I say lots, I mean loads. ( as you can imagine that clashes somewhat with the overall theme of a room…) They are mostly in our Balcony and Tapestry rooms and our mysterious ‘8a’ store room… (It’s only mysterious because it was a room I had not been into, and my overactive imagination had decided it was a little on the sinister side, expecting on my first visit to see mist and a green light coming from underneath the door…) turns out, not so sinister… just a store room. With windows inundated with flies. Some dead, some dozy and some very fit and healthy and very good at totally avoiding the nozzle of the vacuum cleaner I was using…. I’m pretty sure I heard one of them giggle as I failed to get the last of them….

Month Four:
Dyrham’s on site church pre-dates the house and is not only still used but the perfect venue for a thanksgiving/harvest festival service. Our usual team of ninja flower ladies were contracted to dress up the inside of the church, prior to the event… It was my job to set up a 1961 display of memorabilia as that was the year Dyrham was first owned by the National Trust. As we already have a ’61 display in our Tenant’s hall, ( Servant’s area to you & me and nothing to do with David Tennant whatsoever..) After making numerous trips from the church to the office for exactly the right sort of pins for the display board, I got the display finished just in time to tidy up before the church needed to be locked up. Garden queen Sarah had even managed to expertly reverse the Kubota (big orange 4×4 golf cart thingy) up to the door of the church to help take away the unwanted greenery… Job done!

All Hail King of Stone! Trevor Proudfoot took the showstopping ‘Stone and Marble’ session which I was looking forward to the most as I had no knowledge of the subject what-so-ever! So the different types of stone are: ‘Metamorphic’ – Very heavy, marble appears cold but conducts heat so is actually room temperature! It can have a polished surface, and can be re-inforced as it’s brittle. ‘Sedimentary’ – Compressed layers of limestone/sandstone that sometimes have shells imbedded and faultline cracks. ‘Igneous’ – Smooth porus polishable limestone very dense. Although Alabaster has the appearance of marble it has a translucent element and can be burnt. As a rule all Roman sculpture was made of marble so if in doubt, if it’s not marble it’s not Roman!

All good things come to an end, so the last thing on the training schedule was the wash-up session. (thankfully, that didn’t mean do all the dishes from the last two days, it’s a conference term to have a summing up at the end.) This was a good opportunity to fire a few questions about the topics of the course, thank the staff, and course tutors, ( special thanks also to Graham for the quick tours and behind the scenes peeks family history lesson.) and bid a fond farewell to my fellow trainee’s until the next training course in the new year.

Now for a bit of metal!
One way to work out what type of metal an object is made out of, is to work out what it’s use was. e.g. copper is a good metal for things like pots, pans and kettle’s but iron is a better metal for fences, gate’s, and shovels, Where as brass is a good metal for locks, hinges and door knobs. You can also identify a metal by any changes on the surface. This is basically because metals are mixed and fired at high temperatures to mould them. Over time, given the right conditions, the metal will react with oxygen and chemicals in the environment and contribute to an attempt to revert back to their metal ore form. Hence corrosion forms. Metal objects in a collection are not always as robust as they may seem, and may have fragile parts such as a handle or catch or functional fitting That if used too often will eventually deteriorate.

Gloves are always a must when dealing with metals as the oils from your skin can have an accumulative affect On the surface. When cleaning, it is best to avoid all but dusting on Bronzes as they have what is termed a ‘patener’. This is an effect on the surface of the metal that is produced by years of cleaning and wear and tear so if it was cleaned off a part of the objects history would be lost. Also to take into consideration is the presentation level of the object. Is it on show, and if so, is it in historical context for it to look ‘used’ or ‘as new’. As most metal work outside is made of sterner stuff such as iron, damage from the elements is inevitable and substantial. This can be removed to a degree with a few specialised products. ‘Peek’, ‘Autosol’, ‘Steel Wool – 000′, 3M- Bright pads’ and ‘Renaisance Wax’ all combined with a little elbow grease work wonders.