Monthly Archives: July 2012

‘Is this a Dagger I see before me…’

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‘Fortune favoured the bald…’

Just as I thought my time at Dyrham towers was at an end, a temporary job opportunity arose. Naturally I applied, and was delighted to be short listed, interviewed and successful! (Still a bit of a surprise…) As soon as I had made a triumphant return, I was put to work. One of the many enjoyable elements of being a conservation assistant (I have a new name badge that proves it!) is the myriad of different tasks to be done during a working day. As well as the usual daily clean, volunteer and visitor engagement, came the chance to do some cheeky ‘conservation in action’. A devilishly clever plan had been devised by House Manager Eilidh and House Steward Lin. The plan is to systematically inventory and condition check the collection, room by room, starting in the West Hall. That meant I was going to be helping to check the spears and swords! (The phrase ‘Perks of the job’ springs to mind!) Just about containing my excitement we set to work. The spears were a little dusty and the blades a smidge rusty in places, but the most time on each one was spent de-tangling the tassels. A little bit like undoing dreadlocks… (before any ‘how would you know’ comments, I did have dreads in my ‘full head of hair’ days but got fed up trying to undo them and shaved them off…)

Next came the swords and as with the winter clean in the West Hall, the temptation to bust out a few ‘On Guard’ movements was overwhelming… These fellows were an absolute delight to work on. The sword collection at Dyrham is quite a varied one ranging from a Japanese Katana to 1820’s Bayonets. We have four of these fellows and they all needed a little TLC. This was a rare opportunity for a humble conservation assistant to dip one’s toes into the realm of restoration. Our aim is the ‘careful management of change’, so the ideal is to preserve objects in their current state. With the brass handles and knuckle guards, a little more was needed to stop any further deterioration of the surface, and to give more of a ‘loved look’. For this we set up shop in the Dining Room so we could talk to intrigued visitors as we worked. After dusting we brought out the ‘Auto-sol’. This as many of you may know is a metal cleaner, and it’s used with the finest wire-wool money can buy. After the residue is cleaned off it’s time for a little ‘Renaissance Wax’. This is a micro-crystalline preservative and is worked onto the surface and then buffed, leaving a subtle shine… (What’s good enough for the British Museum is good enough for us!) Job done…