The Collections Care Team at Harewood House Trust is truly a behind the scenes team, ensuring that the museum-accredited collection is maintained to the highest quality of standards, with conservation and preservation at the top of the list.
In a series of blogs, we go behind the scenes with the Collections Care Team, this time looking at big and unusual jobs.
The team of three includes Jayne, Collections Care Officer, who has worked with the historic collection for 30 years, Rachel and Amy, Collections Care Assistants, who have worked at Harewood for four and two years respectively, to understand more about this vital part of the charity’s work.
What’s the biggest job you carry out?
Carrying out the winter clean in the Gallery stands out as one of the biggest jobs on the care calendar. Scaffolding must be put up in order to check and clean the wooden Chippendale pelmets, and also to reach the tops of the mirrors, which is quite a big job. No pressure or weight can be put on these items whilst they are being cleaned. Checking and cleaning the Chippendale lantern in the Red Staircase also take significant work, as it has to be carefully wound down from the roof, which is over three floors above. It is very fragile, so requires a full team effort to get it down and back up again. This year Lord Harewood’s two dogs were very interested in what our team was up to as we tried to complete this task.
What’s the most unusual job you’ve carried out?
As a team we often look at each other and remark “Our job is so strange”, but to recall specifics is quite hard. However, having to construct our own extra-long Henry hoover pole to clean flies off a decorative glass skylight springs to mind. As does dismantling the theatrical snow drift set from Christmas 2018, from which we all still have glitter in the pockets of our uniform. Or maybe it’s cooking the batches of rabbit skin glue that we use when cleaning and consolidating the giltwood – we now know a good batch when we see one.
What products do you work with?
As you can imagine, with such a large and varied collection we require a number of products. Our cleaning equipment ranges from products that most people will be familiar with, a Henry hoover, Brasso, furniture polish, and microfibre cloths, to more specific tools such as pony and hog hair brushes, Vulpex, and rabbit and fish skin glue. We have also had training to be able to work safely with chemical cleaning products, and often make our own products by combining items (safely), such as PV (parfait and vinegar) cloths, which are great for removing sticky fingerprints from wooden surfaces.
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