The House may be closed, but there’s still plenty going on behind closed doors as our Collections Care team undertake their Winter Clean, ensuring all the items in the collection are properly cared for.
Because Covid has meant that the East side of the House has been closed for much of this year, the team have been able to spend some time on tasks that need undertaking less frequently, such as wet cleaning some of the sets of Chippendale chairs. Normally the loose dirt on the chairs would be gently swept into one of the vacuums or wiped over with a cloth, however, dirt will still build up on the surface over many years. So this year with a team of helpers they’ve undertaken the wet cleaning. Cotton wool swabs were gently rolled over the surfaces, dampened in either a solution of vulpex (a soap spirit used in conservation cleaning) and water for the painted surfaces, or rabbit skin glue and water for the gilded surfaces.
Before and After the Chippendale Chairs have been painted
Rabbit skin glue is used by the Collections Care team to clean and consolidate any gilded surfaces on objects, because this is the glue that would have originally been used in the gilding process. Water is heated, but not to boiling point, and then shards of dried rabbit skin are dissolved in the water, this mix is then strained and allowed to cool to a jelly consistency. The ‘jelly’ is then mixed with water in different ratios for the different tasks the team want to undertake. For example the stronger solution would be used to secure any loose areas of gilding, and a weak solution to lift any dirt from the surface.