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Behind the Scenes

Re-packing for delivery

Collections team packing Since March this year Harewood has been home to 26 of the most exciting British-based makers and creators, as part of the inaugural Harewood Biennial, Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters.

Our role in the Collections Care team is to safely remove all the installations from across the State Floor and Below Stairs, before packaging each piece for transportation and sending back to the makers who kindly lent them for the exhibition.

Moving the objects around the House is in itself a complex job, as each one must be handled carefully and we must work around the visitor hours to the House, which remains open during this time. You can see in this image of blacksmith Leszek Sikon’s garden tools (cleverly created from old Second World War ammunition) how we have created “nests” from packing blankets and tissue paper, to protect the pieces ready for delivery. When re-packing, the team aims to reuse as much material as possible, in order to reduce waste. However, we have to ensure that there are no rips in any tissue or foam, or any deflated bubble wrap, as these could lead to objects being damaged in transport if they are bumped or knocked. Leszek’s pieces need additional protection on the sharp edges,  to make sure they don’t cause damage to the other items in the package.

Keep up to date with events and activities at Harewood on social media @HarewoodHouse

Behind the Scenes of Harvest Festival

HarvestFestival_HarewoodSenior Engagement and Projects Manager Zoe White is busy laying out the sunflowers.

‘Whilst the sun is shining and casting a golden light across Harewood and its surroundings, it’s more difficult to appreciate that the season is about to be in full change mode, and to mark this moment, we’re celebrating this weekend with Harvest Festival.

Traditionally a time to reap the benefit of the hard-working Walled Garden, the vegetables are in abundance and we’ve never seen such a strong crop of potatoes and beans. The Walled Garden is one of the oldest working gardens on the estate. It dates back to the 1700s and has endured intensive use and continuous change throughout its long history, including feeding the local community soldiers in the converted auxiliary hospital during the First and Second World Wars.

My role at Harewood is to create weekends such as this, which will not only bring visitors to Harewood, but also enhance their visit, encourage them to stay all day and then hopefully they will return time and again. We’ve decorated the Courtyard with flowers and garlands, which look lovely, the space is set and ready for the Makers to arrive on Saturday and Sunday and run their Makers’ Market, and the family activity trails are ready to run. You might be pleased to hear that we never like to waste anything and if we can re-use items from previous exhibitions of collections, then we will. So we’ve dusted off the sunflowers that formed part of the Yellow Drawing Room scene from Christmas last year, created by Artistic Director, Simon Costin. Over 100 sunflowers with their burst of yellow look incredible in the sunshine and have really lifted the space. We’re feeling in the festive mood already.

There is also a special event on each day:

Saturday – Lantern Walk with the Rusticus Theatre Company
Sunday – the fantastic Hope & Social perform live and then deliver a special Singing Workshop. If you haven’t seen them yet, they are well worth the trip.

There are also cookery demonstrations in the Old Kitchen and a Gardens Walk and Talk each day at 2pm.’

Follow @HarewoodHouse on social media to keep up to date with all the details across the weekend.

Pest Busters challenge in an historic house

Pest_Control_FootstoolInsects, of all shapes and sizes, love country houses.

A Grade I listed building offers them their ideal home; lots of undisturbed, small, dark areas with old textiles and surfaces to feed from, and easy entry through old window frames and doorways. Outdoors they are not an issue but when they find their way indoors they use our collections as a source of food which can cause lasting damage. We call them pests.

One of the Collection Care team’s ongoing tasks is implementing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system with our Conservation and Technical Officer, Roger. We have pheromone and sticky traps in all the rooms of the House to help monitor pest activity, these are checked on a regular basis, but we also carry out rolling inspections of items that would appeal to pests. During these inspections you will find us crawling around with our torches checking carpets, curtains, and under chairs and sofas.

Rachel recently attended a course at the British Library with David Pinnegar, the pest management strategy adviser for English Heritage amongst others. Our knowledge on IPM has been updated and one of our latest endeavors is better identification of the pests we find, which we do using a microscope. It is important for us to know exactly what types of pests we are finding, so we can identify if they pose a risk to our collection, monitor vulnerable objects more closely for infestations, and take appropriate steps to eradicate any pests present before irreversible damage is done.

The pests that we come into contact with the most, carpet beetles, are only 2-3mm in length, making it hard to distinguish between the varying types without the aid of a microscope. Carpet beetles themselves won’t damage objects, however, their larvae, known as woolly bears, do. The woolly bears feed off the textiles leaving small holes behind, compromising the structure of the item. Textiles, especially organic ones, are very susceptible to pests, including carpet beetles and clothes moths, which can cause tremendous damage.

We recently found a woolly bear infestation in a calves’ foot stool, part of our natural history collection that is not currently on display. If we attempted to clear the infestation by vacuuming the calves’ feet, we would likely remove the fur and damage the stool. So instead we decided that the best course of treatment would be to freeze it, to kill off any pests living on or in it. We firstly removed any visible frass, the waste matter produced by the woolly bears, from the hooves of the stool, which are robust enough to sustain being handled unlike the rest of the calves’ foot. We then wrapped the stool in polythene and removed the air from the package using a vacuum. The stool was then placed in our conservation freezer at -180c for two weeks to eradicate the pests. It’s an ongoing task of monitoring for pests in an historic environment such as Harewood House!

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Behind the Scenes with the Collections Care Team – Big Jobs

Scaffolding_cleaning_HarewoodHouseThe 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.

If you would like to keep up to date with stories and news from Harewood House, please follow us on social media @HarewoodHouse

Behind the Scenes with the Collections Care team – props and more

ChippendaleChairs_harewoodHouseThe 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 props and more.

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 equipment would people be most surprised to find in your workshop?

Perhaps our new microscope, which we plan to use to help us better identify any pests we find in our insect traps and when carrying out our pest checks. Or perhaps the women’s opaque denier tights that we use for straining lumps out of our rabbit skin glue?

What task would people be most surprised to find you carrying out?

People usually get the biggest shock when they enter a room and we’re all on our hands and knees with torches pest checking a carpet or under the Chippendale chairs! Every inch of all the carpets has to be examined for pests including carpet beetles, which love to live in dark undisturbed places and generally are only around 2-3mm in length. However, people would probably be shocked to hear how much involvement our team has in any filming that takes place within the House. As well as clearing any rooms being used of furniture that isn’t required during the filming, or isn’t accurate to the time period that the show or film is set in, we have to pest check every prop before it is brought into the House. Our role doesn’t end once the props are in and filming has begun. From there we have to oversee the filming and equipment that has been installed in the House, to make sure none of our collection is damaged by accident, because sometimes it’s hard to spot a prop from an authentic Chippendale, especially after a long day of filming.

You can keep up to date on the latest news and stories from Harewood on our social media channels @HarewoodHouse