Standen reopened last month, and as you may have read in previous blog posts, the House Team spent the weeks before opening performing a deep clean of the house. This gave us all a chance to get up close and personal with the many and varied objects in our collection, and I couldn’t resist snapping a photograph here and there when something caught my eye – here are just a few…
Yesterday I wrote about how we’ve been spending the last few days getting the Drawing Room ready for the decorators. The final stage was to roll the huge William Morris carpet, which we did this morning. It can be a little tricky to roll carpets (especially a carpet of this size), and it often takes several tries before the carpet is successfully rolled. I thought I’d share a few photos of the process, and a shot of the Drawing Room now that its (finally!) ready for the decorators.
Standen was closed during weekdays in November, but far from being idle, it was an incredibly busy month for the House Team – in fact, it was possibly the busiest 4 weeks I’ve experienced since starting here!
The first part of the month was spent on our annual deep clean, where we inspect and clean the house and its contents from top to bottom. The last week of the month was spent decorating the house for Christmas (you might have seen a preview of this in my post last week). The three days spent decorating were fun, but rather tiring – but it was all worth it in the end, as the house looks fantastic!
The House Team also spent time in November taking part in regional training days. Standen was hosting three of these training sessions (so we didn’t have far to travel!), and staff from other properties in the London and South East region would also be attending. For some of us, it was a chance to refresh previous training, but for others (like me!) it was a new experience all together. I was excited about taking part in my first training sessions, and was also looking forward to meeting people from other properties.
Here’s a little more about the first of the training days…
Caring for photographic materials
The first training day hosted at Standen was with the National Trust’s Adviser on Photographic Materials, Sarah Allen. We have a small collection of photographs at Standen, but didn’t know much about how we should be caring for them, so we were looking forward to the training.
Sarah told us that the conservation definition of a photograph is ‘an image produced by light reacting with a chemically sensitive surface’. The very nature of a photograph means that they are amongst some of the most sensitive objects in National Trust collections: they are complex, multi-layered and are affected by almost everything, including light, temperature, humidity, biological factors (such as mould or insects), pollutants and…us!
The National Trust preserves the objects in its collections through preventive conservation – carefully managing change in order to delay further deterioration. In the case of photographs, this means controlling the temperature and relative humidity levels, using high quality storage materials, and – if possible – limiting access to photographic collections by allowing access in other ways, such as digitising collections.
But before we can plan how to care for a photograph, we need to know what it is, and how it was produced. This sounds fairly simple, but as Sarah told us, there are over 1500 photographic processes (!), and establishing what type of photograph you have in front of you is often a matter of elimination. A magnifier can help us see what the image is made up of (such as dots, lines and squiggles), which can be a good indicator of the processes used to produce the photo.
We did a practical exercise to match up photos with a label stating the type of photo or process used to produce it – this proved rather tricky! Sarah pointed out that we should be considering the photo as an object, and not get distracted by the image itself, as this can often be misleading. It took a while, but as a team, we got most of the photos matched correctly, though we did need to refer back to our notes rather a lot!
It was a very interesting day – Sarah was a really engaging speaker, and we all learned a tremendous amount. Although Standen’s photographs are in relatively good condition, individuals from properties with larger collections commented that they were going away with lots to think about and put into action.