One of the most important things we do here at Osterley is regular checking of our historic collections. This is a daily routine for the house team here at Osterley; this allows us to keep an eye on any developing changes that may happen to an object over time.
Recently the House team at Osterley started doing regular checks of spaces that they knew had high humidity. Because of the change in weather, the house team noticed that it was having an huge effect on the temperature and RH inside the house. Particularly on our top floor.
On one of these routine checks, they unfortunately discovered that some of our prints and etchings have been going through a few ‘organic changes’ to say the least. To clarify, the prints and etchings had started to grow mold.
image of mould formed on historic print. (Photo: Lisa Oxborough)
Mold is highly damaging for materials such as paper, this is because it is also made from a natural/organic material. Mold can root itself within the material, and will slowly grow across it breaking it down. This will eventually lead to the paper decaying and breaking apart. Other materials such as Woodwork, Textiles Taxidermy are also highly sensitive to mold growth.
It was quickly established by the House team and specialist conservators that with the weather being as warm as it has been, and with a long standing issue of the prints being fixed tight against an outside wall, resulting in restricted air flow around them. Subsequently leading to the back of the frames becoming damp and trapping moisture, creating the perfect environment known as a ‘ micro- climate’ to develop.
In total seven prints had to have conservation work performed on them.
The House team then organized for a specialist paper conservator to come and work on the prints and their frames. She was able to explain her methodology…
image of paper conservation in action. (Photo: Lisa Oxborough)
- Carefully opening of the print frames, this is to assess the damage done. it is also important to point out that some of the prints had never been out of their original frames.
- She physically removed mold debris from paper surface, by gently submerging the prints in water, and removing smaller bits with a sponge or acid free wool blotted with water.
- She then checks conservation materials and frame assembly of the frames. She did this by adjusting some of the frames, check frame fittings, and methods that the prints were hanging on the wall. This was for ventilation and to prevent the mold from returning.
Finally, the House team were able to put the prints back on the wall, where they are now back on display in pride of place.
Osterley House team putting the prints back on the wall. (Photo: Lisa Oxborough)
During the winter clean, work in the Yellow Taffeta bedroom uncovered a number of woolly intruders. Within the fabric of the bed hangings, curtains and dressing table, a worrying amount of woolly bears, the larvae stage of the varied carpet beetle were found. Woolly bears are particularly unwelcome in a mixed collection as organic materials like furniture and textiles are their favourite food.
The area bellow the bed needs to be frequently vacuumed as the adult beetle will lay its eggs under furniture. The larvae thrive in undisturbed areas, so frequent checking, dusting and vacuuming can help to prevent their continued activity. The regular checks for pests involve inspecting all the textiles with a torch and gently disturbing the tassels on the bed hangings and curtains with a soft brush to see if anything is hiding within them. All pest findings are recorded and reported so that levels can be continuously monitored in case of increasing numbers.
The most recent inspection of the textiles in the Yellow Taffeta bedroom fortunately yielded no new woolly bear discoveries. This may be a result of the regular cleaning and checking of the area and we are hoping for a continued absence of larvae throughout spring, the prime egg hatching period for this damaging pest.
Want some handy hints on how to clean your home, using methods tried and tested at National Trust properties? National Trust East have published a post offering just this. Take a look. We also use some of these at Osterley.
Recently we discovered some erosion in the form of rust on a steel fireplace fender in the library at Osterley Park & House. Please view our short video demonstrating how metal is cleaned according to National Trust conservation standards. More information can be found in the Manual of Housekeeping. Enjoy. Hajira & Kate( Conservation Assistants)
Conservation in Action: Metal Cleaning
Thanks to support from the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, over the past three weeks, three important pieces of lacquer furniture from Osterley’s colleciton have been painstakingly conserved by a team of specialists. The items of furniture include an amorial folding screen and two chests.
This has been not only a fantastic and rare opportunity to undertake in-situ conservation work in front of the public, but also a fascinating insight into the unique properties of lacquer and a chance to learn about the main causes of damage and the detailed processes involved in conserving it.
Do come and see the finished results now that the work is complete. The lacquer screen will return to its temporary home in the North Corridor. One of the chests will also return to it’s home in Mrs Child’s Dressing Room. The final chest, normally stored in our Upper Store will be moved to the Jersey Galleries, as part of our ‘Highlights of the Store’ display so that the conservation work can be seen seven days a week!
To find about a bit more about lacquer conservaiton, click on the links below:
1.) Introduction to Lacquer PDF
2.) Deterioration and Damage PDF
3.) Conservation and Restoration PDF