On Wednesday our new toy, sorry very useful and exciting piece of technology, was installed in the Brown Gallery, a dust monitoring device named the Dust Bug!
Dust is an inevitable by-product of visitor access to collections in historic houses and accumulates on artefacts on open display, as the majority of the collection at Knole is.
Why should we be so concerned with the levels of dust?
How dust is controlled and removed is fundamental to the prevention of cumulative damage to artefacts. On a microscopic scale, dust includes tiny, possibly acidic or sharp mineral particles which can be damaging to materials. Consequent cleaning erodes fragile surfaces, such as textiles and gilding. Two things we have a lot of at Knole.
When dust is left on a surface for too long, it attracts moisture during periods of high humidity, contributing to staining, corrosion and biological growth. Accumulating dust provides food for insect pests and bacteria, and high humidity can encourage the growth of moulds. Eventually the dust will become stuck on the surface it has fallen on to. Trying to Remove cemented on dust can cause damage to the surface of the object below, as well as being very expensive.
The Dust Bug will allow us to monitor the rate of dust coverage and determine when cleaning will be necessary. Therefore reducing the risk of causing damage by over cleaning. It is designed to lie face up on a flat surface. Like other objects in its location, the glass surface on top of the box will naturally gather dust. The integrated camera measures the percentage area of glass covered by dust and presents the data on the display screen. Measurements are normally updated every 24 hours while ambient light is close to zero. The display shows the percentage of dust coverage, but it also sends the data back to our computer where we can look at the readings in a graph format.
Not all of Knole’s collection is open display. The Kings Bed, housed in the Kings Room at Knole has been protected by glass since a 17 year long conservation project was completed. Visitors view the room from within a glass box. This acts as a barrier to dust, but also allows the room to be environmentally controlled.
To find out more about dust research carried out by the National Trust click on the link below:
Article on dust at Knole: