My month at Knole

Hi, I’m Sam Bailey, I have just completed my first year of a 3 year Conservation Studies degree. I previously worked in the leisure industry and administration but decided to re-train after having my son.

Throughout the month of July I was lucky enough to work alongside the Conservation Team at Knole. As a first year Conservation Studies student gaining experience in the field is invaluable.

As soon as I started I realised that Knole would be no ordinary placement and that the collection faces more then its share of conservation challenges; from the lack of environmental control to the upheaval the collection will see as a result of Phase I of the Inspired by Project, to the planned increase in footfall. This was undeniably going to be beneficial experience!

In my first week I got hands on with the collection very quickly, starting with a deep clean of the Billiard Room. I was shown how to gently remove dust from a gilded surface using a pony hair brush, directing it into the vacuum; using a hogs hair brush on wooden furniture and a soft cloth on flat surfaces. A dry mop tilted on its side was used to drag the dust on the floor away from the furniture as a vacuum would pose to many risks like knocking or damaging the textiles and wood. At this point I was made well aware to avoid physical contact with the textiles – they are far too fragile.

Removing dust from the wooden frame of a campaign chair in the Billiard Room

In the same week I also got to check pest traps with Sarah – looking for the usual suspects of moths, moth larvae, woolly bears (which I kept calling fuzzy bears), and my least favourite, silverfish. On one occasion we found around 20 silverfish in one trap- a particularly tummy turning moment for me. However pest trap checking had the advantage of enabling me to see many areas of the house that are not open to the public. I was able to explore what appeared to be forgotten rooms – it was as if I had stepped back in time!

Examining my first pest insect trap!

I also had a brief introduction to object condition checking, and had my first taste of waxing the floors, which by the end of my time at Knole had become one of my favourite tasks. The wonderful, herbal smell of the liquid wax and the glossy appearance of the wood made for a very satisfying job.

The remainder of my placement had me assisting in such a wide variety of tasks. I helped clean and organise the paintings store room and the property emergency salvage store, enabling me to understand best practise for these types of areas. I was also able to join and participate in two ethical discussions with National Trust and external conservators and curators on the future of conservation of textiles and picture frames, giving me an insight into the decision making process of conservation.

During my last week I had the opportunity to do some textile cleaning using a museum vacuum. This was another extremely satisfying job. As the dust lifted, the colour sang through. I also got to treat a piece of furniture for woodworm. This involved injecting all the woodworm holes with a pesticide, which is quite a time consuming job!

I could not have asked for a more diverse placement, and I feel privileged to have been taken in by the Conservation Team, who have happily shared their knowledge with me. I have taken away with me more then I could possibly write here. Thank you Knole!

Sam

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