Learning from Wimpole

The Hall at the Wimpole Estate, in Cambridgeshire, has been undergoing a book conservation project this year.  Sadly in 2010, 400 of Wimpole’s books were water damaged by snow melt.  They believe the leak was caused by a build up of snow and ice in the gutter above the Book Room. When the snow thawed, the meltwater seeped under the eaves and dripped slowly through the building into the book shelves below, only to be discovered during routine cleaning by one of their Conservation Assistants.

The Book Room, view from the Gallery door looking through the three arches towards the window at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire

The Book Room at Wimpole

The book conservation work is focussed on 259 books which need intensive treatment to remove water staining. Each stained page has to be treated separately, by adding more water to the page and then blotted dry. The process is slow and methodical. It will take the team of paper conservators up to two years to finish the project.

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The conservation studio set up in the Red Room at Wimpole.

The work is taking place in full view of all of Wimpole’s visitors in one of the ground floor show rooms. Siobhan and I went for a visit in October to meet with the lead project conservator, Graeme Gardiner, to discuss how they set the project up and how it was going.  It was great to hear how Graeme has found the experience of working in front of the public and engaging with them about the work has been really positive.

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Work desks set up for the conservators to work at.

It was very useful for us to see the types of equipment they had got in to set up the studio to help give us some ideas for how to fit out the Knole conservation studio when it is built.  It also helped us to decide on adding in a visitor engagement opportunity to next year’s Knole Unwrapped Experience.  Knole Unwrapped 2014 will involve volunteers cleaning, carrying out basic conservation repairs and re-housing the books, loose prints and paper in the Outer Wicket Tower rooms.  One of the volunteer roles will include being a visitor guide and taking visitors up the tower to see the volunteers at work and learn about the conservation work taking place.

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The Print Room at Knole, on the second floor of the Outer Wicket Tower.

Watch this space for more information on the project and volunteer opportunities available.

For more information on Wimpole’s book conservation they have made a brilliant short film about it:

Emily and Siobhan


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