For this post I am briefly going to recap four projects from the past month.
1. Whilst reintroducing the pieces of the Vernon Park collection to the stores I came across a box of exotic birds that were merely identified as ‘birds’ on their corresponding records and in the accessions register. These birds were dated at mid to late 1800’s and it seemed sad to me that they were not appreciated and understood to their full potential and so I set out to improve their records.
I am no ornithologist, and unfortunately we don’t have one on site so there was no one really qualified to identified these birds. And so it was a hard task that involved a lot of research to eventually determine the species of the birds. A key tool in doing this was Twitter. As mentioned in a pervious #MOU blog, I believe Twitter to be essential use for museums and in particular for curatorial teams and this was one case that exceeded my expectations.
I began by posting a few images of the birds, with included a vast collection of hummingbirds, and expressed my intentions to explore them further and within moments, after the use of the simple #ornithology hashtag, ornithologists and bird lovers were offering their skills and ideas as too what my mystery birds were. In no time at all the birds were identified and the information available in reference to them for the future was enhanced. This improves the overall collection and enables their use to become much more varied, from exhibitions to research tools.
2. Staircase House is a Grade II* listed medieval building dating from around 1460. It is one of our sites and is beautifully dressed with objects, some collection items, to set the scene. A cruck timber building constructed with wattle and daub Staircase House is a lovely building with exposed timbers and viewing galleries to see the material used to construct the walls, as you can imagine the building is a lovely location and one that has been in the past requested to be used as a filming location. Which is what happened last week; the filming of the second series of the channel 4 period drama, The Mill.
Despite only filming for one day the curatorial team were on site for three days at Staircase House as work in the rooms being used had to take place. That work being that the collection items had to be removed. In respect to the period of the show and continuity, the filming crew brought a lot of their own props. Our items therefore had to be accounted for, tracked, wrapped in acid free tissue paper and/or bubble wrap, boxed and removed to insure no objects were damaged or lost.
This happened in three rooms of the house and was done the day before. The day following the filming all the objects were returned. This provided the opportunity to review the objects, as they are able to be reached and touched by the visiting public any issues with the objects might have gone unknown until now. As well as this, the basic opportunity to clean the areas was now open to us. With a lot of big pieces of furniture being moved, under them was now able to be reached as well as the surrounding areas while the spaces were relatively clear, as well as the objects themselves, they were given a good dust before returning to their places in the kitchen, the linen room and the tallow room.
3. The review of the objects following the filming at Staircase House flagged one object as decreasing in quality and that could use some conservation work; a 17th century globe.
The globe sits in the linen room at Staircase House on a wooden stand. It is covered in small illustrations and beautiful geographical drawings and information, however, the globe is unfortunately starting to peel away from itself. Fortunately, this particular 17th century globe is a replica which means, ethically, I can engage in some work upon it.
I have been using Paraloid B-72 (a non-yellowing, durable adhesive) and the solvent Acetone to painstakingly stick the peeling and upturned areas back in place. With a small paintbrush I have mixed the two and have been, one piece at a time, gluing the underside and then holding the piece in place to allow it time to stick. Its become quite a job as the more I look and the closer I get, the more areas I find that could use some work.
I will remove excess glue and clean the globe when I am happy with the images positions and hopefully the globe can return to the house and be enjoyed again for a long time to come.
4. Finally, almost a month ago now the rest of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) trainees and I visited Gaskell House in Manchester. Frank Galvin was once part of the collections team here at Stockport and is now a trustee of the grand early 1800’s suburban villa. The house is listed Grade II* yet a large project is very nearly in its final stages to turn the former home of Elizabeth Gaskell, one of the 19th century’s most important women writers, into a visitor attraction.