Hello, my name is Terri Dewhurst and I am the new Levy Intern at the Textile Conservation Studio. I feel very lucky and extremely excited to take on this new role working for the National Trust. Prior to joining the team at the studio I studied conservation at The University of Lincoln; I also worked for Leicestershire County Council’s Museum Service and on freelance conservation projects with my business partner in Lincoln and across the East Midlands. Over the next two years I hope to gain experience in many different areas of textile conservation not previously explored, tapestry conservation and conservation science are my main internship missions to crack! So in the next coming months or two years you may read posts from me again writing about these subjects.
But back to the main topic of the day…The beginning of my second week as textile intern for the National Trust involved working on-site at my favourite NT property (sorry all other properties), Hardwick Hall. This property is very dear to me; it’s the first one I ever visited as a youngster, being just down the road from where I grew up and because it’s quite literally full to the brim with important historic textiles (yes, lucky me!).
So there I was, driving up towards that magical glistening house, pinching myself, partly because this was a dream come true, to be working at Hardwick Hall and partly because there was an important job to be done! Myself, two other colleagues from the studio, two men from Hangman Ltd, the Hardwick Hall house team and curatorial staff came together to rehang Lucretia. This is the second ‘Great Hanging’ from a set of four to have been conserved by a team at the studio. The first one, Penelope was rehung in June 2014, around this time Lucretia was taken down ready to be worked on, to see the conservation process (which was followed for Lucretia) see blog posts relating to Penelope
Lucretia had been carefully packed by staff at the studio the week prior to rehanging, then transported back to Hardwick in readiness for our arrival on Monday. Our first job was to unscrew the custom made Corex box so that the top and the leading side were removed.
The above photograph shows the hanging being slid from its box onto the ready prepared and constructed case back board. The securing Velcro® tapes were removed and the hanging carefully unfolded and turned so that it was face up, this required the use of padded rollers as can be seen in the photograph below.
The top layer of Melinex® (an archival quality sheet of polyester film) was then removed. Next a narrow strip of the same Melinex® was cut and placed under the top edge of the hanging to prevent the two strips of Velcro® (attached to the reverse of the hanging and the top of the back board) from sticking together before we had it perfectly in place! The hanging was correctly aligned on the board, the Melinex® strip cut in the centre then slowly removed from either end and pressure applied to the Velcro® to secure the hanging in place.
The bottom layer of Melinex could then be carefully removed by slowly rolling it up, many hands were utilised for this job as can be seen in the photograph above! The sides and bottom edge of the hanging were secured by Velcro® in the same way as for the top edge, again using the Melinex® strip one edge at a time. The hanging was now safely and securely in place on the board. Next the Bondina® (a non-woven conservation grade fabric with a smooth surface) that had been used to protect the surface of the hanging could now be removed. This was a very exciting moment for the Hardwick Hall team, as it was the first time they’d seen the hanging since it went away to be conserved.
Sam and Roo from Hangman Ltd attached the outer frame to the back board before the nerve wracking job of lifting the whole thing onto the wall, which again, involved many hands. The frame was then secured to the wall. Back over to us, next we vacuumed the surface of the hanging to ensure Lucretia looked her very best before being sealed in the frame.
Perhaps the most amusing moment of the second day on-site, well, amusing for everyone else was the moment when we got to test out our new gadget! The first task of the day was to remove the film from each sheet of Optimum Museum Acrylic® by Tru Vue which was to be the ‘glazing’ for the display case. In order to overcome issues with static experienced when rehanging Penelope we discovered a handy piece of equipment, an anti-static gun. The photo below shows me carefully squeezing and releasing the trigger of the gun, said to neutralise static charges as each section of film was removed. Sam from Hangman Ltd, also seen in the photo, was very patient with us during this process, if not a little perplexed!
There were three sheets of Optimum Museum Acrylic® to be slid, one at a time, into the frame of the case with glazing bars to secure the sheets together. Once in place the outer protective film could be carefully removed as can be seen below.
And here we are (pictured below), the very happy team at the end of two days on-site! Lucretia is now displayed at Hardwick Hall facing Penelope; we hope that they will get along. If you’re in Derbyshire do pay them a visit. It is hoped that the two remaining Noble Women hangings Zenobia and Artemesia (also on display at Hardwick), will be conserved after a period of fundraising in order to complete the work.