Welcome back to our A to Z of discovery! This week it is D is for… D.U.C.T! It stands for Durham University Conservation Team.
Here at Kiplin at Kiplin, like in many museums, we work with partners to care for our collections and offer great experiences for visitors. Many people might not realise the hours of work that go on behind the scenes getting museum objects ready for display, keeping them safe, preserved, and in good condition for generations to come. Occasionally repairs to objects also need to take place. This is always carried out by specialists.
Working with the Conservation Team at Durham University some of the objects from Kiplin are taken to their labs for staff and students to work on. Becoming a Museum Conservator requires years of study, often to and beyond a Masters Level qualification, as well as experience of working on actual objects.
Vicky Garlick from Durham University describes the work that will be untaken this year.
“Students from Durham University will have the opportunity to work on objects such as this interesting helmet from the Prince of Wales Dragoon Guard. This helmet, although in very stable condition could have some aspects of the aesthetics improved. For example, the metal components of the helmet look to have been treated using a commercial metal cleaner, such as brasso, while this does remove tarnish from the metal, it also tends to leave a residue which can look unsightly. So one of our students will have the task of carefully removing all of residue from the object before treating the metal in a more conservation friendly manner to ensure a uniform appearance. For metals such as this, it’s also common practice to apply a protective coating to the metal as this can help to reduce future tarnish, ensuring the object requires treatment less often.”
“Another fascinating object the conservation students at Durham University will be working on is this beautiful ceramic jug, which has clearly been treated in the past. The handle on the jug is certainly not part of the original object, and residue from the handle’s material can also be found on the surface of the ceramic. For this object, one of the most interesting things we can do is x-ray the ceramic to determine just how much of the handle is a repair, as sometimes repairs such as this were built up around parts of the original material. It’s not uncommon for additional material to be added over the top of the original surface so it blends with the new material. Additionally, the surface of the object will need to be cleaned in order to remove the reside from the surface and there could be a very interesting discussion as to whether this handle repair should be removed or not. Although not original to the object, it could now be considered part of its history and therefore something to preserve.”
Keeping the collections safe at Kiplin Hall falls to our Warden, Cathrien. Her role is very varied, and part of it includes caring for the collection. Constantly monitoring the environment in the house to ensure the objects are not going to be damaged. The humidity (amount of water in the air) is carefully controlled with heating as changes to the humidity can damage objects. Pests are monitored to make sure nothing is eating the collection. Objects made of natural materials like wood, paper or textiles can be a great place for insects to live!
It’s not just the objects you see on display but also those kept in storage behind the scenes. Everything is carefully monitored, documented and cared for. During our closed season in the winter months Cathrien co-ordinates a huge cleaning project to dust the whole house from top to bottom with her team of volunteers. This requires scaffolding to reach the ceilings and chandeliers, and a back pack hoover to suck away the dust! If you would like to get involved in helping to care for collections at Kiplin Hall please register your interest in volunteering here.
You can find out more about Durham University Conservation Team over on their blog D.U.C.T Tape
Elements of museum conservation are also explored in a new exhibition at Kiplin opening this spring. Introducing the Annie Marchant Kitchen and Dairy Collection. Visitors to the museum can enjoy this exhibition once the museum is able to open again following the easing of lockdown.
We look forward to welcoming visitors back to the gardens at the end of the month, we reopen on Monday 29th March, with the hall to follow once restrictions allow.