Conservation in Miniature – Part Two

And now for Part Two of our Conservation In Miniature blog post, showing how we put together a replica dolls’ house room filled with conservation tools and equipment as part of an exhibition in the Museum Room. The miniature room has now been created, and in this post we’re installing it. (If you really can’t wait to see what the finished conservation in miniature dolls’ house looks like, scroll down to the end of the blog post and click on the image to enlarge it).

Conservation equipment put out ready to install in the dolls’ house. See the tissue paper hats (used to keep dust and dirt off ceramics and other small objects over the winter season) and the miniature vacuum cleaner!

Curtains and a window have been added to the display box – notice the double blinds which have been made. There is a cream sun-blind (used when the house is open and full sunlight is shining in to help prevent fading) and the dark green blind, which completely blocks out sunlight

Furniture is set out very carefully. See the miniature stepladders, which we use to dust high up picture frames and reach the tops of curtains and four-poster beds

The conservation in miniature dolls’ house all set up and in position. Just need to clear away those empty boxes!

A close-up of some of the detail in the dolls’ house – foam book rests, felt mats and tissue paper hats with a roll of tissue paper and scissors ready to be used

I also designed and wrote interpretation for the exhibition, so that visitors can read about what we aimed to show with the conservation in miniature section of the exhibition

And here it is, finished and in one of the exhibition cases in the Museum Room at Nostell. On the bottom shelf we explain about the nine agents of deterioration that conservation assistants battle against (more on those in future blog posts), the top shelf holds a display of different conservation equipment, with explanations of their uses, and the middle shelf is where the Conservation In Miniature dolls’ house is.

The finished creation…

Completed dolls’ house, but one thing is missing…what is it? (Click on any of the pictures to enlarge them)

I needed to add one more item to the far right hand corner of our miniature dolls’ house room to complete it, can you guess what it is? 

It’s a dust cover! I spent a few hours carefully creating a template and sewing together a miniature dust cover for the grandfather clock in the corner. All large objects at Nostell have their own personal dust cover made to measure (by our wonderful volunteers) which covers them up during the winter closed period and prevents them getting dusty and dirty.

And there we go – one completed Conservation In Miniature dolls’ house. We hope that it inspires you to come to Nostell and take a look at the exhibition, or perhaps have a go at making one yourselves!

Ellie

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Conservation In Miniature – Part One

Here at Nostell Priory we’ve recently completed the installation of an exhibition in the Museum Room which focuses on all of the conservation work that we do to look after the property and contents. One of our most treasured exhibitions is also in the museum room – our wonderful Dolls’ House. When we were designing the exhibition we were inspired to use the dolls’ house as a model for part of it, which we have called ‘Conservation in Miniature’. I thought we’d use this blog post to share with you how we created our miniature dolls’ house.

Nostell’s historic dolls’ house, which is just under 300 years old!

Our aim was to create one room of a dolls’ house, and then furnish and decorate it as though it was undertaking the same deep winter clean that the actual rooms in Nostell are subject to each year. This included making miniature dust covers, book rests, tissue paper hats, vacuums, white gloves, shoe covers and other types of conservation equipment. It’s a way of really engaging people with the intricacies of conservation, on a miniature scale which captures the imagination and is memorable. Here’s how it was done:

First we had to build the dolls’ house display room, which was ordered and arrived flat-packed. I also measured up the walls and floor so that we could cut carpet and wallpaper that was the correct size.

We needed wallpaper with a small pattern which would complement the small size of the furniture to go into our dolls’ house display room

The display box was built up after the wallpaper and carpet were stuck on

The basic dolls’ house display box, ready to be filled with miniature furniture and (more importantly) a range of miniature conservation equipment

We chose a dining room setting as the best with which to display a range of conservation techniques. The main furniture in the room was ordered from the internet.

Smaller objects were bought from specialist dolls’ house shops to furnish the room, including miniature books, ceramic vases, and brushes. It’s amazing what you could find in the shops!

And then the fun began – making all of the conservation tools! Here I cut out felt mats which we place underneath objects to prevent scratching of surfaces (particularly wooden table tops)

Making replica foam book rests (out of a sponge!) Foam book rests help to support books when they are been used/looked at for research. It means that pages won’t come loose from spines and the boards and spines aren’t subject to excess pressure.

I tried to recreate the smallest of details to make it as representive of a room in a National Trust property as possible – including a drugget (long robust carpet that marks out the visitor route) and kickboards (long pieces of shaped wood which separate the visitor route from areas in a rooms which can’t be entered). Kickboards are better than traditional stanchions (upright poles with ropes hanging between them) as kickboards are lower and less obtrusive, letting visitors really feel that they are ‘in’ a room.

Protective corners on a miniature painting, and a roll of bubble wrap ready to help wrap it up for transportation. The painting is a scaled-down copy of Angelica Kauffmann’s ‘The Artist Hesitating Between the Arts of Music and Painting’. I wanted something in our replica dolls’ house room which was specific to Nostell Priory

Shoe/boot covers (to stop mud, dust and dirt from being tracked into the carpets) were made from actual cut up boot covers! I also made light meters (blue wool dosimeters) and pest traps. The more conservation equipment that we could replicate to put into the room would help to show how busy National Trust properties really are over the winter period!

With furniture established in the conservation in miniature dolls’ house, it was time to furnish the room properly with all of the conservation equipment made and put it into the display cabinet (the fun part!)

Join us in the Part Two blog post about our Conservation In Miniature exhibition to see it all come together…

Ellie