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…