Pests, Glorious Pests!

If Charles Dickens’ Oliver (of novel, musical and film fame) were to sing the song ‘Food, Glorious Food!’ inside Nostell, I think it would be more appropriate for him to sing ‘Pests, Glorious Pests!’ Rather than wax lyrical about hot sausage and mustard Oliver would be singing about carpet beetles and silverfish. Instead of asking for more, he’d be praying for less! Enough of the comparisons for now, today’s blog post focuses on the not-so-glamorous world of pest monitoring (or IPM, ‘Integrated Pest Management’).

Nostell uses small black plastic pest traps, although there are a great variety of traps to choose from, including cardboard blunder traps and moth pheromone traps. They have a sticky sheet of card inside which pests stick to, which allows us to record numbers and see if we have any infestations. Luckily, Nostell is a generally good house with few pest worries. (Fingers crossed it will stay that way!) The pest traps are found in every room in Nostell, and are placed in areas that little beasties like to hide, for example in fireplaces, next to walls, and under beds.

Fireplace pest trap

Pest trap next to a wall

We check  the pests traps every three moths (I mean ‘months’ – a Freudian slip!) to ensure that no pests go unnoticed.

Stacking up the little black boxes to see what creepy crawlies (if any) are stuck inside

Depending on whereabouts in the house they are, some pest traps get absolutely filthy, so we give them a clean before putting them back where they were. It’s really important that they go back to the exact same location, so that we can develop a realistic picture over the years of where problem areas are.

We use this wall chart to help us identify insects. If it’s not on the chart, it’s probably not a pest (but it’s always best to check with a conservator if we’re not sure)

These are the sticky part of the trap which catch the pests. The sticky pads are replaced once we have recorded the pests, and the old sticky pads are disposed of.

A selection of critters on one of the traps in the Peacock Bedroom. Moths, spiders, flies, silverfish – this was actually one of the more full traps, as around a third were empty (which can only be a good thing)

The public enjoyed seeing us open some of the pest traps – the one above in particular made a little girl exclaim ‘you have the worst job ever!’ but then after I had talked to her about the work we do, she changed her mind to saying ‘it’s actually quite exciting to see the bugs!’ 

Flies in the Grey Bathroom

Record sheets, pest traps, plans of where the pest traps are located, spare sticky pads, the list of pest monitoring equipment goes on…

Julie records how many little beasties are inside one of the pest traps

We enter all of the information we find into a spreadsheet, and send it to our conservators, who analyse the results and look at patterns of insect infestation (if there are any) in Nostell’s rooms over the years

We hope you’ve enjoyed entering the world of bugs – it’s one of the least glamorous jobs we have to do, but surprisingly fun!

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