Collections Care

Good Collections Care is the most pragmatic way of looking after your collections be they a much loved family heirloom, a prized personal collection, the entire contents of a museum store or the interior furnishings of an historic house. Collections Care can help highlight any condition issues early and allows you to plan how to spend your conservation budget wisely.

We have the great pleasure of advising on the care of several significant collections – for example the Legal Dress Collection at the Royal Courts of Justice where we are nearing completion of our first task, the creation of the first full catalogue of the collection. We have worked our way through the stored collection and now have almost every item labelled, condition checked, frozen and housed more safely in bags or boxes for the first time. Now we have a clearer idea of what is in the collection and its condition we can start to plan changes to the displayed collection areas in the months and years to come.

At Arundel Castle we are privileged to have had long involvement in the care of the collection and noticing a deterioration in the condition of some of the seat furniture recently recommended the provision of loose covers for various sets of their upholstered chairs. Despite being in sets we discovered that the chairs are all slightly different dimensions so once we had designed a generic cover suitable for each set we then had to custom fit each cover. The covers are designed to be left in place during the castle’s open season to protect the historic textile upholstery from light, dust and mechanical damage from visitors passing by too close. With the client we agreed a smart teal coloured linen which we got embroidered by our local couture embroidery specialist Jenny King. the covers are lined to prevent abrasion on the delicate embroidery beneath. As the castle is still a family home hosting many social occasions, the covers needed to be easy for the staff to take on and off quickly. So we have designed the covers to have as few tie tape fastenings as possible. And to ensure the right bespoke cover goes back on its chair, each cover is numbered and the chairs have also been numbered for the first time.

Also at Arundel Castle we are gradually conserving their magnificent set of Les Nouvelles Indes series of tapestries which hang in the Baron’s Hall and up the Grand Staircase. The tapestry collections care plan has included recommendations for their care and preservation once conserved to reduce the need for surface cleaning in sit. So we have designed and installed a pulley hanging mechanism for each so that they can be more easily accessed for maintenance and seasonal dust covers. The Tyvek dust cover illustrated below pulls up and over the tapestry on simple rollers and pulleys. All the elements were designed and made in house at our studio.

Our conservators often undertake condition surveys of objects and collections; if you have a condition recording system in place we are happy to use it or if you don’t, we can design one for you. Condition surveys of stored collections are a good time to improve packing and replace old tissue. They are also a good time to take record photographs and add labels.

Personal items really benefit from good supportive storage; our conservation proposals always make recommendations for the collections care of your textiles as we like to return items well packed so that they remain in as good a condition as possible once back in your home. Items of costume can either be boxed or given supportive hangers and protective bags so that they can hang safely in your wardrobes. It is important to use conservation grade materials for storage; the image below shows the acid damage caused to the tissue over an unsealed wooden hanger – this was transferred to the christening robe too causing irreparable damage to the costume. Larger flat textiles like rugs and tapestries are best stored rolled even at home; folding can cause permanent creasing and breakage of fibres.

Pest management and environmental control are very much part of collections care and we can advise on simple ways to try and avoid pest damage and what to do when your textiles do unfortunately suffer. We can also advise on environmental control and suggest ways to improve the situation at home or in your store rooms.

Please do get in touch if you need any help – often there are improvements you can make yourself after advice or you might like to book one of our practical training sessions tailored to your needs.