An introduction to our Project Conservator, Lauren

Hi all,

I’ve recently started at Mount Stewart taking on the role of Project Conservator (ok I’ve been here 6 months), taking over the fabulous work Fiona Austin-Byrne was carrying out prior to leaving. Having never written a blog post before, but with the pressure on I thought I best get started.

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So lets start with an introduction to the Project Conservation Team, the better half to the Project Joinery team! I’ve got to keep up with the banter! There is myself, Lauren Jackson, Project Conservator, Christina, Project Conservation Assistant and a small team of dedicated voluntary conservation assistants (who will be named and shamed (praised) in a later blog post). We all work very closely with the house team here; Louise, House and Collections Manager, Andrea, House Steward, Sheena, Assistant House Steward, Matthew, Conservation Assistant, Michael, Conservation Assistant and their dedicated team of conservation volunteers.

Since I have arrived we have all been very busy with the movement of collections into storage and the protection of fixtures and fittings left within the rooms, to allow contractors access into the rooms to work and create lots of dust!

 Holly one of our volunteers giving the doors first class treatment!


Holly one of our volunteers giving the doors first class treatment!

We have surely broken a few Guinness World Records in decanting, packing and storing collections in record breaking times, as well as engineering the most complex structures to store and protect unusual collections. We have tackled complicated deconstructions of delicate four poster beds, large bookcases, and have carefully removed VERY large delicate mirrors and paintings without any glitches. Including removing windows to fit paintings through!

Hambeltonian by Stubbs, our most famous painting on the move, he only had to jump the stairs!

Hambeltonian by Stubbs, our most famous painting on the move, he only had to jump the stairs!

 Circe has her men in line to move her through the window!


Circe has her men in line to move her through the window!

Fingers crossed the reinstatement of the collections at the end of the project isn’t required to be carried out anywhere near as quickly! As the Project Manager, Dennis Wright keeps reassuring me, ‘…everything will be down to the wire!’ so I am quite confident we will have plenty of time!

In the short time I have been here, I am not sure what I have said or done or asked for, but I seem to have gained a bit of a reputation as a ‘slave driver’! The joinery team, in particular David, all seem to hide now when they see me coming; I am not always asking them for further structures to store collections!

We have finally completed the packing and protection of the collections and Louise has commissioned an interesting exhibition showcasing the project work going on. We are now open for the summer, so do come visit and see our collections on show in store!

That’s all for now, Holly one of our volunteers will follow this up with an introduction to our fabulous project conservation volunteers.

Lauren

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Our visit to Knole in England

Fiona (Project Conservator) and I had the privilege of heading across to England on 14 September to see the renovation/conservation project taking place at Knole in the great county of Kent.

We had a fantastic time, the weather being very kind to us and the staff of Knole being very kind and welcoming.

Knole is an enormous house dating from the 1400’s. Naturally enough with a building of this age there are massive structural issues, and with the materials the house was built with getting the wrong side of the hill.

I, from a joinery point of view, was blown away by the sheer size and the complexity of such a property!

The roof was being striped from its tile covering, exposing the roof structure. I was very interested to see the way in which it was constructed and what made it still stay together after 600 years!

The answer to that question is oak! Beautiful wonderful English oak!

I have included a few photos of the roof structure and the front façade of the property.

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If you get a chance (after having visited Mount Stewart), I recommend you make the journey from wherever you are and see this wonderful property and support the team there as they take on this almighty task!

Also make sure and keep reading this blog, the reason being I have a blog battle with the main blogger at Knole!

David

Project update – Turning the Chapel into a giant storage area

Monday 20 August 2012

Things are moving on now at an ever increasing pace; the phase ‘getting ready‘ is almost complete. I can say a lot of head scratching has been done because of the structural problems we have uncovered.

However during this stage while opening up floors we made some very interesting discoveries. The newspaper mentioned in a previous blog post gave us dates; whilst the bones of the different animals found in the same room gave us an insight to the culinary tastes of workmen in 1912! The bones when analysed where found to be from different animals including sheep, geese, rabbit and chicken.

At the moment we, the project joinery team, are in the chapel erecting three floors of studwork. The work being carried out by us in the chapel is to provide an area in which the project conservator can store items such as; furniture, curtains and carpets from the various rooms while the work is carried out in them. All the rooms in the house are full with furniture and family memorabilia, all of which are very important to the property and need very careful storing and maintenance. Unfortunately for the project conservator, this makes her life here in Mount Stewart that little bit more complicated.

We have been working steadily and progress has been coming on well. Although we all (and I personally), miss our project apprentice joiner Callum while he is away on his trip to China.

As you would be aware the Chapel is out of bounds to the public for sensible health and safety reasons while the construction work is under way. I have included a few photos of the building work so you can see what is happening. Also the whole building works has been filmed using a time lapse camera and I for one can’t wait to see the footage!

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Keep watching this space!

David

(Project Joiner)

Introduction to our Project Curator – Frances

I am currently the Project Curator at Mount Stewart and have worked for the National Trust in Northern Ireland for over 20 years. Prior to that I lived in Co. Donegal looking after the Glebe Gallery in Churchill.

As project curator my role is to advise the team on the history of the house and its architectural development, the significance of the building, the decorative schemes and the collection, and to help develop a vision for the property. I work closely with the architect and design team, the conservator, house team, property manager and the donor family, and also benefit from the input from many external and National Trust advisers on a whole range of subjects.

I am currently working on a history of the house and the way in which it has changed over the years.  This is helping to inform decisions we need make as part of the current project.

 

Frances Bailey – Project Curator

Introduction to our Project Conservator – Fiona

Fiona Austin-Byrne – Project Conservator

As Project Conservator I am responsible for the packing, protection and storage of the historic collection at Mount Stewart. I work closely with the joiners, house staff, family members and specialist engineers and conservators to make this happen as efficiently and professionally as possible, following best practices in conservation, whilst offering access for an enjoyable visitor experience.

Fiona Austin-Byrne (Project Conservator), preparing to meet and greet the public at the Garden & Craft Fair

We hope to improve environmental conditions, display techniques and conserve or replace items to lift the presentation of all rooms.

By the end of the project we will be able to open several more rooms all over the house.

I’m actively seeking volunteers to help me with the following tasks:

  • Moving and packing furniture and objects
  • Making bespoke in-situ protection for fixtures or large items
  • Conservation cleaning and writing condition reports for objects
  • Cataloguing objects (IT skills desirable)
  • Making individual furniture dust covers (basic dressmaking skills essential)

Full training and supervision provided and travel expenses paid.

It would be a great opportunity for students or graduates looking for experience working in the heritage sector or those who would just like to be involved with the work of the National Trust during the project and beyond.

Please contact me to arrange an initial visit and chat.

fiona.austin-byrne@nationaltrust.org.uk