This is Tabley House. Surrounded by beautiful Cheshire countryside, it was built in 1767 as a stately home for Lord de Tabley, a collector of British paintings. Now a museum, it is home to many collections and since it is winter, it’s time to archive them. Here is a sneak peak into the archives of Tabley House, and how they put the house to bed in the off-season.
My mother and I volunteered our hands to help with some of the archives and cleaning tasks. We were assigned to Curtain tie-backs and woven decorations. Doesn’t sound particularly exciting, but there were tassles and fringed edgeing. I do love tassels and fringed edging!
We sorted through a box of various lengths of ropes, parts of tassels and trimmings, then gathered up the parts that belonged together and labelled them with a number. We logged this number into the database with a brief description of what the item was and it’s condition. If the item needed a dusting we could use the brush or give it a bit of shake out. The item was then wrapped up in acid free tissue paper, and again labelled with the number.
The house was very quiet while we worked. We were the only people in there, except for Anna who was in her office. It was strange walking around the house with everything covered with sheets. The shutters were closed in every room except the one we were using. In one room there was some scaffolding as some of the frames were being restored. I liked the use of tea towels on some of the smaller paintings too.
With all the curtain tie backs done and dusted, we deployed onto our second assignment. There was a beautiful embroidered stumpwork fireguard that needed cleaning. We used a brush and then a mini hoover called a museum vac to suck up any dust. We went into the intricate wood work with a q-tip and gave it a polish with none other than National Trust Polish. Only the best!
Seriously, just look at this needle work! Incredible. I love the horses! It is a pity that it is in a bit of a bad state with all the water stains and threads coming loose. I guess it is quite old… We actually felt a bit odd being allowed to do this by ourselves, unsupervised. It’s so old. So fragile!
And there you have it! Archiving is fun + easy. I recommend it. Perhaps there is a museum near to you that hosts volunteer days that you could look at. Usually museums are quite accommodating and will try and make it interesting for you. I plan to return to Tabley House for another archive day as I was told they have a good quilt collection in the basement I could look at. Exciting stuff! So, I say to you go and explore! I’m sure you’ll find something. And bring your mum along; you’ll have a great time for sure.