Behind the Scenes, Conservation

14 February 2018

Dusting off the cobwebs

Lynsey Haworth from our collections unit explains how we care for the impressive objects in the palace using some rather traditional housekeeping techniques.

woman in hard hat and hi vis vest reaches up to dust wooden ceiling

Last week, visitors got a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how our HES Collections Unit cares for the rich furnishings on display in the Palace. Working mainly from a scaffold tower, the team were busy assessing the condition of the contents of the rooms and carrying out housekeeping tasks.

figures on a scaffold reaching up to touch a painted ceiling

A Palace fit for Royalty

We unveiled the revamped palace interior to the public in 2011, following a multi-million pound investment project to return these rooms to their renaissance glory. Since then we’ve worked to ensure these objects remain in good condition so visitors can continue to enjoy them.

Items under our watchful eye include the Stirling Castle Unicorn Tapestries – seven intricate hand woven tapestries based on a surviving medieval set now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

woman dressed as renaissance queen stands before elaborate wall hanging of a unicorn

Tools of the Trade

We use specialist cloths, brushes, and vacuum cleaners to remove dust and cobwebs from the furnishings. Although the collections in these rooms are not historic, conservation equipment is used because these materials are designed to be gentle on delicate surfaces. This reduces the risk of damage occurring during the cleaning process.

Conservation vacuum cleaners are particularly useful as they have an adjustable suction. When used on textiles, a piece of net is placed over the nozzle. This prevents any loose textile fragments from being accidentally sucked up.

detail of woman in hard hat hoovering a tapestry

We also have to:

  • check wooden objects for splits and cracks
  • assess metal objects for corrosion
  • and examine textiles for signs of insect pest damage.

We carry out this work every 12-18 months. By recording the condition of each object, we’re able to determine whether deterioration is occurring over time.

A Glamorous Job

Housekeeping may not sound like a sophisticated method of conservation work, but it’s one of the first lines of defence for our collections.

Here at Stirling Castle, it is part of a much wider programme of preventive conservation in the Palace. We aim to make sure the environmental conditions in these rooms stay at suitable levels for the furnishings they house.

So next time you see one of us in a hard hat brandishing a hoover, you’ll know why!