Having always had an interest in historic houses, the opportunity to work with a country house collection was impossible to resist. Tabley House in Knutsford, contains a collection owned by the University of Manchester of over 12,000 items. At the core of this collection are a number of Regency paintings, including a piece by JMW Turner. Alongside this are a mass of objects such as family treasures, diaries and household objects; it is with these objects I spent the duration of my placement.
The opportunity available at Tabley House was to be involved in increasing the documentation for the collection, photographing each item, while also condition checking and providing preventative conservation work where required. This work interested me particularly because I have had no previous experience in it, ensuring that if nothing else, it would at least be a challenge.
Each day would consist of exploring a box from the museums storage area, experiencing moments of discovery as I worked with each new object. Alongside the primary task of updating information about the objects on the collection management system, I was also able to undertake research regarding any object which particularly caught my interest, of which there were many.
The majority of my placement took place during the winter months, when the house was closed to the public. During this period, the house has a strong foundation of volunteers, performing various duties such as cleaning and preventative restoration. While at first, the placement seemed as though it may be quite solitary, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. Being surrounded by volunteers who were not only passionate about museum objects, but particularly Tabley House’s objects, resulted in continuous collaborative discussion and questioning about the items I was handling.
As the house reopened, my work continued on the gallery floor in the sight of the public. My documentation table took on a new role as a temporary display, opening up yet further opportunities for conversation about the objects on show and the work I was doing. Sharing these otherwise unseen objects with visitors before returning them to storage was possibly one of my favourite aspects of my time at Tabley.