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Conservation at Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Every day the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust conservation team work hard to protect and maintain the house and its collections!

The conservation team at William Shakespeare’s Birthplace work to maintain both the house itself, and the many items on display from our collections. The work undertaken can be split into two categories: preventative and interventive. 

Preventative Conservation

Preventative conservation work can be defined as any task that aims to mitigate risks before damage can be caused.

At Shakespeare's Birthplace, various preventative routines are employed. A weekly surface dust is undertaken using dedicated brushes of pony or hog’s hair, to lift debris gently from the surface of objects before any harm can be caused.

‘Blunder traps’ are placed discreetly throughout the house to monitor any pest activity. Pests can range from beetles to bookworms, and they pose a significant risk to our collections.

Light levels are measured quarterly with a light meter, to check Lux (visible light), and UV (ultraviolet light) exposure; the temperature and RH (relative humidity), are monitored by Hanwell environmental sensors, that send data directly to the collections team here at the Trust.

Interventive Conservation

Interventive conservation work involves a direct intervention to try to halt, slow, or repair damage that has occurred already. This might include cleaning doors and windowsills, or applying a wax layer to objects that are prone to rust.

Any work involving accessioned items must be undertaken with care and precision. Nitrile gloves are worn to ensure that no oils or dirt from hands are transferred onto the surface of objects when handling. When lifting smaller items, proper support must be given that won’t place stress on any cracks, handles, or loose parts. If a large piece of furniture needs to be moved, precautions are taken to ensure both the safety of the object, and of those doing the lifting. 

Standing in the garden with the Birthplace behind are four members of the conservation team in black overalls: a woman on the right has a feather duster, a woman on the left, small brushes, the two girls between them have other cleaning equipment.

A Day in the Life of the Conservation Team

The conservation team often begin their day early in the morning before visitors arrive and continue working throughout opening hours, as conservation projects are constantly in progress. In busier months, only certain tasks such as cleaning the house’s Victorian window panes can be carried out without disrupting visitors. Over the winter, however, a rigorous deep clean of the house can be undertaken room by room. Goggles and dust masks are worn for sweeping out chimneys and brushing down beams and walls.

Notwithstanding their excellent work, conservation is not solely the responsibility of the conservation team. From the staff and volunteer guides who share the story of the house, to the visitors themselves keeping their camera flashes switched off, everyone has a part to play in protecting and caring for Shakespeare’s Birthplace for the benefit of future generations.

  • Shakespeare's Birthplace isn't the only house that needs consistent care. Find out more about the daily conservation that takes place at Hall's Croft: Conservation at Hall's Croft

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