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 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.
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 those doing the lifting.
The Conservation Team often begin their day early in the morning before visitors arrive, and continue to work throughout opening hours, as conservation projects are constantly in progress. In busier months, the house’s Victorian window panes can be cleaned 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 the sweeping out of chimneys, and the brushing down of 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 to come.