10 June 2019

National Trust: Caring for the Beatrix Potter Collection

Laura White, Collections Officer for the National Trust in the South Lakes, looks after the Beatrix Potter collection of artwork, diaries, belongings and personal items. She gives an update on what she’s working on in 2019…

I have had the pleasure of working with a fantastic Care of Collections team as we embark on a project to improve Collections Management and Documentation of the National Trust’s Beatrix Potter Collection.

We are lucky that Beatrix Potter left Hill Top to the National Trust, along with its contents and a huge number of her personal possessions. This means we have an eclectic collection, ranging from furniture, ceramics, paintings and jewellery, to more unusual items such as wooden rabbits, rusty nails, doll’s clothes and even a bracelet made of hair!

We simply don’t have room to display the whole collection at once, so what isn’t on display has been carefully stored away in archive boxes, wrapped in acid free tissue paper. While this means the objects are safe from harm, each time we want to check the condition of an object, we must handle it which can potentially cause damage.

To prevent this, our wonderful team of Conservation Assistants are working on ‘re-housing’ the entire collection.  This involves layering plastazote (a non-toxic foam) into an archive box and cutting a mould for each object to sit in. This has proved tricky for some of the more unusually shaped objects, but our conservation assistants are a talented bunch! Once this project is complete, we will be able to carry out inventory checks of our objects without handling them.

The team are currently working on this project in our new ‘Conservation Hub’ at the Beatrix Potter Gallery. The Hub is open to visitors most days and here you can see our team in action as they care for Beatrix Potter’s possessions.

I am also currently in the midst of uploading the fixtures and fittings of Hill Top to our Collections Management System (a huge database where records of the National Trust’s collections are stored). This means I have been looking at doors, hinges, dado rails, fireplaces and bannisters in great detail! It might sound strange, but it is all part of our continued efforts to look after Beatrix Potter’s beloved house.

We are also preparing for some visits from some specialist conservators, one to check the condition of the wooden furniture and floors in our collection, and another to survey any metal work we have in our collection.

This follows visits from our Horology specialist and Preventive Conservation Advisor. These visits are costly but are vital for looking after what we have, which is why it’s so fantastic for the money visitors spend on their memberships and in our shops, to be put back into conservation work to ensure Beatrix Potter’s legacy can be enjoyed for many generations to come.

 

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