Placements are an opportunity to gain practical, hands-on experience working with our collections.
We offer a small number of work placements throughout the year at some of our sites. All opportunites are found on our main volunteering page.
Hope Kessinger completed our South London Conservation Cleaning Placement and shares her experience below
A chance to hold history in my hands
As an English Heritage conservation cleaning placement volunteer, I step back in time while maintaining the beauty and structure of objects from the past. I've not only been able to hold history in my hands, I have been able to preserve and maintain it for future generations to see.
The journals of Charles Darwin, the fireplace his children sat around, a grand hall that once held the entire Tudor court, including the king himself, the corridors walked by extravagant multimillionaires of the 1930s, an air raid shelter in the basements of a palace, the treasures and trinkets of a fine collector, and a grand portrait painted by Rembrandt are some of the many objects I have been able to see and help preserve as a volunteer at Down House, Eltham Palace and Ranger's House.
So what does a conservation placement volunteer do?
It involves careful, slow and meticulous cleaning. The methods of dusting to an object can depend on the material from which it is made. If, for instance, the cleaning of a marble fireplace would involve the use a brush made of hog's hair. These brushes are thick bristled and are ideal for cleaning hard surfaces that have small intricate crevices. When cleaning gilded surfaces, such as frames, a pony hair brush is used with small and soft bristles reducing the of risk damaging delicate surfaces. While dusting, a waist vacuum is worn and dust is carefully swept into the hose. When caring for textile, a netting is placed over the area and a specific textile vacuum attachment is used to make sure the suction is just right.
Conservators are also responsible for monitoring the humidity and light levels inside the rooms and display cabinets, as historical objects could be damaged beyond repair if there is too much or too little of one or the other. While it may not occur to most, walking through a historical property or museum, they would be surprised at the variety of insects that enjoy these precious objects. Monitoring the levels of moths and other bugs is essential to the preservation of any collection.
An Invaluable Experience
During my experience at Down House, Eltham Palace and Ranger's House, I have found that there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the outcome of my work. To see the difference in the objects and witness the transformation really does bring history back to life and the memories of those who used them. Watching the old become new again and keeping these objects pristine for future generations to see is one of the most gratifying things I have ever done.
This experience has been invaluable to my education and provided me with hands on life experience.
Wrest Park Collections Placement
We had the most wonderful time experiencing the everyday workings an archaeological store, as well as learning about the most up to date methods of storage and recording. Beyond our work in the store, we were able to get out and explore Wrest Park; both the house, where we peeked at the upstairs rooms and their beautiful period wallpaper, and the gardens. We were also able to get off-site, visiting the de Grey family mausoleum for a much needed spring clean, and journeying to deepest Essex to spruce up Tilbury Fort.
Alexandra Gatrell and Evie Porat