Behind the scenes – A dusty task!
Tullie House has a wonderful collection of just about everything, and with spring just around the corner we have been doing a ‘Deep Clean’ in the stores. Our Museum Assistants have been helping out the curators, going through the stores armed with our vacuum cleaners to make sure everything is dust free and ready for duty.
Eloise, one of our Museum Assistants has written a guest blog to let us know what a ‘Deep Clean’ involves!
The start of the week began in Archaeology, gently brushing down stone altars and carvings, some of which are around two thousand years old, telling the stories of the Roman occupation of Cumbria. There are some unusual faces and carved figures, but an especially elaborate one is a wonderful large tombstone sitting on the bottom shelf. With a representation of a girl in a very fashionable dress, it tells a slightly sad story of a child just three years old when she died.
Over the next two days, face- masks on, we progress through the many boxes of iron work, bronze, wood, leather and pottery. Museum work isn’t always very glamorous! But we do feel a sense of achievement as we make good progress.
Round the corner later in the week we find something too large to box; a curious large leather artefact, looking like two riding saddles sewn together. We ask Curator Tim. Apparently it is a medieval pack for a mule that fell into a midden or pond, and was never recovered by its owner. This was found during the excavations for Debenhams in Carlisle several hundred years later.
Simultaneously, part of the team is busy in Natural History; re-shelving a variety of birds, beetles and other animals. Having just got a new shelving unit, it’s a great opportunity to re-pack some of the insects. Our collection is an important archive of nearly two hundred years of Cumbrian wildlife, and environment.
By Wednesday we switch to Social History. After two hours I forget to be surprised anymore at what comes off the shelves. We vacuum everything from a toy Ghostbusters tower, to vintage lampshades, keys, stained glass windows, medical equipment, and a Victorian toilet so willow-patterned that you can hardly tell it was a toilet at all! Ironically at one point we find ourselves vacuuming a vacuum cleaner.
On Thursday, the collection of glass plate photography is a real workout! Lifting the shoebox sized boxes of plates out and back into the racks is an exercise in weight training.
Friday is the final day, and we begin to look forward to the weekend! But we head back to Archaeology to finish off, getting to grips with the final touches.
All in all, a busy week and a tiring one, but none of us could say it’s been boring! It’s been an excellent opportunity to get a closer look at some of our collections. It takes all sorts of jobs to keep the museum going behind the scenes, but all the same, I might give vacuuming the house a miss this weekend!