Following my summer internship, I have returned to help out Sarah with some additional pressing projects in the Collections Management department. Our priority coming into the fall was to deal with the mess the Barn Swallows left behind; however, my first couple of weeks back were spent tending to the parlor in the Great House. Due to the construction in the Northwest stair passage, adjacent to the parlor, we have rearranged the parlor quite a bit; we packed and removed the tabletop objects, placed packing blankets on the floor, moved the furniture to the far side of the room on top of the blankets, and covered windows with black sheets to prevent UV damage to the objects since they are now nested together near the east-facing window. The vibrations caused during construction can have a negative impact on objects so by removing some objects and placing the large pieces on vibration-absorbing blankets, we are protecting the objects from harm.
However, we can’t do all the work when it comes to large, delicate pieces of furniture we can’t move by ourselves. For this, a professional art packing and transport company was brought in to move the larger objects, move and re-hang a portrait painting, and soft-pack a mirror and move it safely into object storage. I have an interest in these types of organizations, so I was enthralled watching them move about and work so quickly, yet carefully, especially while packing the mirror.
Since the parlor movement, we have been able to put our focus on the Slave Quarters. I familiarized myself with research Sarah had done on the health risks of working with bird feces and helped to order supplies and prepare for the object inventory of the buildings. Sometimes the preparation can take as long as the actual project. This is uncharted territory for Sarah and me, so speculating what supplies and equipment we will need is partially a guessing game. Fortunately, we got everything we think we need and two weeks ago we performed the inventory. This was not a normal inventory, like what we did over the summer. In order to protect ourselves from the potential diseases in the bird feces, we wore protective gear, including respirators, Tyvek suits and booties, discarded utensils and equipment used during inventory to prevent contact at a later date, and promptly washed our clothing, even though, theoretically, it did not come in contact with any contaminates because of the Tyvek.
With that part behind us, we are now diligently working to identify the objects inventoried. This proves to be complicated at times though because many of the objects were not properly numbered or documented when they first came to Stratford Hall many years ago. Once completed, it will be decided how to proceed with cleaning objects, packing, and moving them out of the Slave Quarter buildings so the buildings themselves may be cleaned.
– Kathryn “Kat” Marshall, Collections Management Intern