The people behind the objects

Conservator inspecting the back of the headboard of the King James II bed at Knole. ©National Trust Images/David Levenson

Conservator inspecting the back of the headboard of the King James II bed at Knole. ©National Trust Images/David Levenson

Perhaps I don’t feature people often enough in this blog.

Conservator the late Linda Shelley dusting an urn in the Entrance Hall at Osterley Park. ©National Trust Images/Ian Shaw

Conservator the late Linda Shelley dusting an urn in the Entrance Hall at Osterley Park. ©National Trust Images/Ian Shaw

It is easy to overlook the people who actually preserve and open up the collections of the National Trust. Many of them beaver away modestly behind the scenes.

Volunteers conserving textiles at Tyntesfield. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Volunteers conserving textiles at Tyntesfield. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Also, unlike objects, people tend not to stay still for very long and are therefore more difficult to capture in photographs.

Food historian Peter Brears carrying a silver item to the Dining Room at Attingham Park. ©National Trust Images/David Levenson

Food historian Peter Brears carrying a silver item to the Dining Room at Attingham Park. ©National Trust Images/David Levenson

But here are a few of the many different types of people involved with the collections of the National Trust, with some of the objects in their care.

12 Responses to “The people behind the objects”

  1. style court Says:

    The fact that the conservator in the first image has her head tilted to the sky really conveys the large scale (or height, I should say) of the bed. Something not always as apparent in people-less pictures.

    Also, food historian. You’ll have to share more about his role, Emile :)

  2. perquin2013 Says:

    Lovely pictures, indeed showing “people involved” with “objects in their care”. I really like the portrait of Mr Brears carrying a silver item.

  3. deana Says:

    It is a dream of mine to one day play amongst the beautiful collections in a NT house or 2. Love Peter Brears… a great food history hero!

  4. mary Says:

    Without “the people” there wouldn’t be any objects.

  5. imogen88 Says:

    What a beautiful post, and shows us just how much goes into preserving treasures. Just terrific, thank you.

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes Courtney, a good point about people in photographs adding a sense of scale.

    Peter Brears helped to create the amazing Regency dining table set-up at Attingham, using the family silver but also with reproductions of period sweets and sugar sculptures and so on. He is a prolific writer on the history of food preparation and consumption: http://www.librarything.com/author/brearspeter and http://amzn.to/YJHbgj

    Perquin, yes I could see how that would appeal to you :) No doubt you take similar care with the objects in your charge.

    Deana, yes if only you lived over here, then you could be a NT volunteer too. And indeed your own blog is a treasure trove of food history.

    Mary, quite, and of course invisible but also present ‘behind’ the objects are the people who actually made and commissioned them.

    Imogen, yes and this is just a small segment of the people involved. I was just saying to a colleague that wouldn’t it be great if we could commission a top photographer to travel around the country documenting all these different roles and the unique people doing them.

    • imogen88 Says:

      Thank you for the answers, and yes, I do very much agree that a commission to photograph the people and work done behind the scenes by these brilliant “caretakers” is something that would make everything come alive for the public. It also breaks down the barrier that items are never touched, or that they aren’t tactile and “real” with “real” needs and requirements! Most people would be stunned at the effect even the changes in weather has on ordinary things, let alone priceless treasures! No doubt there will be a post on this blog should this project happen, I think there would be MANY all for it!

  7. Blue Says:

    I thought of my living room walls (precisely, the spot above the sofa) and how dignified they would by large-scale photographs of these people. They all have the same quietude as Vermeer’s paintings.

    It’s possibly been said above in the other comments but an exhibition of well-framed miniatures of these people at work would be an excellent way of honoring what they do.

  8. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Colleague Helen Lloyd has just told me that the image second from top above shows the late Linda Shelley, who worked for the NT as a conservator for fifteen years (I hadn’t been aware of this as the photo library caption didn’t mention it). Following her untimely death in 2004 funds were raised for an award in her memory to be given to NT house staff showing excellence, dedication and leadership in conservation, as well as for a bursary to help NT staff acquire skills and experience in conservation.

    Blue, yes indeed I think these images would work really well framed and hung on a wall, and it confirms the validity of our idea of a photo-essay kind of book.

  9. columnist Says:

    I think the work these people do also highlights, (certainly as far as cleaning is concerned), why it was necessary to have an army of staff to look after these properties, and why, after that became impossible with a change in society, the properties could no longer be looked after without the intervention of an organisation like the NT.

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