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Archive for the ‘Museum Refit’ Category

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What a month it’s been!   

Our heartfelt thanks go out to the large number of people whose energy, commitment and enthusiasm helped to achieve the following milestones over the past few weeks.  

  • 14th August  Basing House re-opened after its £2.3 million refurbishment
  • 28th August  New museum exhibition opened
  • 28-30th August  the Battle of Basing. Thousands of people came to Old Basing at the bank holiday weekend to enjoy this spectacular event  featuring the Sealed Knot re-enactment society
  • 11th-12th September  Basing House was a popular destination for the National Heritage Open Days event
  • 15th September  a Special Viewing was held for funding partners, stakeholders and supporters of the development project (photo below) 
  • 17th, 21st, 23rd September  first schools visits since re-opening     

 Special Viewing 15 Sept 2010

 

 So what’s next?   Illustration of proposed footbridge

Work has not finished yet.  By next Spring Basing House will boast a new footbridge spanning the western ditch of the Norman bailey and sailing over the excavated remains of the western gatehouse to the Tudor house (illustrated right), and a new cafe too, The Bothy Tearoom, which will be run by a local catering firm.  

Looking a little further ahead, plans are being drawn up for exciting new themed play facilities for our younger visitors.  

On a sadder note, fundraising has begun for a programme of conservation for the Tudor house, which suffered greatly from the exceptionally severe frosts experienced last January.  Work is already under way but to complete the task and prevent further damage to this  important scheduled monument  more resources will have to be found.    

 

Upcoming events  

  • Saturday 2nd October  Geocaching day
  • Saturday 9th & Sunday 10th October Mary Rose Weekend
  • Saturday 30th October Halloween Ghost Walk!

    

And finally  

Please visit our website or Facebook page regularly for more information about events. You can see more  pictures and video of the Battle of Basing weekend there too,  and much more.  And don’t forget that new volunteers are always welcome! 

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The Battle of Basing

Saturday 28 to Monday 30 August

From 10am-5pm

Join us to celebrate the reopening of Basing House with an exciting event, bringing our Civil War history to life for all ages.

More details on our website: www.basinghouse.org.uk

 

Civil War Soldiers (members of the Sealed Knot) clash in battle
Civil War Soldiers (members of the Sealed Knot) clash in battle

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Cabling in the Great Barn

Building works

Main contractor to the project, Durtnell & Sons, continue to maintain good progress.

Highlights are the completion of the extensive repairs to the Orchard Wall (which is really the remains of at least 3 successive walls dating back centuries!), and the stripping of the old corrugated metal roof of the Little Barn at Basing Grange, which will be replaced with handmade tiles. Work is well advanced, too, on adapting the little store building which will become the ‘gateway’ from/to Basing Grange, on refurbishing the WC block near Garrison Gate, and on the new accessible toilet near the museum.

Work has now begun too on the museum in The Lodge, and Museum Service staff are well advanced with their plans for the new exhibition.

The Little Barn minus roof!

Ecology
The works on the barns at Basing Grange began after Easter, following the granting of a “bat licence” by Natural England. This “European Protected Species Licence” is a permit to carry out such work but also safeguards the bats resident on the site. The licence application was prepared by consultants Thomson Ecology on behalf of the County Council. Thomsons carried out extensive surveys in 2009 to identify the presence of any protected species and then went on to identify the roosting bat species found to be present and to advise on measures that should be taken to protect them during the works and after.

The surveys found roosts for Brown Long-eared, Soprano Pipistrelle, and Common Pipistrelle bats at Basing Grange. Measures being taken now, under licence, seek to ensure that bats are not left without a roost during the works and that, once works are complete, enhanced roosting opportunities will be available.

Education and Interpretation

PLB Projects Ltd, Interpretation and Exhibition Design specialists, are now finalising their graphic designs for the information points, and are about to begin recording for the podcast and the Great Barn audio-visual presentation. Construction of 2 specially-commissioned site models is also under way.

The Museum Service’ education team have been busy consulting with primary schools and secondary schools across the county. Responses have been very positive and bookings are starting to come in.

Events programme

A programme of events for August and on into next year is being put together. To mark the re-opening of Basing House a spectacular Civil War event is being planned for August bank holiday. Watch out for news on that on that soon.

Staff and Volunteers

A new Operations Manager for Basing House has been appointed and will take up post at the beginning of June. Other members of the team will be recruited soon.

It is great to see so many people putting their names forward as volunteers. On May 8th from 2 – 4pm a special meeting for potential volunteers will be held on site. If you wish to find out more about sort of activities that you might become involved in as a volunteer and the training that we can offer please send in your details via the form on our website.

Traffic management

The design for a pedestrian road crossing outside Garrison Gate has now been finalised by the council’s Transport team and a start date for the works will be announced soon. A scheme for tourist road signs has also been approved. These news signs will direct visitor traffic from the ‘A road’ network to our public car park off Barton’s Lane, avoiding Old Basing village.

Coming next…

Recruit remaining staff
Sign up volunteers for training
Sign off final Interpretation designs and begin production
Finalise marketing and communications plans
Receive on-site services – telecoms, gas and electricity
Finalise scheme for The Bothy Tearoom and commission work to begin
Obtain Scheduled Monument Consent for new footbridge over bailey ditch (west side)
Announce date re-opening and admission prices
Finalise and announce plans for launch events

Shooting video for the new museum display

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You may remember our last conservation-themed post where the Conservator (Archaeology) for Hampshire County Council very kindly provided us with information about the conservation work that had been done on a beautiful jug that was being prepared for inclusion in the museum here at Basing House. The museum is currently being refurbished and this has provided an excellent opportunity to look at the object collection for Basing House and to do some work on the conservation of some of these objects.

The Conservator (Archaeology) has provided the following post:

Dust, dirt, and the cleaning of a Civil War armour backplate

The dangers of over-cleaning in conservation are often underlined, but it is necessary at times to remove particulate (termed ‘particulate’ because it is carried as tiny particles in the atmosphere) dirt from museum objects before it becomes bonded – sometimes chemically – with the surfaces or past restorations/adhesives of an object. It will then be much harder to remove and may result in more invasive methods of cleaning such as wet or solvent cleaning, and as with all conservation, the less you have to do to the object the better!

Good object housekeeping is important. Dirt can attract and hold moisture, creating a harbour and a food source for pests, in turn attracting further dirt or causing damage to the object. Before any dirt is removed though, a conservator must examine it and identify whether it consists of loose or bonded particulates, whether is actually a coating, or perhaps a historic surface. Sometimes the dirt is an important part of the object – traces of food inside a vessel for instance. This is why conservation cleaning is carried out by trained staff and professional conservators, using appropriate analytical equipment to determine what, if anything, is to be removed.

Conserving the Iron Backplate

This iron backplate is one of the many objects that came into the lab for routine surface cleaning before redisplay. It had been on display at Basing Lodge Museum for a number of years, and a substantial amount of particulate and bonded dust and dirt had built up on the surface.

Backplate before treatment.

Backplate before treatment.

Initially, loose particulate dirt was removed from using a soft brush and a museum vacuum cleaner. Bonded dirt was then removed using a specially modified rubber ‘molecular trap’ – a sticky substance which will lift dirt without leaving any residue. It takes a long time to roll a small ball of the trap over just a small part of the surface, but it can be a very effective method of dry cleaning.

Cleaning with modified rubber molecular trap.

Cleaning with modified rubber molecular trap.

It became more evident during this stage that in fact the old protective coating beneath the dirt – apparently a type of resinous material – had become aged and yellowed. It was also cracking in places where thickly applied, and was scratched through in others. Aged and deteriorated adhesives, resins and coatings carry their own problems – they also attract dirt and pests, and as they deteriorate they too can become difficult to remove. It was decided to remove this particular coating since it was so damaged, and thought not to be of antiquity. This was achieved with wet solvent cleaning, using cotton swabs. Where thick, the softened coating was removed mechanically with a very sharp scalpel.

Solvent removal of coating from backplate.

Solvent removal of coating from backplate.

The coating was particularly crusty around areas where there are actually little fragments of original leather strap remaining – since leather dries out rapidly in the presence of certain solvents, care had to be taken to use one that would not shrink and crack these fragile remnants.

Particulate dirt around leather strap on backplate.

Particulate dirt around leather strap on backplate.

Remnants of leather strap after cleaning.

Remnants of leather strap after cleaning.

With the old coating removed, the appearance of the armour was much improved. A new coating of conservation grade microcrystalline wax was applied to the outer surface, replacing the protection afforded by the old coating, as well as enhancing the patina. To further reduce the risk of future damage, our new showcases have compartments for silica gel desiccant – giving us the option to lower the relative humidity of cases containing ironwork and slow the corrosion rate. We will also be keeping a close eye on objects to make sure the dust doesn’t build up again!

Backplate after cleaning - view 1.

Backplate after cleaning - view 1.

Backplate after cleaning - view 2.

Backplate after cleaning - view 2.

The armour will be returned to the Museum at Basing House displays when they re-open later this year.

Thank-you to Claire Chope, Conservator (Archaeology), for this post!

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Objects being Conserved for the new Basing House Museum

The preparation of hundreds of objects for the new, redeveloped museum at Basing House is an ongoing task for the Hampshire County Council Archaeology Conservator, based at the Museums Service headquarters in Winchester.

Some of the objects in preparation will be new to the display, and may have only recently been discovered during the last season of excavation. Other items may have been kept in our in stores for many years. In addition to new objects, all of the material removed from the old museum – much of which will be returned to the display – will be thoroughly checked, documented, surface cleaned and conserved where necessary.

Bartmann Jug

The Archaeology Conservator for the Museums Service has recently reconstructed a Frechen salt-glazed stoneware ‘Bartmann’ jug, from the first half of the 17th century.

Sherds that make up a Bartmann jug.

Sherds of the Bartmann jug before the Archaeology Conservator begins to reconstruct the vessel.


The treatment of this jug highlights a situation which can arise with the treatment of any object – that in which elements of restoration form part of a conservation treatment. From a conservation angle, no intervention was needed on the 15 fragments discovered from this stoneware jug. In storage they were perfectly safe, and in no danger of deteriorating. The fragments were accessible for research, and identification of the jug was possible. However, the redevelopment of Basing House Museum provided us with the welcome opportunity to expand access to our collections and put new objects, including this pottery, on display.
Bartmann jug - with sherds in place

Bartmann jug - with sherds in place


When planning any conservation treatment it is important to know what the intended outcome is for that object – what will it be used for, where, and why? The outcome here was to display the objects in the newly refurbished museum, yet to have simply placed those 15 sherds into a showcase (though it may have given an impression of enabling access) would have significantly limited their potential for interpretation and appreciation. In cases such as this, where the usual rule of ‘miminum intervention’ may not seem appropriate, it is often justifiable to undertake reconstructive conservation or restoration in order to facilitate access and interpretation for a wider audience.

Although it is unethical for a conservator to deliberately ‘disguise’ damage, it is considered acceptable to minimise the detracting effect of damage. Anything added must be reversible, detectable, not cover up or harm any of the original material, and be fully documented. Full reconstruction was only attempted due to the evidence retained in the fragments – although half of the jug was missing, these included the handle, the base, the neck, rim, and decorative features such as the bearded face and most of the medallion. Nothing was added which was not known to have existed.

The Bartmann jug with the smoothed plaster infill added.

The Bartmann jug with the smoothed plaster infill added.


The aim with this particular treatment was to enable an immediate appreciation and understanding of the pot as a whole, as it once would have appeared. Close inspection, however, will reveal the non-original areas.
The completed Bartmann jug, with the painted plaster infills.

The completed Bartmann jug, with the painted plaster infills.


The jug will be a new addition to the museum displays when Basing House reopens in late summer 2010.

The images and text for this post were kindly provided by Claire Chope, Archaeology Conservator for Hampshire County Council Museums Service. Thanks for this fascinating insight into the huge amount of work that goes into preparing an object for display in a museum space.

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Work continues to go well, despite the wetter weather in recent weeks, and some unexpected problems encountered. 

Drains, paths and fences at Grange Farm are nearing completion. The concessionary footpath around the Duke of Bolton’s field will re-open in the week beginning 7th December.

The door to the site museum has been widened, and the ramp leading up to it reconstructed – both measures to improve access for people with disabilities. New parking bays for blue badge holders are also being created outside the museum. 

Work to the main car park, off Barton’s Lane, is also nearing completion so pedestrian access to Cowdery’s Down will be restored soon too. 

Museums Service staff have stripped out the old exhibition displays from the museum and are now finalising plans for the new one. Simultaneously specialists are also working on selecting and conserving the objects that will go on display in the new exhibition.   

Volunteers from the Friends of Ancient Monuments (F.O.A.M.), continuing work begun last Spring, have now cleared more scrub to expose the western fishpond. 

Hampshire Highways Section have drawn up plans for a simple pedestrian crossing at Garrison Gate entrance, designed to improve the safety of visitors crossing from Grange Farm to visit the house and castle ruins.   Local residents and the local authorities are being consulted on the proposals.  

Scripting for all signage and information points, signage and multimedia presentations is well advanced.  Designs will be finalised over the next two months. 

Work is also continuing on the planning of an events programme for the opening next summer and beyond, and on preparation of the learning packs for teachers.  

Milestones expected to be reached before end of year: 

  • Re-opening of the concessionary public access across the Duke of Bolton’s field and from the site car park to Cowdery’s Down 
  • Completion of all major ground works before Christmas (weather permitting). Includes resurfacing of Grange Farmyard and Garrison Gate drive 
  • Removal of asbestos from WC block near Garrison Gate (one of those “unexpected problems”) 
  • Finalising of plans for road crossing 
  • Finalising of plans for museum exhibition 
  • Application to English Heritage for Scheduled Ancient Monument Consent for groundworks associated with information points and signage, and new footbridge over the bailey (west side)  
  • Application to Natural England for licence to carry out works in buildings where bats are present.

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A new chapter begins at Basing House

It sometimes feels like it has taken for ever to get the project off the ground.

There were, inevitably, a number of hoops to jump through – feasibility studies, surveys, consultation, planning permission and scheduled monument consent, fundraising, commissioning special skills, and more.

Path laying outside the Great Barn

Path laying outside the Great Barn

The numbers of specialists involved has grown too. They include architects, exhibition designers, project managers, quantity surveyors, engineers, ecologists, archaeologists, archivists and marketing experts.

It was with some relief then, and a real sense of achievement that after about three years of  hard work, with funding and all the necessary permissions in place, the contractors at last began work on site on 1st September!

Groundworks

Happily we have so far been blessed with good weather too, so progress on groundworks (paths, drains, conserving brick remains, etc.) has been good.

Barns and Stables

Work on converting barns and stables is scheduled to take place in the spring to so avoid disturbing the many bats hibernating in them over the winter.

Museum Refit

Staff and volunteers have also been busy stripping out the old museum exhibition:

Work begins on stripping out the museum
Work begins on stripping out the museum.

 

 

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