Caring for Hinemihi

Katie Cook

On October 13, the new intake of MSc conservation students undertook their first field work expedition to work on Hinemihi at Clandon Park.

Hinemihi is a wharenui, or Maori meeting house, built in 1880 in Te Wairoa, on the North Island of New Zealand by Ngati Hinemihi people.  Following the devastating eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1866, Hinemihi was purchased by the fourth Earl of Onslow, and relocated to the gardens of his home at Clandon Park in England, now managed by the National Trust. In 2015, Hinemihi experienced another devastating event with the fire that destroyed the Palladian Mansion at Clandon Park.

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Hinemihi at Clandon Park nowadays.

Fortunately, Hinemihi was left undamaged by the fire, and this MSc student fieldwork is part of an ongoing effort to maintain Hinemihi as a living building. Our work was guided by Maori protocol, supported by Te Maru Vice-Chair Sam Callaghan, and within the conservation protocols of the National Trust.  On this outing students carefully removed microbiological growth (MBG – lichen & algae) from the exterior carvings of Hinemihi in preparation for the winter cold. Since Hinemihi is outdoors, MBG can retain water and increase the damage caused by frost when the temperature rises and falls during the winter months. It doesn’t hurt that removing green and grey growth from the carvings allows Hinemihi’s beauty to shine through as well!

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Getting set up for the day!

In order to carefully remove MBG without damaging the carvings or removing the flaking paint, students used a variety of tools: scalpels, bamboo skewers, dental tools, cotton swabs and deionised water and brushes.

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It was a bit crowded since we could only reach so much of the outermost carvings without a ladder.

Although we didn’t have time (or ladders) to reach every surface, Hinemihi certainly looked better when we left and the conservation students will certainly be visiting again to help care for Hinemihi. Look out for upcoming blog posts on the subject!

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Before and after: With less lichen and algae, Hinemihi should endure the winter weather much better.

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