Hinemihi Maintenance Day

Vanessa Applebaum

For the past 12 years, UCL conservation students have travelled to Clandon Park to assist the National Trust with the care of Hinemihi, a 19th-century whare nui (Maori meeting house) originally from New Zealand. The Hinemihi kaitiakitanga (Hinemihi Maintenance Day), has become an annual tradition at Clandon Park,and is an event that allows us to gain experience with both preserving heritage buildings, as well as with public engagement in conservation.

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Hinemihi survived the recent devastating fire at Clandon Park and remained unharmed. Whilst the site is currently closed for public access, we were allowed a rare opportunity to work on site,  to carry out a  small scale maintenance project.  This was arranged during the first week of July and five of us were able to take part. Rev. Regan O’Callaghan attended and conducted a karakia in order to clear the way for our work to take place.  The mission this year, presented to us by Dean Sully the MSc programme coordinator,  was to clean and document the condition of Hinemihi’s historic carvings. The removal of microbiological growth (algae and lichen) is of benefit to both Hinemihi’s appearance, as well as her structural integrity.

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Our tactic for lichen removal centred first on wetting the microbiological growth, and then on the use of a combination of dental tools, scalpels, and files to clean the wood. When wetting the wood, we used a 1:1 solution of deionised water and industrial methylated spirit (IMS). This helped loosen the growth  and allowed for careful scraping, without damaging the delicate painted surface.

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Though a variety of instruments were used, my personal preference was a metal file— it provided an edge to remove the lichens, but was not as sharp as a blade, and therefore I avoided cutting into or damaging the wood. The results were very satisfying, as one could note an immediate change to the surface once it had been attended to.

One of our favourite parts of the day was teaching these cleaning methods to National Trust staff and volunteers who work at Clandon Park. Though we wish we could help with the preservation of Hinemihi more often, time and distance preclude this from happening. It is therefore very important to help train others how to carry out  conservation cleaning, so that they may continue Hinemihi’s maintenance in the future.

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We had a great time working on Hinemihi’s care at Clandon Park. For a group of (in-training) object conservators , who often focus on smaller-scale treatments, it was wonderful to expand our breadth of knowledge to include a large-scale heritage site. I can’t wait until next year!

For more information about Clandon Park and  Hinemihi, please  go to (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/clandon-park/)

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“Shorty, you’re my Darling Angel…”

Jan Cutajar

Forget Shaggy and that catchy tune, drum-roll on cue, allow us to introduce you to two fascinating objects, straight from heaven above.

Fig. 1: Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you Gabriel and Gabrielle (blandly named Angel A (right) an B (left) respectively).

Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you Gabriel and Gabrielle (blandly named Angel A (right) and B (left) respectively). Courtesy of Norfolk Museums Service, T1878333.

Well, more precisely, this stunning pair of wooden gilded statues is originally from Blo Norton Hall Chapel in the Breckland district of Norfolk. They have recently been entrusted to the UCL Institute of Archaeology Conservation Department, by Norfolk Museums Service,  as they were in need of some tender care. In this first chapter of our series on this ongoing conservation project (run by fellow MSc. Conservation colleague Claire D’Izarny-Gargas at UCL Qatar and us students in London), we shall first describe the initial condition of the angels we have come to love here at the conservation lab. So, without further ado, let’s jump into the thick of it!

Both angels had their outer gilded layer present in a state of dramatic flaking, such that the gold leaf was detaching all over the surface and uncovering the remains of earlier gilded layers. A detailed physical examination revealed that several campaigns of gilding had taken place. Further examination was not easy as the extent of surface delamination meant that handling the object was not possible without risking further surface losses. The following photos reveal the extent of this damage:

The faces of both Angel A (left) and Angel B (right) had particularly suffered from surface delamination. Courtesy of Norfolk Museums Service, T1878333.

Fig. 3: Angel B was in much worse off a state than A - note the extent of flaking as well as the acuteness of the flaking (not to mention all the dust!).

Angel B was in much worse off a state than A – note the extent of flaking as well as the acuteness of the flaking (not to mention all the dust!). Courtesy of Norfolk Museums Service, T1878333.

Fig. 4: Whilst Angel B suffered on the front, Angel B had more severe problems on its back, where delamination had taken place to reveal the various gilding campaigns, painted layers and ground layers. Although rather despairing, the deterioration allowed insights into the preparation of the object during its creation.

Whilst Angel B suffered on the front, Angel A had more severe problems on its back, where delamination had taken place to reveal the various gilding campaigns, painted layers and ground layers. Although rather despairing, the deterioration allowed insights into the preparation of the object during its creation. Courtesy of Norfolk Museums Service, T1878333.

From these visual observations, it was clear that the sensory significance of the objects was being compromised and necessitated immediate recourse. This was also since both angels were missing fingers and Angel A in particular was suffering from a fractured arm!

In the next chapter, join us as we report the analytic tests and research which were undertaken to  further comprehend the active deterioration and finally guide the treatment choices for the angels.

N.B. All photos by Claire D’Izarny-Gargas.