The days are really racing by now, it feels like we just got back after Christmas but that was three weeks ago now and we are almost at the point of beginning to open up the rooms and set up the displays ready for opening to visitors on February 14th.
The first 9 days we are open is the Northumbrian school half term week. We open the property for free during that week, but as it’s so early we only open the ground floor of the house. While our visitors get to see some of the most historically important rooms like the Library and Dining Room, we will be beavering away upstairs getting the last rooms uncovered and set up.
This season we aim to have new children’s trails for each school holiday period as well as a varying range of family learning activities, to encourage families to return to Cragside numerous times over the year and experience the estate through the seasons.
The whole house will be open from February 24th. During term time we run school visits up to 1pm at which point the house opens to the public, but during school holidays and weekends the house opens from 11am. To check our opening times for the specific date you’d like to visit, please visit our website http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cragside/opening-times/
We’ve been back at Cragside after our Christmas break since Monday of this week, so I thought maybe now would be a good time to look ahead at what we have planned for 2015.
The headline news will of course be the return of the Dining Room carpet from the textile conservation studio in Norfolk. We expect the carpet to return around the end of March, although it will not be unrolled any earlier than April 20th, after the school Easter holidays.
We are also having a new drugget made for the Dining Room (a drugget is the carpet that visitors walk on, which sits on top of the original carpet) which will involve the newly conserved carpet being photographed and the image printed on a room sized mat. This will mean that although visitors won’t be able to walk on the original, they will at least see all the work that has gone into conserving it.
When the company who will do the photography can fit us in will also have an effect on how soon the room can be completely reinstated. I’ll keep you updated as we know more details of this.
We will also get the Slave Girl back from her trip to America and London where she was loaned to take part in an exhibition on Victorian sculpture. We expect her to return in May to take up her usual position on the main stairs.
The property raffle last season raised almost £12,000 to put towards light control. We hope to have these new measures in early on in the season to improve the visitor enjoyment as well as the conservation of the collection.
I can’t think of any other planned works for 2015, although there will no doubt be some unplanned ones as we go through the year!
You may remember a post earlier in the year about the conservation work which was about to take place on the Dining Room carpet. If you missed it then you can check it out HERE.
The carpet has now been at the Textile Conservation Studio in Norfolk for almost 10 months and as we’ve recently been down to see it being worked on and get a progress report, it seemed a good time to update you all on the work that has taken place so far and what is still left to do.
- The first task for the conservation team at the textile studio was a through clean. The carpet had been extensively vacuumed front and back before it left Cragside, but a deeper wet clean and “tamping” (a process of agitation which loosens dirt caught deep within the pile) was needed. The team took time lapse images of this work being carried out which we hope to be able to share on the blog soon.
- Old adhesive repairs made with shellac and latex have been removed.
- conservation work has begun on the pile to catch in loose threads and make good any poor quality previous attempts at filling in the most worn sections. Where any previous repairs are unobtrusive and not causing any undue stress on the original carpet, the conservators have recommended that they be left. Initially it was expected that the carpet would require 10-15 different colours of yarn to be hand-dyed to match the carpet. The studio have now dyed yarns in more than 70 colours to suit the way the carpet has faded in different areas!
- The underside of the carpet is having a new linen tape (about 4 inches wide) to stabilise the edges.
We are still hoping to have the carpet back at the end of March, although the full reinstatement of the room may not be for some weeks after that depending on our opening hours over the school holidays around then.
In the middle of the 2014 season we loaned out a bronze sculpture by John Bell which we know as the Slave Girl. She was loaned to the Yale Center for British Art in Connecticut for an exhibition titled Sculpture Victorious: Art in an Age of Invention, 1837–1901.
Martina Droth, Curator of Sculpture for the YCBA said “One of the reasons we were so eager to borrow this work is because we wanted to juxtapose it with a related statue, the Greek Slave by Hiram Powers – this is an extremely famous American work which was shown at the Great Exhibition 1851. John Bell’s statue appears to have been made as a direct response to the Greek Slave, commenting directly on the American slave trade, a subject that Hiram Powers evokes but does not explicitly address.”
While Hiram Powers’ statue is very familiar in America, John Bell’s Slave Girl (or American Slave as is apparently her official title) is virtually unknown and forces the exhibition’s audience to reconsider the Greek Slave.
The sculpture has now completed her time at YCBA but will travel with the exhibition to the Tate Britain in London, before finally returning to Cragside mid-2015.
LUX – an art exhibition for 2014 at Cragside, begins on Tuesday 6th June. There will be a number of pieces across the estate and in the House which have a theme of light and innovation to fit with out property theme this year, Bright Ideas.
Dan Fox, one of the artists whose work will be displayed in the House as part of LUX has made a video to show the work in progress, which I thought would be nice to share as a preview of the exhibition.
It’s the Easter school holidays here in Northumberland, so the House is open from 11am-5pm every day until Tuesday 22nd April.
We have several activities for children planned, including the Science Quest (available from the gift shop, £1), the Bright Ideas house quiz (available from House reception, 50p) and the Easter Egg trail (available Good Friday-Easter Monday from the Visitor Centre between 10am & 3pm, £3) with a Cadbury’s chocolate egghead on completion.
As the new season has just begun it seems a good time to talk about the various volunteering opportunities Cragside offers.
We rely on an army of around 200 volunteers to keep Cragside going. They help us in a myriad of ways but by far the most volunteer are needed to open the House. We need between 8 & 10 volunteers every day (and on weekends we need two lots of 10!)
We have a volunteer Recruitment Evening planned for Thursday 24th April. It starts at 6.30pm and will continue until 8pm at the Visitor Centre, on a drop in basis.
We will be recruiting for all departments, so if you or anyone you know may be interested in volunteering at Cragside the evening will give you a fantastic chance to see what opportunities we have on offer. Please join us!
Each department will have a stand displaying the available roles and there will be members of staff there to talk through the opportunities with anyone who’d like more information.