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Gyr Falcon Debacle

November 28, 2013

We’ve had a hectic two days here at Cragside. John, our regional conservator, and the whole house team have been carefully removing an enormous piece of Hancock taxidermy from its stand, and removing the glass case.

 

John and Paul

John and Paul

 

Initially the idea of doing the whole operation was to replace the glass in the case as it seemed to have deteriorated to a point where we were worried about the atmosphere within the case. There was some kind of build up of grease and dust on the inner surface of the glass which we did not think would come off but as it turned out a good clean with vinegar solution has brought it up nicely. We have made the decision not to replace it after all. Hurrah.

It was a most complicated operation as the case was so large and extremely heavy, Paul (House Manager) first had to build a scaffold rig with a chain hoist. Yesterday morning we slid the stand out of its position on the Gallery and in front of the scaffold where the case was attached using straps (and some dubious looking knots) to the hoist.

First Lift

First Lift

Paul operating the hoist

Paul operating the hoist

With a person at each corner to ensure it came off the stand straight, Paul began to lift it off its stand. Once the weight was off the stand we slid the stand out from under it and lowered it down to the floor for part 2 – removing the glass case from the actual bird.

Case on floor

Case on floor

We hit something of a stumbling block when the glass case did not appear to want to come off the way we expected it to. This meant much additional lifting of the case looking for fixings. We had been right the first time however, so with the (careful)  application of 4 of our feet and some elbow grease we managed to prove it would come off. Cue the glass lifters being fixed to the sides of the case. The hoist was then (with yet more dubious knots) attached to the glass lifters and up the case went sans bird.

Rather than lifting the case completely off the bird straight away, we were advised to put it up on blocks and allow some air flow through it, just in case there was anything poisonous used in the taxidermy. It was common for taxidermists to use arsenic among other things while creating taxidermy, not something we wanted to come into contact with! We left a fan running to increase the airflow and then went for a cuppa (of course).

Sliding Bird - helpful Katherine

Sliding Bird – helpful Katherine

Dirty Glass

Dirty Glass

When we went back we removed the glass case completely, John and Paul slid the bird into a safe area out of the way of the work. The case was rested on two heavy duty stands with enough gap to get a person in under it. Paul went in first and gave it a quick clean, which proved that the issue was not serious enough to warrant replacing the original glass. I then went in and gave it a more careful clean with vinegar solution. I also gave the interior brass a coating of wax to protect it. 

cleaning the case with vinegar solution

cleaning the case with vinegar solution

By late afternoon the case was ready to go back over the bird and so began more knot tying and hoisting. Bird back under glass, we then turned our attentions to the stand which the bird sits on. It is veneered and some of the veneer around the bottom was lifted and loose. John used a special glue and a terribly technical ripped bit of cardboard to fix the veneers, and then ply wood and clamps were added over night until the glue was dry.

 

Clamps

Clamps

 

This morning John removed the clamps and we were able to start the process of getting the bird back on the stand. More hoisting ensued and pretty quickly it was as if it had never been touched…except for cleaner 🙂

Like it never happened

Like it never happened

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