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What do a meat mincer, a Baron’s coronet and a box of Regency tassels all have in common? … Well we can tell you one answer… they are all items among the many we have in storage here at Attingham! For the past few weeks the House Team have been spending the odd free hour up in the Portico Store, as we call it, working on reorganising our collection. The Portico Store is one room right at the top of the Mansion, actually over the front Portico, in which we store some of the precious items in our collection and textile archive.

The Portico Store

The Portico Store with rows and rows of archive boxes.

Some of these items are just too fragile to be on display and so have to be carefully stored away most of the time. This includes much of the costume in our collection and delicate remnants of fabric from different periods of Attingham’s history.  Up in the store the humidity, temperature and light levels are all well controlled and provide a stable environment for sensitive items. We do however try to get things out for people to look at whenever possible. Last year the Baron’s surcoat and coronet formed a part of our “Hidden Lives” display which also saw some of Teresa, 8th Lady Berwick’s costume being brought out and displayed in the main show rooms of the Mansion.

The coronation robes on display as part of our Hidden Lives exhibition last year.

The coronation robes on display as part of our Hidden Lives exhibition last year.

Over Christmas we also took the opportuity to have some more of the 8th Lord and Lady Berwick’s costume displayed, including the 1760s sack back dress worn by Teresa as fancy dress. We are in the process of planning a new “Hidden Lives” display for the summer months which will highlight more of the fascinating objects in our collection and their stories.

The pink sack backed dress brought out for Christmas 2012 and now carefully packed away to protect it.

The pink sack-back dress brought out for Christmas 2012 and now carefully packed away to protect it.

For now though, we have been working to organise the storage space up in the Portico store. We know which collection items are up there because of the inventory system that we use. The National Trust’s Collection Management System (CMS) means that every item has an inventory number and can be electronically traced via a huge database to individual rooms in the house. This is a fantastic way of monitoring our collection of over 10,000 objects! However it becomes more complicated when we get to the Portico store which is stuffed full of boxes and objects. For the last few weeks therefore we have been carefully assessing what we have in this space and organising it into categories to make it easier to find. We are also checking for condition and inventory marks as we go and finding some really interesting things which we thought we’d share with you.

My favourite find so far has been little glass fruits believed to be c1900 Venitian glass which were carefully wrapped in bubblewrap and acid free tissue paper in one box.

Beautiful glass apple we found up in the Portico.

Beautiful glass apple we found up in the Portico.

Did you know that you can search the whole of the National Trust’s collection online by clicking here? On the National Trust Collections website you can see parts of the National Trust’s collection that aren’t on display and find out more about them.

Here at Attingham we have been organising the lighting objects up in the Portico first, finding lamps and shades and candles and putting them all in one location. This has been our first focus because shortly, we are going to use some of the objects as part of a two week display about the lighting of Attingham over the years. We will be showing all the differnt ways Attingham has been lit and getting some of our hidden treasures out of store for you to see!

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An oil lamp c1890 with a cut glass oil reserve.

As part of our lighting fortnight we will also be cleaning the Picture Gallery chandelier which has been taken down because of the Through the Roof Project.  As we were searching through one box of bits in the Portico we came across a few of the droplets from this chadelier which appear to have fallen off in 2003 but can hopefully be re-attached now.

The bagged droplets from the Picture Gallery chandelier. It's a good thing we never throw things away!

The bagged droplets from the Picture Gallery chandelier. It’s a good thing we never throw bits away!

Come along and have a look for yourself from the 13th May – 26th May as we take you through the Attingham light years and continue our work conserving the Picture Gallery and its contents as part of the Through the Roof Project.

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