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FOCUSSING ON DUST Powered By Docstoc
					THE NATIONAL TRUST. VIEWS 39                                                     SCIENCE      AND TECHNOLOGY

5. Why do you think dust in historic          houses        Conclusions
might cause us concern?
                                                            Trust standards of housekeeping were frequently
Visitors were sophisticated in their understanding of       favourably mentioned but visitors clearly perceive
the impact of dust. The largest number believed dust        these to be more than just the removal of dust and are
caused physical damage to objects, the next concern         aware of the risks of over-cleaning and the profes-
was that dust encourages insect pests, followed by          sionalism needed in the care of houses and their con-
dust's effect on health - perhaps not surprising given      tents. In the face of certain popular criticisms, it is
press reports on the role of dust in causing asthma         interesting to see that each house evoked very differ-
and other allergies.                                        ent responses despite being run by th~ same organ-
6. How would you improve cleaning in this                   In achieving this, it is clear that dust and cleaning lev-
                                                            els can be used to manage visitor perceptions. The
                                                            contradiction for us is that whilst visitors' sense of his-
At all the Trust, English Heritage and Historic Royal
Palace properties involved in this study, the visitors      tory is enhanced with more dust, they also want us to
                                                            remove it!
questioned felt that historic houses didn't need more
cleaning unless they were perceived to be particularly      A follow-up questionnaire in late 2003 had new ques-
dusty, as was the case at Chastleton. Little improve-       tions aimed at getting a clear idea of the point at which
ment in cleaning was thought necessary at Calke and         dustiness becomes unacceptable to visitors. Its find-
Baddesley, where dustiness was least cited, with per-       ings will be reported in due course.    .
haps more improvement suggested at Lanhydrock. At
the English Heritage properties surveyed 10-40 per
cent said that more cleaning was needed. However,
at Chastleton up to 50 per cent of the responses
asked for more .cleaning.

Helen Lloyd, Preventive Conservation Adviser (Housekeeping), Queen Anne's Gate, and
Peter Brimblecombe, Professor of Environmental Science, University of East Anglia

The way in which we perceive dust in historic houses        Definitions and perceptions          of dustiness
influences how we manage it. Early one morning in
                                                            Discussion was initiated by brainstorming to gener-
January 2003 during the annual housekeeping study
                                                            ate words associated with definitions and perceptions
days, a wide range of property staff explored per-
                                                            of dust. The output is listed in Table 1 and the cate-
ceptions of dustiness, thus contributing to the
                                                            gories reflect those suggested by some groups.
Leverhulme-funded research project: 'Controls on
"irreversible soiling"; minimising damage to indoor         All groups chose words that described the nature of
artefacts' (see previous article).                          dust, its friability, source, composition and physics
A total of 120 staff were divided by role into six focus    and chemistry (Column 1). Words chosen by conser-
                                                            vation assistants reflected their training by conservators
groups (see Table 1), the divisions chosen deliberately
to seek differences in views between roles and func-        and daily contact with dust. Not all groups mentioned
                                                            dust in relation to conservation practice but those
tions. The logistics of the training course meant that
                                                            who did talked about what prompts the need for
the groups were large and the majority of participants
                                                            cleaning (2).
were new to the National Trust or to their role, although
some conservation advisers and conservation assis-          There was little direct comment on physical effects of
tants had longer experience.                                dust but some non-specific references to damage or
Three key topics had been identified for discussion         allergy (3). The sensation of dust was more widely
                                                            commented on though not by house managers and
but the facilitators and recorders accepted that it was
                                                            house stewards. In other groups both visual and
in the nature of focus groups to deviate into areas of
particular interest, thus provoking a rich and diverse      olfactory sensations were equally dominant (4).
                                                            Comments on the more evocative nature of dust were
output. Although focus groups are not designed to
                                                            broadly spread among all groups (5).
yield results but to gather the range and extent of
views, a number of significant themes emerged that          Ideas of perpetual and never-ending work, the relation-
are relevant to the management of historic houses.          ship of dust to laziness and obsession, unpleasant-

             SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY                                                                      THE NATIONALTRUST VIEWS 39     ·
             ness and neglect, were balanced by a sense of patina,                other visitors appreciate historic patina and authen-
I            age and authenticity.                                                ticity. A few believedthat this reflected visitors' per-
I            Groups then explored visitors' perceptions of dust,
                                                                                  sonal attitudes to standards of housekeeping or their
                                                                                  depth of appreciation of historic context.
             particularly the way that staff interpreted visitor com-
             ments. Groups felt that visitors took a more general                 Some groups explored the distinction between dust
             and less detailed view, and that staff might see dust                and dirt as shown in Table 2. The conservation assis-
    ,.       where visitors couldn't. The advisers' group noted                   tants identified common sources of dust, from brick,
    I        that visitors gave less feedback      on dust and dirt than          clothing     and soot to bat,         cobwebs     and woodworm;
             on light levels, and perceived a need to re-educate                  these all fell into the broader categories defined by
    i        visitors who expect propertiesto be too clean.                       advisers.

-            Other groups believed that room stewards' personal
             views sometimes coloured their reports of visitors'
                                                                                  Consequences             of dustiness

             desire for cleanliness. Nevertheless the groups iden-                Most groups acknowledged that there are two differ-
             tified differences in the way that some visitors appre-              ent consequences of dustiness: potential damage to
             ciate properties appearing sparkling and shiny, while                historic materials, and impact on visitor experience.

             Table 1
    I               Word Types        1 Nature of dust:           2 Conservation             3 Effects          4 Sensation        5 Evocative
                                   technical/physical             Practice                                      of dust            expressions

                                                                                                            -                                  -
                 Property and         Bitty                                                                     Darkness           Age
                 other managers       Brown clouds                                                              Irritation         Atmospheric
                                      Dirt                                                                      Mustiness          Idleness
                                      Granular                                                                  Sneezy             Pretty
             -                                                                                                   -
                 Conservation         Dirt                        Vacuum cleaner             Allergy            Grime              Housework
                 advisers and         Dry                                                                       Grubby             Laziness
                 conservators         Evidence                                                                  Smell              Neglect
                                      Gritty                                                                                       Obsession
                                      Stormy weather                                                                               Phi lip Pullman
                                                                                                                                   Uncared for
               Curators and           Loose                       Depends on                                                       Age
               conservators           Not cemented                house/family                                                     Lazy
                                      Visitors                    Dust not required                                                Patina
                                                                  Volunteers feel                                                  Tired
                                                                  visitors want                                                    Unclean

                 House managers       Ash, Cobwebs                Books                                         Dullness           Death
                                      Dirt, Fibres                (collections)                                                    Decayed history
                                      Finger marks                Visitor complaints                                               Never-ending
                                      Grit, Hair, Insects                                                                          work
                                      Mud, Pollen
                                      Pollution, Skin, Soot

                 House stewards       Bits, Building works                                                      Grime              Damage
        11                            Dead skin cells                                                           Obscuring          Menace, Messy
                                      Dirt, Dust, Grit                                                          things             Never ending
                                      Pollution                                                                 Sneezing           Nuisance
                                  -                                                                -
                 Conservation/        Abrasive, Acidic            Job creation               Allergy            Dirty              Authentic
             - housekeeping           Alkaline, Building          Reminder of                                   Dull               Lived-in feeling
                 assistants           works, Carpets              need to clean                                 Grey               Mess
                                      Clothing fibres                                                           Musty             . Neglect
                                      Corrosive, Gritty                                                                             Nuisance
                                      Harbours/feeds                                                                                Uncared for
                                      insects, Lightweight                                                                         Unsightly
                                      Hygroscopic, Use                                                                             Unused

THE NATIONAL TRUST.         VIEWS 39                                             SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Table 2

            Conservation advisers                   House managers                    Conservation/
            "and conservators                                                         housekeeping

 Dust       Dust is dirt in the wrong place         Benign, From fire                 Light (weight), Floats in air
            Adds atmosphere to a room               Lightweight, Can remove           More acceptable, Off
            Good at CaJke Abbey                     easily, From indoors, From        clothes, Easier to remove
            Gives ambience and context              clothes, Dry, 'Attractive', Can   Dead skin, Dirty sources
            Acceptability depends on                become dirt, How thick does       Becomes dust in damp
            knowledge. What is affacted by it       dust have to be before it         environment, Agent of
            Evidence eg poliens                     becomes dirt?, Dust is in the     decay, Stains, Supports
            Suggests historical authenticity        eye of the beholder               mould
            Creates patina
 Dirt       Dirt is dust in the wrong place         Mud, Thicker, Lumpy, Heavy        Wet dust, Dust stuck to
                                                    Wet/damp, From shoes              surfaces by wax, grease,
                                                    Bonds easily, From outside        fingers, Ground in esp. on
                                                    Active/reactive, Not aesthetic    porous surfaces, Nastier
                                                    Stains, Chewing gum               More difficult and
                                                    Fingernails, Finger marks         damaging to remove
                                                    Psychological                     Becomes dust in dry
                                                                                      From shoes, From outside

Conservators categorised negative qualities of dust:       age the physical problems that dust creates for the
embedded, corrosive, insect-attracting, clogging           preservation of materials.
and, more positively: reducing lightexposure and cre-
                                                           Protection against damage Many groups were
ating a protective layer. They also raised health and
                                                           concerned about the dangers of over-cleaning,
safety issues for staff handling dirty objects. Other
                                                           expressed most bluntly by conservation assistants
groups widened the discussion to include broader
                                                           with the maxim: 'dust only when necessary'. They
concepts: visual effects, consequences for presenta-
                                                           also identified risks inherent in cleaning densely fur-
tion standards, and time and effort required for
removal.                                                   nished rooms with materials in poor condition.
                                                           Technical management issues were broadly under-
Sev~ral groups explored distinctions between dust/dirt     stood: the need for matting at entrances, distinctions
that adds character and that which is harmful. They        between floor dust and airborne dust, the proximityof
identified the need to understand cleaning inrelation to   visitors to sensitive materials, and the effectiveness
the history of the house, to monitor and document the      of vertical barriers in limitingthe distribution of dust.
condition of individualobjects, to distinguish between     Control of dust needs to be considered from the car
ingrained dirt to be left and loose dust to be removed,    park through the entrance to the exit, with manage-
and to strike a balance between differing concerns of      ment restrictions on visitor numbers and even their
curators, conservators and managers.                       footwear.
                                                           Resources Most groups saw resource issues relat-
Management       of dustiness                              ing to the size and nature of a property, number of vis-
Allsix groups believed that an understanding of his-       itors, available staff and time. They identified the
toric context should influence the management of           importance of focussing on the visitor route and of
dust. They established a clear difference between the      preventing dust from migrating beyond it. Dust might
sense of disrespect invoked by lack of cleanliness and     be acceptable in cellars, attics and on top of picture
the notion of historic patina and atmosphere created       frames but not where it could be clearly seen on shiny
                                                           or well-illuminated surfaces.
by 'the dust of ages'. A few groups considered what
prompted thoughts about dust and cleaning: school          Managers were interested in the economics of man-
visits, weather conditions, fire ash on cold days, con-    aging dust and potential for reducing future remedial
flicting pressures, shortage of time and, more posi-       conservation costs. They saw cost benefit as a man-
tively, the winter cleaning programme.                     agement tool for the Trust but not part of the visitor
                                                           experience, though visitors might be interested in
Conservation assistants recognised the importance
                                                           both contemporary and historic cleaning methods.
of continuity of care from private ownership through
                                                           Other groups felt visitors were more interested in
acquisition by the Trust, and presenting the property
                                                           methods suitable for care of their own possessions.
as a house and not a museum. Managers identified
more strongly a need to manage visitor perceptions         Cleaning standards Almost every group felt that,
of dust, while advisers focused on the need to man-        effectively, they set standards of cleanliness them-

      SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY                                                          THE NATIONAL TRUST.        VIEWS 39

      selves. While managers were seen as setting broad           degree of inconsistency in attitudes will always
      policy, conservation assistants saw themselves              remain because of the richness of perceptions. The
      responding with personal standards influenced by            previous article in this issue on the subject of dust
      conservation training and by room stewards' inter-          reflects visitors' own perceptions of dustiness,
      pretation of visitor comments. Curators believed that       whereas this one highlights the perceptions of Trust
      conservators set standards, following input on pre-         staff. Interesting differences emerge: for example,
      sentation. Scientific knowledge was important to con-       staff did not mention visitors' exposure to dust, yet
      servators but they realised that standards depended         visitors fear tha~ dust may be unhealthy.
      on compromise, communication and resources.
                                                                  The focus groups highlighted a number of issues
      Some groups felt the need for a published Trust stan-
      dard; in its absence, standards were open to inter-         requiring m.anagement attention:

      pretation,.applied selectively and often driven by vis-     .      Additional resources for cleaning, especially for
      itor expectations.                                                 events
      Measures of success Successful dust control was             .      Greater use of overshoes
      indicated by compliments and an absence of com:-
                                                                  .      A defined National Trust cleaning standard
      plaints. However, personal satisfaction, a sense of
      achievement and praise from managers were also              One of the purposes of this Leverhulme-funded pro-
      important. Conservators measured success by every-          ject is to establish the optimum frequency of clean-
      body complaining equally. However, ultimately it was        ing. Visitor surveys with refined questions and smaller
      measured by the longevity of the collections.               focus groups including a wider range of staff, will
                                                                  inform future guidance for staff on whether or not to
      Conclusions                                                 dust.
      Everyone raised questions of balance when manag-
      ing dust. These ranged between balancing access,            Acknowledgements
      enjoyment and dust; balancing standards of presen-          Our thanks to all those who took part in the focus
      tation with the period of the house and the context of      groups, both Trust staff and guests from external insti-
      individual rooms, and balancing the views of different      tutions. The facilitators were Peter and Caroline
      professionals and individual team members.                  Brimblecombe, Julie Marsden, Ksynia Marko, Katy
      All groups believed that effective communication was        Lithgow and Helen Lloyd who received training from
      needed to educate visitors and contractors about the        Tim Lyon. Sarah Staniforth, Madelaine Abey-Koch,
      conservation implications of dust, and to manage per-       Caroline Cotgrove, Christine Daintith, Christine Sitwell
      ceptions of dust in an historic context. However, a         and Linda Bullock kindly acted as recorders.       .

      Joanne Hodgkins, Nature Conservation Adviser, Thames & Solent

      What's the first thing that comes into your head if you     This article provides an introduction to work on some
      read the words 'genetic research'? Playing God?             of these species to illustrate how genetic research is
      Monster creations of the chimera variety? GMOs?             helping us understand them better (see also Dorset
      DNA? Curing disease? Bet it wasn't nature conser-           Girl seeks Celtic Boy, page 23).
      vation was it?
                                                                      Rock sea-Iavenders
      Believe it or not, genetic and molecular research are
      involved in all kinds of initiative - some of these aim     As reported in Views 37 (pp 39-40), the rock sea-
      to increase our understanding of threatened species         lavenders (Limonium binervosum agg) are a group of
      and how best to conserve them. Not only is genetic          nine closely related species with numerous sub-
      fingerprinting the realm of the TV forensics expert, it's   species and varieties. As the name might suggest,
      also another tool in the nature conservation tool kit.      they grow on rock-ledges and cliffs but they are just
                                                                  as much at home on shingle banks, dune slacks, sea-
      Through its work towards the UK Biodiversity Action
                                                                  walls and the uppermost fringes of saltmarshes. Almost
      Plan (BAP), the National Trust is associated with a         all rock sea-Iavenders are endemic to Britain and
      small number of genetic studies. All the species con-
                                                                      Ireland: that is, they occur nowhere else in the world!
      cerned are, or are closely dependent on, Priority
      Species in the UK BAP for which the Trust is the lead           The problem with rock sea-Iavenders is their complex
      partner.                                                        taxonomy   -   the nine species   which form the group


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