Volunteer enthusiasm for the annual spring cleaning of the Museum was so great this year that I was turned away at one point! That has more to do with the logistics of space, safety and number of available experts, however, rather than the amount of cleaning that has to be done. And what cleaning! Where else can we hang from 15th century rafters and waft at even more historic spiders, all in the name of smartening things up? Certainly not on my estate.
I wasn’t allowed to tackle ‘my’ volunteer rest room (so described in my head because I cleaned it last year and have been proprietorial about it ever since – yes, that scowling woman who disapproves of you and your sandwiches is me!) and was told I was cleaning porcelain. I briefly considered offering to take it home and put it in my dishwasher but was told that wasn’t allowed either. Then the fear set in. Supposing I dropped it! However, under the watchful gaze of Valerie, Pat and I were soon handling priceless historic Wedgewood, clearing cabinets shelf by shelf, dusting carefully with an appropriate brush and returning it exactly as before.
I have the average woman’s delight in nice pots and plates but I must confess I probably would not have spent a great deal of time in the Wedgewood Room under other circumstances. I am more of a stones and bones historian. However, to actually handle the beautiful, sometimes a little bizarre, delicate, historic material was a wonderful experience. As I dusted the famous ‘frog’ plate, one piece of a dinner and dessert service (originally 944 pieces, with a total of over a thousand hand-painted scenes of England, all made for Empress Catherine the Great of Russia) I really did do the “I wonder who has eaten off this?” thing. Then there was the commode, and the travelling commode, and the thing that looked like a travelling commode but wasn’t. It was a gravy boat….
A young Chinese man appeared at one point, before we had put up barriers. I don’t think he spoke much English but he was clearly ‘blown away’ by the Wedgewood, and I was sad for him when he was ushered away, putting up with his disappointment with great good manners.