Meet the Conservators
On Saturday, 11 February conservation experts from across the Royal Household will be on hand throughout the State Apartments and St George’s Chapel to share their extraordinary work with visitors in Windsor Castle’s first conservation open day.
Through film footage, live gilding demonstrations and special displays of items from the Royal Collection, visitors will gain an insight into the behind-the-scenes work that goes into conserving and maintaining the interiors and works of art at Windsor Castle. Throughout the day, conservators will show visitors a range of highly skilled techniques, from the newest digital technologies to practices that have remained unchanged for centuries.
In the magnificent setting of the Grand Reception Room, visitors can watch gilding conservators apply the delicate gold leaf that they use to gild tables, chairs and picture frames in the Royal Collection, while in the Waterloo Chamber visitors will discover how ceramics experts repaired a porcelain vase broken into 34 pieces by a housemaid over 100 years ago.
Paintings conservators will be on hand to explain the science behind their work, from using digital microscopes to magnify paint surfaces to creating 3D laser-modelled supports for paintings. Paper conservation experts will discuss how they examine and mount drawings by Canaletto ready for display, and bookbinders will describe how they turn whole hides of leather into bindings for books, such as those presented as official gifts during State Visits.
More than one million visitors walk through the State Apartments at Windsor Castle each year, and carpet experts will reveal how they create the exact replicas that save the historic carpets from wear and tear, while upholstery restorers demonstrate their work to repair light-damaged silks by hand.
In St George’s Chapel, archivists will show visitors wax seals from medieval manuscripts before and after conservation as well as conserved books from the Chapter Library. Stone conservators will describe how they clean and care for the Chapel’s medieval carvings, and banners in the Dean’s Cloister will describe the process of caring for and repairing the Chapel’s stained glass windows and leadwork.
Families visiting the State Apartments can find out about the manufacture and conservation of medieval armour from a mail armour craftsman, and in the Castle’s State Entrance children can dress up in replica armour to see how it felt to be a medieval knight. In the Castle’s Moat Room, families can try their hand at making a 3D model castle and try on replica medieval costumes.
Until 24 March, visitors to the Castle will have the exceptional opportunity to view the Sobieski Book of Hours, on display in the Queen’s Drawing Room in the State Apartments. Part of the Royal Collection, the Book of Hours is a beautiful and rare example of a Gothic illuminated manuscript, and cannot be permanently displayed for conservation reasons. Dated around 1420, the book contains over 400 richly decorated narrative scenes depicting Old Testament stories and events in the life of Christ.