I thought a lot over Christmas whether to have any resolutions this year since they usually involve some kind of extreme activity, like running a marathon in 3 months. So I decided 2013 is time to be more relaxed about another year and just resolve to have more fun and do more of the things that I enjoy. Over Christmas I finished off the work for my first semester of my Masters, and some mini projects for my photography course, so now I have a few days free before the next university term starts again.
I started volunteering as a conservation project assistant at Mount Stewart, a National Trust property last week. They are going into the second year of a three year project to renovate the house and carry out essential building maintenance so more of the property can be opened to the public. I thought this sounded really interesting, especially as I haven’t done conservation work with house contents before, and I wasn’t wrong! I spent 4 hours unpacking boxes of books which on the surface sounds like a pretty dull way to spend your day off. But it was a pretty impressive collection of books! Having been on a tour of the house several times I was surprised by the sheer number of books that came out of one room, and concerned that the storage room would never hold them all. There was everything from political biographies, books on horse racing, to maps of Europe from the early twentieth century. As I was unpacking the books the edges of letters would appear from between the pages, we even found an album of holiday snapshots from Majorca in the 1950s, with beautiful black and white images of an unspoilt coastline. I struggle with the idea of borrowing rather than buying books these days, it must be even more difficult to restrict ownership when you have a much larger family property and enough space to keep them all. Many of the books appeared to be gifts from visitors and acquaintances judging by the letters inside, that in itself would make a fascinating study of who gifted each book and why. After four hours I had completed a whole row of floor to ceiling shelving and saved myself a visit to the gym! This project really interests me because I’m learning about different methods of conservation, getting a sense of satisfaction at having achieved something with my spare time, and because I’ll be working with different objects and volunteers every week.