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It is that time, again, when we all get slightly nervous. The glass-fronted cabinets in the Long Gallery are opened and we wonder who will be the brave person willing to step forward and move the first piece of porcelain. Now that it is the closed season, we have taken the opportunity to change the light bulbs in the cabinets. As this work can be fiddly, the porcelain has to be removed and cleaned. The shelves are then given a thorough clean before the porcelain is replaced.

Dusty shelves!

Dusty shelves!

The whole process can take a few hours per cabinet and there is a very clear system of procedure. We make sure that there is no disturbance, that there are pictures to show where each piece of porcelain is displayed, that tables are prepared, and that there are boxes padded with bubble wrap ready to receive each item of porcelain.

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Some of Apollo and the Nine Muses lined up

This time the gardeners helped us with the work. They were given a demonstration on how to move the porcelain. Emphasis was placed on the importance of avoiding fragile details, checking whether there are detachable parts and on carrying one object at a time. A pony hair brush is used to remove dust from the top to the bottom. The variety of brush used depends on the type of porcelain to be cleaned.

 The garden team cleaning the porcelain

The garden team cleaning the porcelain

The cabinet we cleaned recently contains the figures of Apollo and the Nine Muses – the only complete set on display in the world. The Muses all represent the Arts (music, poetry, drama etc.) and the figures were manufactured in the 18th century. The 2nd Viscount Bearsted, along with his father the 1st Viscount, was a passionate collector of the porcelain on display here at Upton House. Apollo and the Nine Muses look magnificent in the setting of the Long Gallery – even more so since the cabinet has had some careful attention.

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