Visitor-Fluff index, Bean-bags and Improvisation
So much for thinking things would calm down once Secret Egypt was launched…. The place is heaving, which is great, but the resultant fluff-balls are trying very hard to get the better of us – and it’s not as if there’s hundreds of woolly coats and scarves around to shed in this weather. I’ve noticed for a while that the Eliot piano in the old foyer needs dusting daily when we have families queuing nearby to get into make & take sessions, but its plinth has never needed the same treatment before. And as for Secret Egypt itself, you’re talking pan-fulls of the stuff! Quite apart from other factors, with all the organic materials on display in there we don’t want to encourage insect pests – which love to eat fluff, hence my ‘interest’. I’ve not gone quite as far as trying to work out how many grammes per 100 visitors, but I could certainly make a stab at a back-up visitor count if the automatic system went down!
My role in Secret Egypt turned out to be rather different from planned, but was mostly enjoyable and, um, stimulating – to find ways of supporting previously unseen objects, which could be produced more or less on the spot from materials to hand, as many of the items could only be handled while a courier from the lending institution was present. My colleague was full-time on perspex mounts, so I got to play with plastazote foam, polystyrene beads and even cardboard tubes when some of the pots which were expected to stand firm on their own turned out not to. Conservators’ squirreling instincts came to the rescue several times over, I’ve renewed my acquaintance with the sewing machine and progressed to funny shaped bean-bags; 3D ones would have been better still in places, but there wasn’t time to ‘play’, and converting between 2D & 3D fries my brain! I just hope I’ve managed to keep the poly beads under control: one of my early projects at the archives (20 years ago) was increasing their stock of book cushions. As a result, I was looking forward to freedom from haunting by small, round, white, floaty things. I’m not just making this up – after 10 years or so of finding them every time I went behind or under, I thought I’d exorcised the last of them; but when we dismantled the benches there they still were, along with loads of fluff. Oh dear……