Last, but certainly not least, once the decant of the collections was complete, we turned our attention to William Hole’s spectacular mural scheme and decorative frieze.
Although the main hallway and ambulatory level are not intended to be used as a thoroughfare during redevelopment, additional protection was essential to guard the vulnerable surfaces of the mural and frieze from the inevitably high levels of dust that would accumulate.
Following discussions with colleagues at Historic Scotland and National Museums of Scotland, a solution was agreed upon.
The aim was to construct a series of giant dust covers for the murals using a conservation grade, lightweight fabric attached directly to the paint surface from the top edge only using a heat-activated, conservation–specific adhesive. Several tests were carried out on the painted and gilded surfaces to ensure that this would be a safe, effective and easily reversible method.
For the gilded frieze giant blinds were designed using the same fabric weighted along the bottom and attached with regularly-spaced cotton tape ties from the wrought iron balustrade at the ambulatory level.
The preparation of over 250 metres of 3 metre wide fabric was a lengthy process – from measuring and cutting to sewing and ironing on of the adhesive. It was very much a collaborative effort and we were grateful to Textile Conservation at the National Museums of Scotland for the use of a sewing machine.