In 2019 we were pleased to welcome Michael Sutherill to Little Hall as our new curator. Michael, now retired, was formerly a curator with the National Trust and prior to that an Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings with English Heritage.
Michael is supporting us in delivering a project to remove mould from the books in the Little Hall library. The books were collected by Thomas and Robert Gayer Anderson, former owners of Little Hall, during the late 19th and early 20th Century. Michael’s past work with the National Trust is proving useful as he has dealt with mould issues at a number of Trust properties.
The mould outbreak at Little Hall was brought about by poor air circulation in the gap between the books and the back of the bookcase. Without air movement mould, which is present in the atmosphere, settled on the books. If not removed the mould, which lives off organic material, including the leather, paper and fabric of which the many of books are made, will weaken the structure of the books and stain their covers and pages. It can also have a detrimental effect on health.
The specialist conservators involved in cleaning the books wore protective clothing, including face masks, to prevent inhalation of mould spores. The attire gives them the appearance of someone out of a science fiction film.
The books will be packed by the conservators into sealed containers prior to transportation to a conservation studio. On arrival each book will be placed in a special extraction cabinet which gently draws the mould from the books’ surfaces. This method reduces the risk of damage to the books which even gentle cleaning with brushes could cause.
Following removal of the books the bookshelves will be cleaned with a mixture of industrial methylated spirits and water which will destroy the mould spores. Panels on the bookcases which restricted the air flow will be removed.
The project will be completed in April 2020 during which time the library may be closed. On completion over 1000 books will have been cleaned. Importantly the future of the books, which demonstrate the Gayer Anderson brothers’ interest in art, history, architecture and poetry will be be secured. Little Hall house and garden will be open again on Saturday 28th March after the winter closure.