The programme consists of members of collections department working alongside the housekeeping team making sure that everything is carefully protected, cleaned and prepared for next season. People generally think that when the house closes we enjoy a quiet period in fact it is one of the busiest times of year.
The closed season is a time when we can condition check pieces that are hard to access when the public are here and do vital work on the upkeep and preservation of the collection. Each piece of furniture has to be systematically cleaned using methods that best suit its material. Different brushes are used for gilding and woods, or very low powered netted vacuums for cloth. When clean, the furniture is covered with unbleached cotton case covers that won't transfer chemicals or dyes. These protect the furniture from falling dust when the high level cleaning of the room takes place, including cornices, panelling and picture frames.
The covers are made individually for each piece, but generally follow the same pattern, as the case cover itself can prove to be damaging. All the seams are on the outside so they don't catch on any upholstery or mouldings and at least two sides are tied instead of a seamed. This prevents having to pull the cover on as this may abrade the surface of the object. For the same reason the covers are kept loose fitting. All the covers have two labels, one with the name of the piece of furniture and a second for the room. This means that if an object is moved the second label can easily be replaced. A log sheet also ensures that the covers are kept safe, ready for use the following year.
When the room is fully cleaned the covers are all removed and stored. The room is returned to its former splendour and ready for another season as if nothing had ever happened.