We've still got a week of our Christmas season to complete, with plenty more visitors to welcome, but already I can feel many minds turning to what stands today as our 88 day deadline - on 14th March 2010 we will open for a new season, with more radical changes to the visitor experience in the house than have been seen for decades, and the deadline feels very tight! This week, we have had staff tours of the building work, and even the room guides, who know the house and its contents well, have been blown away by the scale of the work, and the range of new displays being planned. Something like 60 people are working every day on the masterplan, from stone carvers and electricians, to textile seamstresses and plasterers, all striving to complete the necessary work in time. The range of skills is dazzling, and meetings range from choosing the angle of a dog's ears on a re-carved stone sword handle, to the routing of a cable for the new lift. Although there is a huge amount still to do, scaffolding is coming down in some places; in the garden, the restored stone sphinxes are emerging from under their protective roofs.

On top of the building work, the collections team mentioned the other day that there is more furniture and art away in conservation studios around the country, than ever before, all to ensure that the works of art are fit for future decades of visitor enjoyment. They will slowly re-appear at Chatsworth in the new year, and wait expectantly to take up their positions in the new galleries and restored rooms. And to make sure visitors enjoy what they see, there is the new guidebook, mini-guide, audio-visual tour, signage, room cards, guides training, story-telling practice and school tours and materials to work on and complete.

Other colleagues and I will keep updating the blog with news from the masterplan, as we race to beat the clock and present this 'new' Chatsworth to our visitors in 3 short months' time.

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