When I’m Cleaning Windows

Arguably one of the most dramatic displays in the National Museum of Scotland is the Window on the World. There are objects of all varieties suspended at great height and all angles to give the visitor a taste of the collections on offer in the galleries beyond.

Many may marvel at this great feat of design and engineering. However, the Collections Care team took a slightly different perspective when asked to give it a spring clean.

Conservation of the Window on the World gallery at National Museum of Scotland
Conservation of the Window on the World gallery at National Museum of Scotland

There are over 850 objects displayed on the Wall, including a four-seater bicycle, an elephant’s skull and a gyrocopter. That’s not to mention the seven sewing machines, ten giant spanners (with a combined weight of over 40kg), 19 fish (including 5 fossilised ones) and 29 candlesticks.

Cleaning Window on the World gallery National Museum of Scotland
Conservation of the Window on the World gallery at National Museum of Scotland

This task was a little outside of our normal day jobs. We’re more usually found making sure there aren’t any wee beasties eating the collection, and ensuring light and humidity are just so, to preserve the collections.

Conservation of the Window on the World gallery at National Museum of Scotland
Conservation of the Window on the World gallery at National Museum of Scotland

What we needed was a team with different specialist knowledge. We spoke to our team of Conservators who prepared all the objects for display. To clean them we needed to know a bit about them; did they have repairs or other weak points, what is their surface texture like, how well will the dust stick? The fish are surprisingly rough skinned, and took a lot of careful brushing to remove dust from the surface. Fortunately, other objects were easier to clean, although for many the obstacle was height.

Conservation of the Window on the World gallery at National Museum of Scotland
Conservation of the Window on the World gallery at National Museum of Scotland

This is where our Support team played a vital role in providing access with their scaffold tower. The team built and moved the scaffold and cleaned structural parts of the Wall.

Conservation of the Window on the World gallery at National Museum of Scotland
Conservation of the Window on the World gallery at National Museum of Scotland

We also had electricians on hand to replace broken light bulbs. Now the objects are all clean and you’ll also be able to see them better.

Conservation of the Window on the World gallery at National Museum of Scotland
Conservation of the Window on the World gallery at National Museum of Scotland

The final part of the team, but one of the most important was our Displays Manager who co-ordinated us all. But our biggest thanks go to our visitors who put up with the disruption when we closed parts of the galleries to undertake this work. If you see us out and about cleaning in the galleries please stop to say hello and ask us what we’re doing.

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