Faced with the challenge of washing 42 windows one might think it would take at least a team of people a whole day to accomplish this task, but not when you have us on the job! Especially if those windows happen to be only a few inches in size.
Down and dirty! That is how we spent our time getting Nancy’s dollhouse to sparkle and shine, inside and out. In broad terms, the processes closely resembled the spring cleaning of a full-size house with dusting, vacuuming, mopping, and, of course, window washing. However, because of the dollhouse’s size and condition, there were some changes to the common procedure. For example, dusting and sweeping were performed with small, soft, bristle brushes and a Nilfisk variable speed vacuum with small, interchangeable nozzles. The window glass was cleaned using distilled water, in addition to Mineral Spirits, which helped remove wax residue, greasy films, and distracting paint splatter. We then brought the glass to a high shine with a microfiber cloth and more distilled water. General dirt and grime were removed from the exterior walls with white, rubber erasers before being gently wiped down with distilled water on Kimwipes and cotton swabs. These steps were also implemented on the interior walls, but only after first removing the large quantities of wax and Blu-Tack from the walls, floors, and mantels. We did this by gently scraping off large masses with small spatulas, followed by using mineral spirits and distilled water on cotton swabs when necessary.
These procedures represent the first of many steps to improve the appearance and stability of Nancy’s beloved dollhouse, so that it can be preserved and enjoyed in the many years to come in its new home at Winterthur Museum. In the coming weeks we will likely be taking on more complex challenges in regard to conservation treatment, especially when dealing with certain structural and aesthetic components of house, in addition to the large variety of materials that make up the many miniature objects that will fill it.
To read more dollhouse-related blog posts:
Post by Karissa Muratore and Amanda Kasman, University of Delaware Art Conservation undergraduates doing a summer internship at Winterthur Museum