Before the serious heat of summer struck, MDO Josh Tarrant and I travelled to Ilfracombe to undertake a conservation clean of the objects and interior of Langenbaker House. I have previously blogged about the history of this remarkable piece of Western Queensland history – moved to Ilfracombe from Barcaldine in about 1899, it was occupied continuously by the Langenbaker family for over 90 years. On the death of the last family member, the house and all its contents were acquired by the local council in order to preserve this increasingly vanishing part of Queensland’s heritage.
Situated in dry, dusty, drought-stricken Ilfracombe, keeping the house and contents clean will always be a challenge. The design of the house – timber frame with corrugated iron walls – would have allowed plenty of breeze to flow through, keeping the Langenbakers cool, but has also let in dust and pests now the house is unoccupied and not receiving the regular housekeeping attention of Mrs Langenbaker. The dust had built up over some years, so it was time to arm ourselves with vacuum cleaners and set to work.
Not only does dirt and dust detract from the appearance of objects, it also creates food and habitation for pests, which may further damage collection items. As the aim of our conservation clean was to remove these harmful agents in order to safeguard the items for the future, normal household cleaners were off the agenda, as these are often just as harmful to objects as the dirt and pests themselves. Our primary cleaning tools were vacuums with adjustable suction and micro-attachments, soft brushes, with the occasional sparing use of distilled water and cotton buds. But even these simple tools produced dramatic results. Colours became more vibrant (or even visible!), and the house took on a more lived-in feel. Mrs Langenbaker had a reputation as a meticulous housekeeper, so the appearance of the house is now more in keeping with how it was maintained during her lifetime.
Annual deep cleans are an excellent way of extending your weekly or monthly collection cleaning schedule, getting in to those hard to reach places, and giving your collection a good health check. But be prepared to put in some time – our conservation clean of Langenbaker House took five full days! Click on the images below to see some of the results.