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Monday, May 16 • 2:30pm - 3:00pm
(General Session: Get Ready, Get Set - Emergency Preparedness) Clandon Park - rising from the ashes

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Clandon Park Fire A serious fire started at approximately 4pm on Wednesday 29 April 2015 at the National Trust property, Clandon Park, in Surrey, England. By the next morning the fire was under control but had caused varying levels of damage from surviving rooms to complete devastation. The house contained not only significant collections related to many generations of the Onslow family but also significant loaned items, objects belonging to the Surrey Infantry Museum, an independent museum within the house, and the belongings of a resident staff member. Responding to the disaster not only involved the immediate efforts by Surrey Fire and Rescue Service but also the property team’s well-rehearsed salvage plans, supported by National Trust’s own specialist advisers and external conservation advisers. In the age of social media, the importance of managing media requests was crucial but also required great sensitivity due to the risk of theft and impact of the potential losses of objects owned by the National Trust, lenders and the Surrey Infantry Museum. The access via wireless connection to the Trust’s collections management system enabled the Trust to establish the identity of salvaged objects, report on their condition and organize swift removal from site to safe storage. Due to the high-quality solid brick construction of the building it has survived the fire with only a few compromises to its integrity. However, due to the risk of falling material from high level, a drone was used to photograph the house and a metal cage containing members of the fire brigade and National Trust suspended via a large crane enabled immediate assessment of the structure of the building as well as any surviving objects. Despite well organised salvage plans, a review of the disaster revealed areas for improvement in the digital management of collections. The remote access to the system proved sporadic due to the large amounts of information transferred over the wireless connection and at times poor connection to the internet. Co-ordination between four sites – the burning building, the salvage areas on both the east and west lawns, the school used as the immediate salvage area and the central office proved challenging in terms of updating information and establishing not only the systematic removal of objects but also developing immediate plans for the salvage of contents, architectural features and fittings within the house. Since the fire, a project team supported by wider internal and external expertise has been developed to focus on the stabilization of the building, the salvage of material from within the house, prioritization of the collection conservation, liaising with stakeholders, press and social media. A significant challenge has been the management of potential contaminants within the building and debris. After the fire, National Trust Director General Dame Helen Ghosh made the statement that [we will] ‘rebuild Clandon Park in some shape or form’. During the coming year, the options for the future of Clandon Park will be considered with all the challenges that these might present: significance, authenticity, audience, context, relevance and interpretation.

avatar for Christine Leback Sitwell

Christine Leback Sitwell

Paintings Conservation Adviser, National Trust
Christine Sitwell received a Master of Science in Art Conservation from the University of Delaware/Winterthur Museum in the United States. Subsequently she was awarded a Smithsonian fellowship for an internship in the conservation department at the Tate Gallery, London. In 1990 she... Read More →


Sophie Chessum

Curator/Consultancy Manager, National Trust
Sophie Chessum received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of East Anglia and a Masters degree in Computer Applications for Art History from Birkbeck College, University of London. Whilst at Birkbeck College, she was an intern at Christies in the Books and Manuscripts Department... Read More →

Monday May 16, 2016 2:30pm - 3:00pm EDT
Room 710 A