Spring Cleaning in the Library Attic

March 27, 2024 | Treasure tales and archive snippets | 3 minute read

Last year we experienced the most unfortunate intrusion of several pigeons gaining access to the Library Attic Corridor through its internal gutter. Ryan Mills (Facilities and Security Manager) and Laura Nuvoloni (Manuscript Curator) explain what’s been happening since…

The birds caused a considerable disruption, badly soiling the space and spoiling many of the books that had been cleaned so carefully and thoroughly by the splendid team of the Holkham volunteers a couple of years ago.

It is well known the danger of breathing-disease insurgence when one is exposed to the dust created while cleaning pigeon’s droppings. Nevertheless, armed with protective masks and gloves, the Housekeeping Team of the Hall made a wonderful job in cleaning and disinfecting both the floor and the shelves, and Laura spent a considerable time in removing droppings and stains from the books as much as possible.

We could not reach, however, the recess between the sloping roof and the back of the shelves on both side of the corridor. The persistence of an unpleasant lingering smell in the corridor and a closer inspection made clear that we needed to take action, the sooner the better!

On suggestion from Jon, Laura called upon the expertise of Breckland Industrial Ltd. to assist us in this difficult task and the cleaning of these hidden spaces took place in February. Having spent a day removing books from those shelves with Pete and Laura, Ryan closed off any entry to the gutters from pigeons with wire cages, removed the back from two sets of shelves to provide access to the recesses, and added extra wooden cover boards behind the bookcases to protect the books that remained in place. In doing so, he uncovered a hidden note from a Treasure Hunt in the past…

As soon as all areas were secure, the cleanup begun: the boys of Breckland Industrial made a brilliant job with the dry cleaning of the mess, nests and eggs followed by some gentle disinfecting and wiping of the affected areas making sure that the process did not create any damp that may affect the books in the future.

In the process they ironically recovered this old pamphlet from behind the shelves:

And they carried out the job within less than two days of work!

We waited another month to allow the corridor’s climatic condition to stabilise before giving a final cleaning to the shelves and floor and restoring the books to their rightful place in the library.

The Library Attic Corridor is once again ready to welcome the Holkham Hall visitors just in time for Easter!

With many thanks to all involved!

Back to Journal Back to Journal

Related journals