When conservation becomes the top priority…

… the visitor experience can suffer. At Knole, the conservation of its generations of treasures, many of them gifts or ‘perks’ from the royal palaces, is an urgent matter. Proudly shown off to visitors for centuries in this draughty, unheated Tudor and Jacobean palace, they are at the mercy of pests, mould and mildew.

To try and halt the decline, the National Trust is testing a new conservation heating system. Unobtrusive electric mats will be placed under the carpet, and only be activated when the humidity gets too high. The mats, waiting for their final installation, are the large orange rolls on the floor to the left.

But to ensure that the system's effective, the test room needed to be sealed off from the rest of this draughty house. Stud walls have been put up in the Reynolds Room, and the original plan was to clad them in white polythene to create a moisture-proof barrier.

But when the Trust asked us how they could interpret the work being done, and improve the experience for visitors during this year-long experiment, we thought we could do better. We photographed the walls at ultra-high resolution (more than 200 megapixels for the longest wall), and created seamless images of each entire wall to be printed at almost life-size on hard-wearing vinyl.

With the vinyl mounted on the stud partitions, the effect is uncanny. The room looks almost exactly as it did before the work began. This work-in-progress panorama shows the room with the vinyl installed, but before the laying of the heating mats and the return of the carpet and some of the furniture. We'll also be adding some interpretation of the problems – and the work being done to counteract them – on the bracing frames by the windows.

Our thanks to the National Trust team at Knole and Lord Sackville for their kind permission to feature the room on our web site.

Find out more about Knole.

Vinyl printing by Street Graphics, Bethersden, Kent.

Stud framing and vinyl installation by Colnet Builders, Sevenoaks.

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