My name is Sadie Scott; I am a conservation assistant at Hardwick Hall. This means that I am one of the ground troops, the first line of defence in a war the National Trust has been fighting since before I was born.
It’s a secret war. So secret that most visitors don’t realise it is happening, but every property is a battleground. Some are winning the war, some are in retreat for the moment, but we are determined to prevail against our enemy, however long it takes.
‘Who is this enemy?’ you ask. Well, you all know it: indeed, you may battle with it yourself. Our enemy is D.U.S.T.
I don’t know what the acronym stands for (maybe Destructive Undercover Surface Terror) but I do know that D.U.S.T. is a sneaky foe. Coming into our houses in the guise of clothes fibres, skin and hair fibres and dirt from outside, D.U.S.T. agents cover all of our objects, turning them grey and lifeless.
What people don’t realise is that as well as making things look unpleasant, D.U.S.T. is secretly undermining all of our beautiful objects. D.U.S.T works on the objects it lands on, weakening the fibres and attracting the agents of its sister organisation P.E.S.T. Where the atmosphere is slightly damp, it holds position, sticking to the objects and making it nearly impossible to remove.
The war against D.U.S.T has been fought for generations, so we have a number of weapons at our disposal. First and foremost are the vacuum cleaners. In the past, brooms were a sufficient weapon, but as there are more visitors to our properties, more D.U.S.T. agents can infiltrate our defences, so a stronger weapon was developed.
Brushes and dusters are used for close-combat with D.U.S.T. agents on specific objects, and we also use sneak tactics, such as the mats at the entrance to the hall. These usually trap the larger D.U.S.T. agents and hold them there until their threat can be ‘neutralised’.While the D.U.S.T. forces number in their uncountable millions, Hardwick’s war against D.U.S.T. is fought by just five individuals. This highly trained crack team wield their weapons daily to push back the enemy forces, knowing that small teams like themselves are waging a similar war across the country.
The enemy is insidious, its numbers are huge, and it multiplies constantly. We are never going to completely destroy it. We can only hope to keep fighting and reduce the strength of D.U.S.T.
The battles continue to be fought; the war is yet to be won.