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WWW.NTS.ORG.UK43?form a well established group. Joan Cairns, with 28years' service, is the veteran of the team; UrsulaDoherty, who started two years ago, is the mostrecent recruit. Their colleagues are Anne Halford-MacLeod, Margaret May, Ann Miller and ChristeenAnderson. All of them are Trust members of longstanding, and have a keen interest in sewing as wellas a wealth of experience and a commitment to theTrust's objectives. Their various skills and strengthscomplement each other well.Alison says: "They are all very dedicated andextremely skilled. As well as that, what you reallyneed in a conservation volunteer is a willingness tolisten to what's to be done, and everyone in thegroup has that. We do a variety of work, and becauseof that I can give people the kind of work that'sright for them."The women have taken part in high-profileprojects, such as helping to arrest deterioration ofthe magnificent 17th-century Flemish tapestries atFalkland Palace. Much of the time, though, theymeet the Trust's everyday conservation needs, forexample making protective covers for chairs anddisplay cases. At Falkland, for many visitors the tapestries areamong the highlights. Bought by Lord Ninian in1906, they run the length of the gallery along whichmonarchs and their courtiers once walked on theirway from the royal apartments to the chapel. "Working with the group is a chance to be useful - to do something that has always been a hobby and know that it is making a difference"Ursula DohertyThe volunteers havecarried out vital workon Falkland Palace'sFlemish tapestries,opposite. Previouspages: supervisorAlison Docherty, front,with volunteers, fromleft, Joan Cairns,Christeen Anderson,Ann Miller, UrsulaDoherty, MargaretMay and AnneHalford-MacLeod Right: work in progressin the Tapestry Gallery.Following pages: thevolunteers at Hill ofTarvit Mansionhouse,making covers for theCulzean State Bed;Hugh Sharp's bedroomat Hill of Tarvit, wherethe chair and bed curtains are examplesof the group's work

44SUMMER 2012PEOPLE?They depict hunting scenes in a forest that looksEuropean, though it shelters some exotic wildlife,such as parrots and monkeys. There are somecharming details, including a goat whose eyesappear to follow you as you walk past - always a hitwith children. Over the centuries, the tapestries'once-brilliant colours have faded and their fabric hasdeteriorated.But they remain a treasure and their future hasnow been safeguarded following months of effort bythe volunteers, supervised by Alison and with overalldirection from Sophie Younger, a specialist textileconservator. Alison is also advised by Trustconservators, such as Julie Bon and Clare Meredith,and by curator Ian Gow, who sometimes comes tospeak to the group on topics designed to help andinspire them. The six heavy tapestries at Falkland had beenhanging by metal press-studs, many of which hadbecome disengaged, and they were in danger offalling down. Each tapestry was removed - withadded muscle from the palace's gardening team -and 10cm-wide strips of Velcro were attached inorder to distribute the weight more evenly.The conservation volunteers removed dust anddirt from the tapestries using special vacuumcleaners. They then used curved needles to sew onscarcely visible fine-meshed netting to supportdamaged areas where the silk had deteriorated,exposing the warp thread. To secure the netting,patches were attached to the reverse side.Julie Bon explains: "The work that has been doneshould last at least 10 years and it has beeninvaluable. The idea that light was damaging wasnot fully understood in the past, but it is now, andwe are taking action to keep that damage to aminimum."To slow further deterioration, there is now filmover the windows facing the tapestries, whichcompletely cuts out ultra-violet light. The curtainson these windows, which are shut when the palaceis closed to visitors, have had blackout linings madeby the volunteers to increase the protection further.A telemetric environmental monitoring system, asused in about 25 Trust properties, records the lightlevel every 30 minutes, and a dosimeter, featuring asmall patch of blue wool that fades at a known rate,provides further information.While visitors enjoy the tapestries, the team whoseefforts are helping to preserve them are hard at workback at their base at Hill of Tarvit, just 10 milesaway. In the Patrons' Room, a bright first-floor"I'm alwaysmakingclothes forpeople, and I used to doshop windowdressing, so I love thiswork, andAlison is abrilliantteacher"Ann Miller