TSG Chapter VI. Treatment of Textiles - Section K. Supports and Mounts
Textile Specialty Group Conservation Wiki
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Copyright: 2021. The Textile Wiki pages are a publication of the Textile Specialty Group of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. The Textile Wiki pages are published for the members of the Textile Specialty Group. Publication does not endorse or recommend any treatments, methods, or techniques described herein.
- 1 Supports and Mounts
- 1.1 Introduction: Factors to consider
- 1.2 Support methods for flat textile artifacts
- 1.2.1 Horizontal mounts
- 1.2.2 Folders
- 1.2.3 Polyester film encapsulation
- 1.2.4 Stitched encapsulation mounts
- 1.2.5 Tubes used as display mounts
- 1.2.6 Shaped flat mounts
- 1.2.7 Slanted mounts
- 1.2.8 Velcro® suspension system
- 1.2.9 Vertical mounts
- 1.2.10 Pressure mounts
- 1.3 Support methods for three-dimensional textile artifacts
- 1.3.1 Horizontal Mounts
- 1.3.2 Slanted Mounts
- 1.3.3 Pole Mounts
- 1.3.4 Hanger Mounts
- 1.3.5 Flat form
- 1.3.6 Waist form
- 1.3.7 Torso form
- 1.3.8 Mannequins
- 1.4 References
- 1.5 Further Reading
Supports and Mounts
Introduction: Factors to consider
Theory of artifact support: The force of gravity is an unavoidable mechanical stress. Stress is measured as the force per unit area applied to an object. Strain is the change in shape or deformation of an object caused by stress. It is expressed as elongation, measured by percentage extension. Conservation mounts seek to reduce stress and strain on a textile artifact by providing support against the effects of gravity. See Barker (2002) and Barclay, Bergeron, and Dignard (1998) for a more thorough discussion of this topic.
Throughout this section, the following terms are used with respect to these definitions:
- Mount (noun): An object to which another is affixed or on which another is placed for accessibility, display or use. (Morris 1981, 857)
- Support (transitive verb): To hold in position; prevent from falling, sinking or slipping. (Morris 1981, 1293)
- Textile artifact : This term is used to represent any textile, including costumes and costume accessories.
Reasons why a textile artifact requires support or a mount
- The artifact is structurally weak or deteriorated. The choice of mount is commensurate with the condition of the textile artifact.
- Most textile artifacts were meant to be used, and some method of support may be necessary to help illustrate that use.
- Most textile artifacts are limp and cannot be viewed without support or a mount to maintain the desired appearance.
- To preserve the textile artifact by eliminating or reducing direct handling of the textile artifact.
- To help reduce the effects of gravity, thereby preventing or slowing deterioration.
Anticipated use of the textile artifact—exhibit, storage, transport, or study
- The same mounts can be used for storage, study, transport, and exhibit, but those solely for storage and study need not be as aesthetically pleasing.
- Mounts for exhibit must be functional, aesthetically pleasing, and not obtrusive; that is, the viewer should not be distracted by the mount.
- The mount should be designed so that the artifact is properly held and balanced so it does not move due to vibration or air currents.
- Points of support on the selected mount should be sufficient in number and properly placed so that they do not cause permanent distortion or breakage of the textile fibers.
- The mount should be designed so that handling to position or attach the textile artifact is minimized, and the artifact is not over handled to make it fit the mount.
Types of mounts
Custom-fit, object specific
- When the artifact must be measured and handled to fit the mount, make a facsimile to alleviate excessive handling of fragile artifacts.
- A skilled mount maker or a conservator is required to fabricate the mount.
- Custom mounts are more expensive and time consuming to make than generic, non-fitted mounts.
Generic, not fitted
- Support can be provided by a case, shelf, or pedestal. This can be purchased or made by a carpenter or non-conservator.
- The textile requires less handling because little or no fitting is required.
- The mounts are often basic shapes that can be re-used, reducing overall costs.
Selection of materials
- All materials used for support or the mount must be physically and chemically compatible with the materials of the textile artifact, especially those in direct contact with the textile artifact.
- All material used for support or in a mount must be evaluated for long-term physical and chemical stability in the exhibit or storage environment. Selected materials should be those with properties considered safe for use with textile artifacts. See Storage Materials
- Fabrics used to cover mounts should be of compatible, neutral colors. Fabrics should be tested for dye fastness and pre-washed to prevent dye transfer and adverse reactions to sizing and other finishing materials. Ideally, exhibition fabrics should be Oddy-tested for long-term stability.
- Selected non-textile materials should be smooth and without sharp edges to prevent abrasion or distortion of the textile artifact.
Support methods for flat textile artifacts
An example is a textile artifact lying flat on a surface in storage, on a platform or in a case on exhibit, or on a piece of furniture as it was originally used, such as a cloth on a table.
- This method requires a barrier between the mount surface and the textile artifact. The barrier may be visible, such as a piece of fabric extending
beyond the textile artifact, or invisible, such as a piece of polyester film cut to the shape of the textile artifact.
Mostly used for small textile artifacts, such as ethnographic or archaeological fragments, handkerchiefs, and samplers. A commercially made folder is usually two pieces of heavy paper hinged at one side. Sometimes the folder has a transparent polyester film insert to help hold the textile artifact in place.
- Can allow access to the front and reverse of the textile artifact, while fully supporting the textile and eliminating direct handling.
- Use ties to hold folders together and to help prevent movement of the textile artifacts.
- Always store folders horizontally to prevent slipping of the textile artifacts.
A custom padded booklet folder is lined with fabric, and may also be padded on one or both inner faces. The textile artifact rests on the fabric-covered surface and is surrounded by an ordinary window mat, or by a window mat cut to the contours of the textile. The folder allows access to the front and reverse of the textile artifact depending on how the folder is opened.
A custom window mat folder can be used for a textile artifact which can withstand stitching. A window mat is lined with a sheer fabric, and the textile artifact is stitched to the sheer fabric. The window mat is stored loosely inside or hinged into an outer folder. This mount allows direct access only to the front of the textile artifact and limited access to the reverse through the sheer fabric.
A custom sandwich folder is a folder with two window mats, each lined with
a sheer fabric insert. The textile artifact is encapsulated between the two layers of the sheer fabric. The textile artifact is obscured slightly by the sheer fabric. This mount allows a slightly obscured visual access to both the front and reverse of the textile artifact.
Polyester film encapsulation
The textile artifact is held in place between two layers of polyester film (Melinex®, Mylar®). This type of mount is good for thin, very fragmented textile artifacts which would not hold together on their own, or would be easily lost if not contained within the encapsulation. This type of mount allows visual access to both the front and reverse of the textile artifact.
- Static electricity helps hold the textile artifact in place, but can also cause fiber shedding.
- Condensation could form inside the mount causing mold growth
- The textile is not accessible for handling or sampling, unless a corner of the encapsulation is left open.
- The glare from the film can obscure viewing of the textile artifact.
- The film may become scratched and obscure the view of the artifact.
Because the encapsulating film is flexible, encapsulation may not be suitable for large textiles, or may require secondary handling support. The encapsulation can also be hinged to a mount or folder to prevent flexing. Because the textile may slip inside the encapsulation, certain textile encapsulations should not be held vertically.
Stitched encapsulation mounts
Usually used for extremely deteriorated textile artifacts, the deteriorated textile artifact is sandwiched between two tensioned pieces of sheer conservation fabric (usually polyester Tetex® [Stabiltex®]). The fabric color and type is chosen to least obscure the textile artifact, especially if it is patterned or decorated.
- Heat sealing can be used to seam pieces and finish edges.
- The three layers are attached by stitching in the voids using very fine threads, usually threads pulled from polyester Tetex® (Stabiltex®).
- Sometimes textile artifacts need to be taken apart to be encapsulated, because of their three-dimensional shape.
Tubes used as display mounts
Mostly used for lightweight flat textiles that don’t need to be viewed in their entirety. A fabric cover over batting will cushion the textile, preventing stress, and a fabric with tooth will help hold the textile artifact in place on the tube.
A suspended rolling tube may have a long textile artifact rolled onto the tube, with one end hanging free for display.
- If long enough, the textile can be rolled onto the tube without attachment, or the textile can be loosely basted to a leader cloth which is then rolled onto the tube.
- The textile artifact is secured in some reversible manner to avoid unrolling (e.g., entomological (insect) pins, stitching or Plexiglas® clips).
A rolling tube combined with a flat support: A long textile artifact may be partially rolled onto a tube, with the free end resting on a solid surface. The tube is attached to the top or side edge of the solid surface mount.
- If long enough, the textile can be rolled onto the roller without attachment, or can be loosely basted to a leader cloth which is then rolled onto the tube.
- If the tube is mounted vertically, the upper edge of the unrolled section of the textile will have to be attached to the solid support in some manner.
A textile artifact supported between two tubes: Two tubes are suspended, either from the wall or on stands, at different heights and with some space between them, and the textile artifact is laid over the tubes with an overhang over each tube.
- The textile has to be stable and in good condition, since only two areas are supported. Alternatively, a fabric sling can be used to support the textile artifact between the two tubes.
- This can be a double-sided mount, when the textile artifact is placed with the obverse draped over the one tube and the reverse draped over the other tube.
- The tubes need to be wide enough to support the textile artifact without undue stress; they can also be a wide half-tube.
Shaped flat mounts
Used mainly for unusually shaped textile artifacts, these can also be used and re-used for square or rectangular textile artifacts. Archival paper board, corrugated board, or corrugated polypropylene plastic board is cut to the exact shape of the textile artifact, or the shape with a border, and is covered with fabric, or with batting and fabric, to provide a cushioned surface.
- Mounts for large textile artifacts need a wood strainer support behind or must be made of heavier archival honeycomb board, such as Tycore® to make them rigid.
- If a horizontal mount is used the textile can simply be laid on the mount. If vertical or on an angle, the textile needs to be fixed to the mount by stitching to the mount, or with the addition of Velcro in a strategic location or by using rare earth magnets, providing the mount has a magnetic skin or strip. The method of attachment must be recorded, so the textile artifact is not damaged when removed from the mount.
Good for fragile, heavy, bias cut, knit, or heavily decorated textile artifacts. There is less gravitational stress and movement of the textile due to the support offered by the slanted mount (see Barker 2002). The textile artifact is laid on large, rectangular, fabric-covered, rigid archival board (which is sometimes padded) and the board exhibited on a slant. The degree of the angle is determined by the condition of the textile artifact and the amount of space available for the exhibit.
- If the fabric cover provides sufficient friction to prevent movement, the textile will stay in place without attachment. If the cover does not have enough friction, then the textile will need to be held in place by stitching, a Velcro hanging mechanism, stainless steel entomological (insect) pins, magnets, or another means of attachment. The method of attachment must be recorded, so the textile artifact is not damaged when removed from the mount.
Velcro® suspension system
Used for large flat textile artifacts strong enough to be supported along one side, usually the upper edge. It provides consistent horizontal support and is easy to adjust. Use only Velcro® brand to prevent problems with adhesives and always separate the Velcro® from the textile artifact by attaching it to a fabric interleaf. (Leath and Brooks 1998, 5-11).
The Velcro® is machine stitched to a fabric interleaf, which can be webbing, twill tape, fabric, etc. The interleaf is in turn hand-stitched to the textile artifact.
- Using the machine stitching holes through the Velcro/interleaf when hand-sewing better secures the Velcro to the textile.
- Align the Velcro® fabric interleaf to the verticals of the textile artifact so the textile artifact hangs straight.
- If the top edge of the textile artifact is uneven, extends above the Velcro® interleaf, or has fringe, it may be necessary to provide additional support and/or attach an additional section of Velcro®, to keep that part of the artifact from falling forward.
- The hook side of the Velcro® is attached to a wooden or metal slat with rust-proof staples or adhesive.
- Unusually large or heavy textile artifacts, and those with heavy sections can have additional Velcro® suspension systems to help distribute the weight or for support of the heavy sections.
- A dust barrier or lining may be attached to the reverse of the textile artifact to protect it from the hanging surface.
- -Use a fabric which is lighter in weight than the textile artifact.
- -Attach the lining under the Velcro® and webbing, and to the sides of the textile.
- -Make the lining for large textile artifacts wider than the textile and use pleats at the top edge to take up the excess lining fabric, so differential shrinking and stretching of the lining and the textile artifact will not cause distortion of the textile artifact.
- -Make the lining shorter than the length of the textile, so differential shrinking and stretching of the lining and the textile artifact will not cause the lining to hang below the bottom edge of the textile artifact.
Usually these mounts are rectangular, but some may be modified to echo the actual shape of the textile artifact (Perkins 1993, 47-56). They are usually used for long- term support, and the textile artifact must be sturdy enough to withstand the protracted pull of gravity. The textile must be able to withstand attachment to the mount, whether by stitching, pinning, adhesion or pressure mount.
- The placement and amount of stitching used to attach the textile artifact to the mount must provide adequate attachment and support to prevent movement of the textile artifact. See Stabilization by Non-Adhesive Methods.
- If desired, rather than attaching the artifact directly to the mount, the textile artifact may have an attached extension which is then attached to the reverse of the mount.
- -A piece of fabric large enough for half to be stitched to the top edge of the reverse of the textile artifact with half left as an extension (header). If the textile artifact requires full support, a piece large enough to provide a full lining plus an extension is attached to the textile.
- -The size of the extension and the amount of fabric needed to be stitched to the textile artifact is determined by the weight, size, and stability of the textile artifact.
- -The textile artifact is laid on the board, and the extension is wrapped to the back of the board and attached with a Velcro® hanging mechanism, or is pinned to the fabric on the reverse of the flat mount.
- -Consolidation of already fragile areas of the textile artifact may need to be done separately in order to facilitate subsequent removal from the mount.
Types of vertical mounts
- Solid mount: A rigid archival support board is cut to the shape of the textile artifact with a surrounding border, or cut to the shape of an existing frame. To provide cushioning for the textile artifact, a layer of archival-quality batting or archival polyethylene foam sheets (Volara®)may be attached to the rigid support before it is covered with fabric.
- For smaller textile artifacts, use 8-ply rag board, or corrugated polyethylene plastic board, such as Coroplast®, with the fabric cover adhered to the reverse with adhesive or stitched to itself.
- For larger, heavier textile artifacts, a more substantial panel is needed. Panels are usually constructed of an inert lightweight core material finished with smooth surface skins having an internal wood surround. The rigid support is padded, then covered with fabric which is stretched over the surface and stapled or adhered to the reverse of the panel.
- Strainer mount: A wooden strainer is made to the shape of the textile artifact with a surrounding border, or to the size of an existing frame. A fabric support is stretched over the strainer and stapled to the reverse. A dust cover is attached to the reverse of the strainer for added protection. If the additional support of a solid surface against the stretched fabric is desired, a rigid insert is constructed to fit into the strainer from the reverse. There should be a vapor barrier between the wood and the artifact support (barrier coatings are not effective).
- Double-sided mount: used for textile artifacts with patterning or decoration on both faces.
- Window mat mount: Used for smaller textile artifacts. The textile artifact is mounted between two mats with sheer conservation fabric inserted into the opening. The mats with the textile artifact sandwiched between is mounted between two pieces of glazing.
- -Sometimes it is necessary to stitch or adhere the textile artifact to the top edge of the sheer conservation fabric to prevent slippage.
- Strainer mount: The textile artifact has to be relatively stable overall, because the supports are mainly holding it in place, not helping to withstand the pull of gravity. The textile artifact is stitched to sheer fabric stretched over a grid made of twill tape or Polyester Stabiltex® ribbon, also stretched and attached to the strainer. The twill tape/ribbon provides additional support for the textile artifact, but obscures the pattern or decoration of the reverse face.
- - The borders of a textile artifact, which has either been encapsulated or attached to a sheer fabric (usually silk Crepeline® or Polyester Tetex® [Stabiltex®]) lining, are sandwiched between two layers of cloth and the cloth attached to a strainer.
- -In a case where this was used, only the fringe was encapsulated, but there were sheer conservation fabric (silk Crepeline® or Polyester Tetex® [Stabiltex®]) strips stitched to the tails of the banner for extra support (French and Gentle 2003, 123).
- Rigid mount :The textile artifact is held in place between two pieces of glazing. It cannot be used if the textile artifact has any depth, as it would either be crushed or not held by the two pieces of glazing.
- -Variation 1: The textile artifact is stitched to a sheer conservation fabric with a large border extending beyond the textile artifact, the edges of the sheer conservation fabric are adhered at the edges to a piece of glazing, and a second glazing is placed over the top, so the textile artifact is sandwiched between.
- -Variation 2: The textile artifact could also be encapsulated between two layers of sheer conservation fabric (silk Crepeline® or polyester Tetex® [Stabiltex®]) with a large border beyond the edges of the textile artifact and the edges of the sheer fabric border adhered to the glazing.
- -Free-standing mount (Bulgarella and Conti 2003, 135-141): The textile artifact rests against a solid piece of Plexiglas® glazing set at a slight slant. At the top edge of the textile artifact is a sheer fabric sleeve (silk Crepeline® or Polyester Tetex® [Stabiltex®]). A Plexiglas rod is inserted into the sleeve. The Plexiglas® rod is attached to the top edge of the Plexiglas® glazing. The sheer fabric (silk Crepeline® or Polyester Tetex® [Stabiltex®]) sleeve has an extension which is secured to the reverse of the Plexiglas® glazing.
- -Rigid mount providing visual access to reverse of artifact: Plexiglas is covered with sheer fabric (silk Crepeline® or Polyester Tetex® [Stabiltex®]). To prevent the sheer fabric from distorting as it is pulled over the edge of the plexi, it is first stitched to a “window” shaped piece of cotton. The cotton stretches over the edges of the plexi and is adhered to the reverse of the plexi. The textile artifact is stitched to the sheer fabric. A window mat conceals the cotton.
Used for textile artifacts which require overall support, but cannot be stitched, because they are painted, are too fragile or deteriorated to be stitched, or because they are so finely woven the stitching would be noticeable and/or damaging. The textile artifact is supported between a padded, fabric-covered rigid mount and a layer of glazing. Pressure to hold the textile artifact in place is provided by the glazing, which must be firmly attached to the mount either with a frame or by screwing directly into the mount.
- It is sometimes necessary to stitch the top edge of the textile artifact to the mount to prevent gravity from causing slipping and subsequent creasing.
- If the textile artifact has thicker areas, such as decoration or fringe, layers of padding will be necessary with areas cut out for the thicker areas. The thicker areas of the textile will lay into the cut-out areas of the mount preventing crushing from the glazing.
- Large pieces of Plexiglas® glazing will sometimes bow outward when framed, so it is necessary to place extra padding in the center of larger mounts so the glazing will hold the textile artifact in place overall.
Support methods for three-dimensional textile artifacts
The textile artifact is laid horizontally on a flat surface or in a case. It is good for accessories, and for extremely fragile, bias cut, knit, or heavily decorated textile artifacts that would distort when mounted vertically.
- A barrier is required between the mount surface and the textile artifact. The barrier may be visible, such as a piece of fabric extending beyond the textile artifact, or invisible, such as a piece of polyester film cut to the shape of the textile artifact.
- To provide shaping or prevent collapse, place some padding or support inside the textile artifact.
The textile artifact is laid on a rigid surface that is on a slant. This is good for bias cut, knit, or heavily decorated textile artifacts that would distort when mounted vertically.
- The rigid board is covered with fabric and may also be padded.
- The amount of slant is determined by the condition of the textile artifact and the amount of space available for the exhibit. (See Barker 2002) The amount of slant must be at an appropriate angle so the viewer can see the artifact.
- In order to insure that the artifact does not move on the mount, it will be necessary to use a napped fabric cover or auxiliary means of attachment (e.g., stitching, pinning, etc.). The method of attachment must be recorded, so the textile artifact is not damaged when removed from the mount.
A pole is inserted through the shoulders of the textile artifact. Some pole mounts may be T-shaped. For exhibition an individual pole can be suspended, or the “T” pole mounted on a stand. Good for relatively flat, T-shape artifacts with a straight shoulder/arm construction, such as ethnographic costumes.
- Usually the pole is straight, but the arms can also be shaped at a slant for slanted shoulders.
- The pole should have a wide enough diameter to support the shoulders and can be padded and covered with fabric for cushioning.
- The pole should be constructed of inert material (acrylic plastic, aluminum) or covered with a barrier material (Marvelseal®, Alumiseal®)
- If necessary, a support for the bottom of the textile artifact can be constructed of fabric-covered batting, double poles, or thin Ethafoam® or Volara® sheeting.
These are acceptable if the textile artifact is strong enough to be hung for storage, and other, more supportive methods are not feasible.
- Use well padded hangers to support shoulders, waist, and hems of the artifacts, but not too much padding as to strain the artifact.
- Use twill tapes to transfer the weight of heavy skirts, hems, or decorations to the hanger mount.
Types of hangers
- -Commercial hangers made of Ethafoam® which can be carved to the shape of the shoulders, and then padded and covered with fabric.
- -Custom made of non-reactive foam plank or paper board or corrugated polypropylene plastic boards cut to the shape of the torso and mounted over a commercial hanger or custom-made hook, and then padded and covered with fabric. This can also have the silhouette of a head and shoulders of the period of the artifact for an inexpensive exhibit mount.
Any semi-rigid material, such as a flat archival board, or a layer of foam plank, or two boards with spacers between, is cut to the shape of the artifact, padded, and covered with fabric. These are best for lightweight, not overly shaped textile artifacts.
- Some slight shaping may be possible with batting.
- Can be attached to a vertical surface, suspended, mounted on a pole, constructed around a hook or hanger, or placed on an angled or horizontal panel.
Used for a textile artifact constructed for the bottom of the body, such as a skirt or pants. A disc of wood, foam plank, or corrugated board the shape and depth of the waist of the artifact is either suspended or mounted on a pole and stand.
- The artifact must have a waist in stable condition and cannot be heavy at the hem.
- A Velcro® hanging mechanism, stitching, or pinning can be used to hold the textile artifact to the mount, but the method of attachment must be recorded, so the textile artifact is not damaged when removed from mount.
- Padding or shaping may be constructed to provide overall support to the artifact.
- Straps, such as twill tape, can be employed to transfer some of the weight of the hem or heavily decorated areas to the waist form.
Used for textile artifacts constructed for the top of the body, such as a corset, bodice, waistcoat, or jacket. It can be the top half of a commercial or custom-made mannequin. Custom-made torso forms for corsets can be made by cutting an archival tube to the height of the corset, padding to the waist size, and adding additional padding for the bust and hips.
Mannequins should be smaller than the size of the textile artifact and generally require padding and shaping as well as protective barriers between the surface of the mannequin and the textile artifact.
- Mannequins smaller than the size of the artifact ensure that the fit of the textile is not too tight, so that the artifact is not stressed or damaged.
- The prepared mannequin should be isolated from the textile artifact. Of special concern are any non-archival materials that may be present. These should be isolated as much as possible by means of barrier coatings, films, and/or layers of archival padding materials. Consider types of padding and fabric covering for the support and friction/slip they offer.
- Mannequins can rarely be used without some type of padding and/or undergarments to provide the shape of the period of the textile artifact, and to replicate the shape of the body for which the artifact was made. Padding also accommodates any distortions which the artifact may have acquired in its lifetime.
Mannequins require external support from poles or stands, or can be suspended for display. Mannequins also require sufficient internal support to bear the weight of the textile artifact.
Commercially available mannequins
Commercial hard forms made specifically archival for museums, such as those made by Wacoal, Goldsmith, Rootstein, or Gems
- A variety of body types and silhouettes are available.
- Appendages are available
- Can be cut to provide additional shaping
Dressmaker forms or dressmaker-type forms
These are made of non-archival paper mache, such as those sold as Siegel & Stockman (Proportion London)
- A variety of body types are available, but only a limited variety of silhouettes
- Appendages are not commercially available
- Can be cut to provide shaping
Dorfman Ethafoam® forms specifically archival for conservation
Other Dorfman forms are not necessarily conservation grade.
- A variety of body types and sizes are available with some adjustable components.
- Appendages are available
- Adjustable as is, and easy to re-shape with Ethafoam® additions or re-carving
- Molded hollow form mannequins
- Cast forms have been made from Kraft paper tapes, Buckram, or plaster bandages. Water-soluble adhesive coatings are activated by dipping the tape, bandages or buckram in water (Brunn 2002, 82-93). A body shape smaller than the artifact is used, and the wet form is shaped over it. Substrates may include mannequins, the human body, chicken wire and other materials.
- Inner discs may be required inside the form to maintain the shape of the mannequin, usually at the neck, waist, and/or bottom.
- When used for longer term exhibits, the form can be coated with an isolating layer such as Paraloid B-72 or covered with Marvelseal® prior to padding.
- See section on Fosshape® , for information on this heat-setting non-woven material, which has become a popular option for use in forming a variety of hollow molded supports.
- Pipe skeleton with various skins
- A skeleton made of wood, metal or plastic pipes is jointed to create a human form. The skeleton is padded out with sheet Ethafoam® or rigid Polyester® screening, usually made to the pattern shapes of the textile or a basic bodice pattern (Arnold and Bulgarella 1997, 24-31; Pledger 1990, 27-30). These have also been made with two sheets of thicker Ethafoam® plank that are each routed out to sandwich over the front and back of the rigid skeleton (Brunn 2002, 29-32).
- Custom-made Ethafoam® mannequins
- Sculpted plank style: Cut planks are glued or heat-set together, then the block is carved to shape. Can be mounted on top of a pole or around the pole and can be made with separate upper and lower body forms to be more adjustable. A shoulder support as part of the pole will keep the shoulders from collapsing, especially if the costume artifact is heavy.
- Horizontal disc style: Discs are cut into oval shapes determined by measuring the textile artifact horizontally, or measuring a form made to fit the textile artifact horizontally, at intervals corresponding to the depth of the planks. The discs are placed together horizontally and carved to make the period silhouette of the artifact.
- Vertical disc style (Brunn 2002, 71-75): A paper pattern is made to the profile of a form made to fit the textile artifact by using a bendable ruler or wire. The slab is cut to the shape of the profile, placed together vertically, and carved to make the period shape of the textile artifact.
- Intersecting or silhouette form (Larouche 1995): A front and side body shape are each projected onto Ethafoam® planks and cut out. The shapes are intersected and fitted together using slots. The reflex angles are filled in to form the necessary body shape.
- Ethafoam® Vertical flat mannequin (Flecker 2007, 217-2230): A simple torso and/or hip shape is carved from a vertical piece of four inch Ethafoam® plank or from two, two-inch pieces glued or heat set around a pole.
- Use a commercial Styrofoam or polystyrene wig mount, or an Ethafoam® head carved or purchased.
- Pole extensions at the neck, Velcro, or other means of attachment are necessary (Brunn 2002, 74; Canadian Museum of Civilization Conservation Services division 1987, 7-18).
- Make a stuffed arm or sleeve shape, and then make metal joints (Brunn, 2002, 136-137), or use joints made for stuffed animals, or insert wire to make it moveable and bendable.
- Arms need to be inserted into the sleeve of the garment before dressing the mannequin; slippery fabric coverings facilitate this.
- To secure the arm to the mannequin, strips of cloth or twill tape with Velcro® are attached to the top of the arm and the corresponding Velcro® is attached to the shoulder.
- Carve from Ethafoam®.
- Can be made adjustable for sitting with gusseted joints similar to those used for stuffed toys and dolls (Brunn 2002, 142).
- If feet are necessary, construct with heel and ankle attached to leg, and a separate foot to fit into shoe. Make the foot smaller and adjust with stuffing to prevent damaging the shoe. A “sock” can be made to join the two pieces of the foot (Brunn 2002, 107).
- Attach the legs to the case or base by using metal brackets screwed in place. Attach the legs to the brackets by wrapping with a snug muslin sleeve (Brunn 2002, 74), or use two poles which insert into the legs.
Dressing the mannequin
The textile artifact should be handled as little as possible. At least two people, and sometimes more, are needed to dress a mannequin. The mannequin should be isolated from the textile artifact with a barrier fabric that will cover abrasive or rough surfaces and act as a base for stuffing. Nylon panty hose, t-shirts, muslin, or stockinet are commonly used barrier materials. A show fabric can be attached to the archival fabric at the neck or other areas which can be seen. Shaping can be achieved with batting or Ethafoam® shapes carved to fill out anatomical features or irregularities. When the shaping is completed, it should be covered with an archival fabric overall. Consider whether a slippery, toothed or knit fabric will best suit the needs of the textile artifact. Additional shaping can be added to reflect the appropriate silhouette.
- Bustle shapes or added fullness at the hips can be achieved with batting stuffed pillows, or constructed (3D) shapes from ethafoam sheeting with twill tape ties.
- An appropriate corset of stiff fabric with or without nylon boning can provide additional support and create the desired silhouette.
- A petticoat of stiff fabric, ethafoam sheeting, or heavy nylon net can also be used to provide additional support and create the silhouette of the period. Hoops and bustles can be imitated with ribbon wire, millinery wire, horsehair braid, or surgical tubing.
- A muslin petticoat can be made to provide a protective barrier from rough or lumpy shaping pillows or underlayers.
- Undergarment artifacts alone often don’t provide enough support, but can be used as part of the shaping, if the undergarment will be seen.
- If more shaping is needed once the mannequin is dressed, use muslin or stockinet-covered batting pillows, or crumpled acid-free tissue, cheesecloth, or washed nylon tulle for stuffing between the textile artifact and the mannequin.
- Auxiliary methods of attachment such as Velcro®, stitching, magnets, or insect pins can be added. Keep records to refer to in undressing the mannequin.
- Remove arms from the mannequin before dressing, and place in sleeves of the textile; if sleeveless, replace after dressing.
Accessories can be displayed on dressed mannequins or on separate mounts. The dressed mannequin can be accessorized with accessioned objects or unaccessioned exhibit props.
- Consider the condition and safety of accessioned artifacts when choosing accessories for exhibit. Use security tabs to prevent theft of accessories.
- Consider auxiliary methods of attachment that will not damage the textile artifact, such as twill tape support straps.
- Hats or bonnets
- Use a commercial wig mount or head mount.
- Support the crown with crumpled acid-free tissue, or construct a rigid form, or a stuffed pillow, custom made to the shape of the crown.
- Cover the mount with a barrier fabric. Choose the fabric cover with the needs of the artifact in mind. A fragile lining/hat would require a slippery fabric, whereas a stable lining/hat might require a fabric that would have friction to provide greater support.
- To protect the bottom edge of hats without a brim, make the crown mount high enough so the bottom of the hat is raised from the resting surface, or use a cone or tube to raise it off the surface of the shelf or case, which will also serve as a holder for moving the hat.
- If the hat has a brim, support it with rigid sheeting, such as mat board, corrugated cardboard or plastic, or Plexiglas®. The rigid sheeting can be padded to the shape of a curved brim. Plexiglas® can also be heat shaped to fit a curved brim and can be made with a stand which can be used for exhibit. In storage mounts, the brim can also be supported with a layer of 1/4” or 3/8” Ethafoam cut to fit over the crown mount and held in place by friction or stitching.
- If in good condition, use crumpled acid-free tissue or washed fabric to hold the shape. Cover with a show fabric for exhibition.
- Make two mounts for placing inside shoes: one for toes and arch, and one for the heel section.
- A slippery fabric will make it easier to remove a custom-made form, especially if the shoe lining is fragile.
- Make loops of fabric or twill tape to help remove the toe form.
- Storage supports made of a rigid archival board, such as corrugated cardboard or plastic or acid-free foamboard, with carved and covered Ethafoam shapes to keep the shoes in position at heels and toe can minimize handling.
- Rigid fans and closed folding fans should be supported on a cushioned surface.
- Open fans should be supported with a graduated mount made to fit the size and shape of the fan, and the rise between the guards.
- If necessary to support a fragile leaf, the mount can be made of acid-free paper pleated to the shape of the leaf.
- If inner support is necessary for the fingers, use rolled pieces of acid-free tissue or washed fabric.
- If rigidity is needed, insert thin rods of Plexiglas or wire, wrapped in batting and covered with smooth fabric, in each finger.
- Insert a padded and fabric-covered rigid sheet to support the palm.
- If the purse is in good condition, use crumpled acid-free tissue or washed fabric to hold shape.
- If more support is needed, make a stuffed pillow custom made to the shape of the purse.
- If a rigid mount is necessary, custom-make a form of rigid sheeting, such as mat board, corrugated cardboard, or corrugated plastic.
- Straps can be supported with webbing or with surgical tubing.
- Parasols and Umbrellas
- If the parasol is in good condition, it may be stored vertically, suspended with tied cotton twill tape, and stabilized at the lower end on an Ethafoam® block. Acid-free tissue is used to pad out fabric folds.
- If greater protection is needed, custom make a box of corrugated plastic or archival board with supports of Ethafoam® or Plexiglas tube for the handle and tip. Boxes can be designed to support the parasol vertically or horizontally according to need. Acid-free tissue is used to pad out fabric folds. The fabric cover is loosely wrapped with acid-free tissue or a smooth, light nonwoven fabric, tied in place with twill tape.
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