Guideline 11.2

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Back to STANDARD 11: Exhibit Mounts and Supports

The following Standards and Guidelines are a work in progress intended to spur discussion between exhibit personnel, conservators and other museum professionals. Please check back in the future as information is added to expand on the Guidelines without currently active links.
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Guideline 11.2: Design of mounts promotes object-safety and always provides appropriate support[edit | edit source]

Why is appropriate mount design essential to the conservation of exhibit objects?[edit | edit source]

An exhibit’s design interfaces with the museum collection at the exhibit object mount. It is here that actual contact is made with the object. Therefore, the quality of this exhibit base is paramount. And while a mount can promote object safety, a badly designed mount can serve as an agent of deterioration.

A properly mounted object is well-supported and protected from slippage, jarring, and movement from air currents, vibration, and visitor activity. However, improperly designed or constructed mounts can scratch, bend, discolor, corrode, or otherwise damage an object. Support over the entire length, width, or diameter of an object often requires that the mount be padded to the object’s contour. Support is especially crucial for objects that are pliable or flexible by nature or due to advanced deterioration. Mount design must anticipate the tendency for organic materials to droop, sag, or experience dimensional changes. Textiles and other fiber-based materials are susceptible to creasing, tearing, and deformation.

Mountmaking is a specialized field and is often done by metal-workers or other specialists in collaboration with conservators.

What are the main recommendations to ensure object-safe mount design?[edit | edit source]

An appropriately designed mount will strive to protect the integrity of the object. It is never acceptable to alter, dismantle, or reconfigure an object to fit a mount. To protect objects adhere to the following recommendations:

  • Present the object in the desired orientation with the least stress on materials. Vulnerable items, such as fragile textiles and paper, should be displayed at angles less than 45 degrees.

  • Support the entire object. The object's center of gravity or originally intended attitude should be considered when designing a mount. The mount must prevent physical stress or unbalanced weight distribution and should support the object over its entire length, with separate support for any attachments.

  • It is imperative that mannequins and support forms are sized appropriately to fit textiles. In older or degraded pieces, the actual woven fabric as well as the seams may split under pressure. Muslin linings and backing are often needed to reinforce and protect garments and hanging textiles. These materials should be applied by a qualified conservator.

  • Provide adequate support for flexible objects. Create custom-padded mounts for fragile organic materials, such as textiles that support the structure over its entire contour. Textiles, papers, organic materials, and other susceptible objects should not be creased or folded, nor should heavy objects be placed directly on top of them.

  • Support all parts independently. Fragile objects, including textiles, should be supported over as large an area as practical. Attached parts, such as straps, may require independent support.

  • Stabilize the position of an object, especially if its shape is irregular.

  • Stabilize objects from vibration. The mount design should reduce vibration when a case is opened or bumped. A mount should fit its object with precision to prevent vibration and abrasion. An object-safe cushioning material is often required to buffer the adverse effects of vibration.

  • Ensure adequate security for mounted objects. Attach mounts and supports to the wall with appropriate hardware such as bolts and metal wire. Anchor the wall fastener firmly to the wall and be sure that it can support the weight of the supported object. Use mechanical designs to lock mounts in place.

  • Ensure that the object will be attached safely to its mount. Never glue an object to a mount. Do not fasten a mount around an object so that removing it is difficult.

What are the main options when selecting exhibit mounts?[edit | edit source]

Generic and custom mounts: Need to include broad discussion of situations in which it’s okay to choose generic mounts to display an object, and situations in which custom-made must be used.

Exhibit mounting design generally falls into two categories—generic and custom mounts:

Generic mounts[edit | edit source]

Examples of generic mounts include:

  • Book cradles
  • Stands for paper objects
  • Boxes or pedestals for three-dimensional objects
  • Ring stands for pottery
  • Pressure mounts for textiles and papers

Generic mounts may require some adjustment or additional cushioning material and fastening of the item to provide even support for the object. Book cradles, for example, must be sized for the volume; padding can be contoured to the spine and covers. Generic mounts can be purchased, or they can be made or adapted by staff members who have good manual skills and a basic knowledge of object handling. Because a generic mount does not suspend an object, it can be installed using common sense. A conservator rarely needs to be consulted.

Usually, generic mounts have the following characteristics:

  • They require no consultation with a conservator.
  • They require little object handling and fitting.
  • They require only rough measurements.
  • If produced in-house, they require some skills of a mount fabricator.
  • They usually present the object in a simple, planar orientation.
  • They can be purchased as stock items

Custom mounts[edit | edit source]

These are made to the specifications of a particular object and therefore always require technical skill and a knowledge of objects. These mounts are often constructed by a qualified mount maker or exhibit preparator in consultation with a conservator. Constructing a custom mount may be part of the conservation treatment for a particularly fragile object.
Custom mounts have these characteristics:

  • They usually require consultation with a conservator.
  • They require object handling, individual measurement, and fitting.
  • They can be designed and fabricated by a highly skilled mounting specialist.
  • They present the object in a well-supported, suspended, or otherwise complex orientation.

Custom mount types include:

  • Metal rod "T" mounts
  • Metal rod “spider” mounts
  • Drop mounts or rod and sleeves
  • Pin mounts
  • Straps or clips
  • Mannequins or partial three-dimensional forms

When should a conservator be involved in mount design?[edit | edit source]

The conservator should be involved in decisions about the mounting of all vulnerable and problematic objects. If a great deal of intervention with the object is needed, conservators may fabricate part or all of the mount themselves.

[Need Links to mount design documents]