Mount-making

This workshop starts with a discussion on the criteria for constructing proper exhibit and storage mounts for museum artifacts. It covers strategies for counteracting gravity and reviews the notions of stress, strain, elasticity, and compressibility. A variety of materials, tools, and techniques available for mounting and supporting objects are discussed in terms of their suitability, practicality, advantages, and limitations. Tools and techniques for measuring objects are presented. Means of ensuring the object's safety in the workshop and during the mount-making stages are discussed. Analytical, conceptual, and manual skills in mount design and production are presented, demonstrated, and practised during at least half of the workshop. Each participant is expected to produce 1–3 mounts during the workshop, depending on experience and on the complexity of their project(s). The workshop ends with a round-table review of the mounts created during the workshop. 

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • understand and explain why mounts are important and how best they can be designed and tailored to fully protect and support objects
  • choose appropriate materials, tools, and techniques for making support mounts
  • make safe and accurate measurements of museum objects using appropriate tools
  • recognize, design, and produce safe efficient mounts

Units

Importance of Support

Strategies to counteract gravity and minimize stresses: carefully adjusting supports, judicious use of padding, and choosing correct methods and approaches. Elasticity and compressibility of objects. Mechanics of stress and strain. Distortion or other damage that may occur over time. Preventive mindset in approach and design.

Materials for Mounting

Issues to think about when selecting mount-making materials. Review of safe and unsafe materials. Hands-on presentation of a large array of recommended materials, their properties, uses, and limitations: acrylic sheet, polycarbonate sheet, metal wire and solder, wood and wood products, epoxy putty, matboard, foam board, fluted plastic boards, foams, batting, felts and fabrics, rivets, adhesives, etc. Practical information, such as relative cost, typical brand names, and where to order, is provided as necessary. Comparisons between similar materials, their different properties or uses, or the advantage of one over another.

Designing and Producing a Mount

The series of steps needed to be carried out in a successful mount-making project are discussed and demonstrated, and then practised by the participants for an object used as a case study: assessing the object needs, establishing display requirements, and sketching or formulating an appropriate mount design. Assessing the suitability of a mount or a proposed mount in terms of: base material(s) that support the weight of the object; required joins; padding and finishing materials; and retainers that secure the object to the mount. Stability of the mount, and of the object on its mount. Simplicity of design. Precautions before starting a project. Discussion based on images or examples of a variety of mounts, on their design, means of assembly, possible improvements, or variations. Review of typical mount shapes or designs and how they can be tailored for specific needs.

Tools and Techniques

Tools and equipment for all aspects of making mounts, and techniques for using these tools effectively. Includes discussions and demonstrations on clamping, cutting, bending, shaping, drilling, adhering, fastening, polishing, and finishing various mount-making materials. Mount construction and assembly techniques. Different finishing possibilities. Safe work spaces and workshop practices.

Measuring Artifacts

Overview and demonstration of measuring tools and techniques. Marking instruments that are compatible with delicate surfaces.

Target Audience

Individuals responsible for the fabrication of artifact support mounts, including designers, preparatory staff, museum technicians, and conservators. No experience with mount-making is necessary, although familiarity and safety awareness with simple hand tools is an asset. Participants are encouraged to bring one or two objects with them for mounting.

Facilitator(s)

Carole Dignard and Jill Plitnikas

Language

English, French

Enrollment Limits

Minimum 8; maximum 12

Duration

2 days

Special Requirements

Facilities

  • Lecture room — The lecture room should be large enough to accommodate 12 participants and a variety of tools and supplies comfortably. It should be equipped with a PowerPoint projector, lap-top computer, screen, flip chart or blackboard, and drapes or blinds on the windows.
  • Work room — There should be a work room (adjacent to the lecture room) where it is safe to use hand tools and propane torches. This room should be large enough for 12 work stations and at least 10 (preferably 12–14) work tables that are approximately 1 m by 1.5 m. The work room should also be equipped with electrical outlets, ventilation (e.g. fume hoods if possible), and an ABC-type fire extinguisher.
  • Exhibit area (optional) — Access to an exhibit area with small mounts (for a short tour and discussion) would be beneficial.

Equipment, Materials supplied by host institution

  • 2 propane torch cylinders, standard size
  • 2 butane refills (lighter fuel refills)
  • Methylene chloride solvent, small bottle (100 ml) (plexiglas solvent, sold at plexiglas or acrylic sheet retailers)
  • a selection (approximately 12) of small to medium-size museum objects to be mounted
  • small stocks of Plexiglas and foam plastics (if possible)
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