by Camille Myers Breeze
There are many times when conservators feel like we are doing the same thing over and over again. Fortunately, most of us like this repetition, or else we wouldn't be happy conservators. In 2012, the thing we have found ourselves doing again and again at Museum Textile Services is making mannequins.
Although there are wonderful suppliers of archival mannequins for the museum world, our clients sometimes require a custom form. Other times, we can save a client money by constructing their mannequin ourselves.
The MTS website has lots of resources for those of you who are in the position of making a mannequin or retrofitting a dress form for museum use. The first of these is Customizing Mannequins. It walks you through some of the considerations when using an existing form to make a safe mount for historic costume.
A more detailed set of instructions on using existing forms for safe costume display is Retrofitting Dress Forms. This handout also touches on the topic of which historic under-garments should never be used and what supplies you should have on hand when mounting a costume exhibit. In response to questions from clients who were using T-bars to display clothes, we created a handout about Building T-Bar Supports.
For the more experienced costume mounters, Museum Textile Services has a new handout available on our website entitled Making Ethafoam Disk Mannequins. This is meant to be used in conjunction with the Polly Willman mannequin-making system, which results in a series of measured disks that are stacked and fine tuned to form an archival dress form. Polly Willman's Ethafoam "Disk" Form instructions are also available, with her generous permission, for those who have not trained with her.
Before you attempt any of the mounting solutions presented in these handouts, please make sure that the items you are mounting are good candidates for exhibition. Consult a textile conservator prior to beginning if you have any questions.