Mountmaking is the process of designing, fabricating, and installing the structures (called mounts, brackets, or armatures) that safely support collection objects and artifacts while they are on exhibit. I learned how to make mounts while working as an Exhibit Fabricator in New Mexico and I have now worked at The Corning Museum of Glass for two years.
For the Museum’s major exhibition this year, Past | Present: Expanding the Stories of Glass, the Curatorial team asked the Collections Management team for several mounts to be made. Objects may be mounted for many reasons and the mounts in this exhibition were to make certain objects stable and secure and to hold them in a preferred orientation.
In this blog, I will talk about some of the objects from Past | Present and the mounts that I made for them.
- Replica of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond
Both the real Koh-i-Noor Diamond and a flint glass replica were shown at the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition in London. The replica was more impressive to visitors partly because it reflected light better than the real diamond. Here at The Corning Museum of Glass, the Koh-i-Noor Diamond replica had been displayed in a velvet and satin-lined domed jewel box. For Past | Present, the Curator Alexandra Ruggiero asked for a stalk mount with prong settings, that would hold the gem several inches above the display deck.
The Koh-i-Noor replica was a fussy mount from the beginning. When an object is as clear as a diamond, there are not many places to hide the mount. One of the early versions of the mount was abandoned because there was not enough surface contact to be secure and the mount was too visible through the gem. A second version was secure but also too visible. Many times, the simplest mount is the best mount, and the third version was simple, secure, and discrete. That’s the mount that is now holding the Koh-i-Noor Diamond replica in the gallery.
- Fragments of a pitcher
One of the vignettes in the Past | Present exhibition holds several fragments of a pitcher found in 1862 in a Roman-period burial site. The pitcher may have held wine or oil. The fragments were found with coins, gold jewelry, ceramics, and glass vessels that held cremated remains. This object had never before been on exhibit at the Museum. In this case, the Curator Katherine Larson hoped to have a mount made that would hold these fragments in a way that showed what the pitcher could have looked like if it were still intact.
I made a mount for each fragment individually and held them in position on a small armature. I spoke with Katherine again and we thought this mount would benefit from a “paint out”. Sometimes, a mount can be made less visible, or tell a better story, by painting it in such a way that it better blends in with the object being held, so that’s what we did.
Often when I am making a mount, the first thing I pick up is a pipe cleaner. They are soft, flexible, and hold a shape. They can touch most objects without causing damage, and I can begin to visualize how the object may be mounted. Mounts here at the Museum are typically made of brass. Brass is soft, easy to form, non-reactive, and safe to use in close proximity to collection objects. I use an acetylene torch and filler metal to heat and join brass parts. There is a conservation-grade barrier layer between the object and the mount holding it. I most often use sueded polyethylene or heat shrink tubing as a barrier layer.
One of the things I enjoy most about mountmaking is working so closely with collection objects. I get to handle these delicate and historic objects more than almost anyone else at the Museum. I think mountmaking suits my personality too. The whole point of a mount is to elevate and enhance the object and minimize the mount. My work gets a front-row seat without being the star of the show.
Visit The Corning Museum of Glass to experience Past | Present: Expanding the Stories of Glass and see if you notice the mounts that help the objects to shine.
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