What if a mannequin could be as versatile as the entire collection it needs to display? What if a single mannequin could be used to display a mid-century taffeta gown, or just as easily, an 18th century military uniform?
These questions, along with a set of specific demands, led to the development of just such a mannequin. During a project to create 33 mannequins for the National Air and Space Museum's exhibit, "America by Air", Spicer Art Conservation (along with the museum staff and SmallCorp) were able to come up with an easily dressed form for both male and female garments, displayed at various heights and positions. This reliable and versatile form is easy to produce and easy to use. It's novelty is the internal armature, known as "side-ways ladders"(see illustrations below: left: original drawing of mannequin; right: side-ways ladder embedded in foam)
|A display from NASM's|
|Above: Carving the foam|
So we have a mannequin that is easy to dress, looks great, is adaptable to any display situation, and can be used multiple times with flexible and versatile components that are able to be mixed and matched. Did I mention that the upper portion could be used for both the display AND the storage of the artifact? (see 4/25/12 blog entry: "Conservation is More Than Treatment")
(series of three photos above: a gradual progression of building a mannequin for Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society's exhibit, "Trial of Red Jacket".)
As a conservator, I love a challenge. And I especially love when an item in our daily repertoire can be reinvented to become something extraordinary. My hope is that museums (both large and small), institutions, and those in private practice can use this design in a successful way to display a wide variety of costume garments easily over the course of many exhibits.
This blog post by Barbara Owens summarizes a paper and talk given by Gwen Spicer, "A Versatile Mannequin" presented at American Institute for Conservation's 34th Annual Meeting. To download a copy of the paper, just click on the link.
Gwen Spicer is a textile conservator in private practice. Spicer Art Conservation specializes in textile conservation, object conservation, and the conservation of works on paper. Gwen's innovative treatment and mounting of flags and textiles is unrivaled. To contact her, please visit her website.