An Avant-Garde Approach to Mounts and Boxes
Performance art props, including shattered violins and plastic masks, were in need of invisible exhibit mounts and boxes appropriate for domestic and international travel as well as permanent storage.
Indiana Historical Society
Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center
450 W. Ohio St.
Indianapolis, IN 46202
Assistant Book Conservator
Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC)
100 Brickstone Square
Andover, MA 01810
Collections Care Coordinator
Northwestern University Libraries
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
Special Collections Conservator
Northwestern University Libraries
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
Photo Credits: Northwestern University Libraries Preservation and Conservation Working Group staff members
Illustration Credits: Stephanie Gowler
Rigid panels of lightweight, cloth-covered board were constructed for mounting performance art props. Objects were sewn onto panels for exhibition [See Image 1].
Corrugated clamshell boxes were retrofitted with board and foam frameworks used with cushioning quilts to house the mounted objects for travel and storage [See Image 2].
Materials, Tools & Supplies
- Rigid, honeycomb board (e.g, Tycore®, Hexamount)
- Flexible closed cell polyethylene foam (e.g. Volara®)
- Rigid closed cell polyethylene foam (e.g. Ethafoam™)
- Optional: heat-activated non-woven polyester polymer blend (e.g. Fosshape)
- Undyed cotton cloth (polyester, linen, or any which have passed Oddy tests may also be used)
- Hot melt glue
- Sewing needles (we used size 5 to mark the sewing hole and size 1 to pass through the panels)
- Monofilament and/or linen thread (we used .004 gauge thread as well as 18/3 linen thread)
- One half inch hole punch (for making paper buttons)
- Non-woven polyester (smooth) (e.g. Hollytex)
- Polyester batting
- Sewing thread (100% cotton)
- Corrugated board
- Double sided tape
- Knives – for cutting foam, corrugated board
- Book cloth
Create Mounting Panels
1. Cut rigid, honeycomb board, such as Tycore®, to desired dimensions. The board we used was 3/4″ thick. Our panels extended approximately one inch beyond the outer dimensions of the object(s).
2. Cut closed cell foam, such as Volara®, to same dimensions as honeycomb board and adhere to top with double sided adhesive tape. The foam we used was 1/4″ thick.
3. Wash and iron undyed cloth (we used 100% cotton denim). Cut to dimensions of the board plus a three inch margin on all sides. Wrap cloth around panel and adhere to back with hot melt glue [See Image 3]. Ensure that cloth is pulled taut and corners are smooth [See Image 4].
1. Lay out object(s) on completed panels and determine locations for sewing. Mark sewing holes with straight pins or thin needles [See Image 5]. In cases where exact placement/orientation of thread is critical, such as over a small protruding corner, model the thread loop by hand in-situ, and place marking pins accordingly. Remove object(s) from panel.
2. If there is a large void under the object, build a support out of foam or board [See Images 6 and 7]. These may be attached to the panel by sewing through them or pinning them in place.
3. Use awl to punch sewing holes through all layers of the panel. Alternatively, use pliers to push the sewing needles through the panel, in order to avoid making a large obvious hole with the awl.
4. Thread two needles on a double strand of monofilament or thin linen thread (whichever is the least visible on your object). Our method was to thread two needles onto a single strand, and knot the two ends, forming a loop. When the needles are pulled to opposite ends of the loop, you automatically have a double strand. Pre-threading all needles you will need for a panel saves time.
5. Pass needles through sewing holes in panel, pull the thread up high enough for the object to fit underneath, replace object(s) and loop sewing thread over object. Alternatively, pass one needle through the panel, loop thread over the object, and pass second needle through the panel. Tighten thread loop and secure with square knot on back of panel. Paper buttons and/or hot melt adhesive may be necessary to anchor the knots, particularly in cases where thread ends extend from a single hole [See Image 8].
Tip: Placing the mounting panel on top of bricks may allow adequate access to the back of the panel while sewing [See Image 9].
We ordered corrugated clamshell boxes in custom sizes to house the mounted objects for travel and storage. Boxes with attached lids were ordered to avoid mix-ups. The boxes were ordered with approximately two inches of extra space on all sides of the mounted object.
1. Cut blocks or strips of closed cell foam, such as Ethafoam™, no taller than the height of the mounting panel, to act as bumpers, securing the panel horizontally in the tray of the box [See Image 10].
2. Create corner pillars from a fairly rigid foam, such as Ethafoam™, to secure the edges of the mounting panel vertically. The dimensions of the pillars should be such that they rest on top of the corners of the mount and are flush with the top edge of the box’s lower tray. Use corrugated board to unify the corners and form a single rectangular frame. If possible, construct this framework so that no specific orientation is needed. When this framework is in place with the lid closed, the mounting panel will be held secure.
Tip: It is important to use the corrugated board with the grain of the corrugation oriented long. The method we used that both avoided contacting the object, but still clamped the “quilt” in place was as follows. Remove a quadrant of each pillar, creating two pieces: a thin square block and an L-shaped block. Hot glue the two ends of the adjacent corrugated board to the inside of the L, and then hot glue the square block back into the L, trapping the boards between [See Image 11].
3. Use non-woven polyester cloth and polyester batting to sew a “quilt” to cover the object and fit inside of the corner framework. Cut two pieces of smooth non-woven polyester two inches larger than the inner dimensions of the tray (seam allowance) with an extra length that extends towards the inner spine of the box. These dimensions depend on the shape of the art object: the finished quilt should be wide enough so that when it drapes over the object it still reaches the edges of the box and is clamped down by the framework. Sew the two pieces together either by hand or machine, leaving an opening large enough to stuff batting.. The stitching should follow the inner perimeter of the box and foam columns, such that excess material (batting) does not end up under the columns. Stuff the quilt with polyester batting and stitch up the opening [See Image 12].
4. Attach the quilt to the inner spine of the box by adhering a strip of bookcloth over the extended tab. When the quilt is in place, the object is lightly padded to reduce vibration [See Images 13 and 14].
5. Label the interior and exterior of the box as necessary [See Image 15].