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Support System for Fragile Three-dimensional Objects: Shadow Puppets


This storage system provides adequate housing, individual support and protection for oriental shadow figures or shadow puppets. In general, oriental shadow-figures are made of skin products, such as calfskin, that form the head, body and limbs. They are painted on one or both sides and the pieces are tied together with thread. Bamboo and metal rods, tied to the head, hands and feet of the figure make it movable.



Mei Wan Campbell
Museum of Texas Tech Univ.
Fourth and Indiana Avenue
P.O. Box 4499
Lubbock, TX 79409-3191 USA.
Tel (806) 742-2479

Photographs: Nick Olson

Illustrations: Mike Nickell

 Publication: 1992


This storage system is a variation of the “sink mat” (See Smith: “Matting and Hinging Flat Paper Objects,” this volume). It consists of a double mat constructed of pH neutral matting board, clear polyester sheets, double sided tape, pH neutral linen tape, and pH neutral glassine paper (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Window mount with a Chinese shadow-figure resting on a polyester film sheet.
             The cover sheet of glassine paper is shown to the side.

The custom-made window mounts provide a stable environment for the shadow figures. The use of polyester sheets and glassine paper prevents the objects from adhering to the mount. The uniform size of the mounts allows them to be stacked, maximizing storage space.

Materials Tools Supplies

  • Clear, uncoated polyester film (polyethylene therephthalate), 3-5mil
  • Double-coated tape
  • Mat cutter
  • pH neutral glassine paper
  • pH neutral linen tape
  • Polyvinyl acetate adhesive in ethyl alcohol, 20% (wt/vol)
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Unbuffered paper board, 2-4ply
  • Utility knife


All window mats should be the same size so that they can be stacked. This size should be large enough to house the largest object in the collection, allowing a 2in margin on all sides of the largest object.

  1. Determine the size and shape (square or rectangular) of the mounts.
  2. Cut two pieces of board of the same dimensions to make the cover and back for each mount.
  3. Cut the window to the appropriate size and position for each object.
  4. Cut strips of paper board of the same size as the sides of the window .
  5. Adhere these strips to the base board with polyvinyl acetate adhesive or double-coated tape to build up the sides and create a cavity. This cavity will be of the same shape and dimension as the window (Fig. 2).

    Figure 2. Cross section of A-A’ on figure 1.

  6. Cut a piece of clear, uncoated polyester film to fit the cavity with an allowance of 1in on all sides and place it on top of the backing board.
  7. Attach the cover board to the mount with linen tape.
  8. Cut small pieces of polyester film and insert them between the joints of the puppet to prevent adhesion between the movable parts of the shadow figure (Fig. 3).

    Figure 3. A shadow-figure and an enlargement showing a polyester film spacer separating the joints.

  9. Place a sheet of pH neutral glassine paper over the object.
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