Friday, 27 January 2012

The Tahitian Mourner's Costume Display

Earlier this week, the Tahitian Mourner's costume went back on display in the Museum.  In this post, Chris Wilkinson and Alan Cooke, Display Technicians, explain the process of designing a case.

1:10 scale model of the display

'The objective of the display was to give an ‘exploded’ view of the mourner’s costume. Restrictions, due to the case size, primarily its height, lead us to create a 1:10 scale maquette to fully understand how the objects would be positioned in the case. We then built a full size mock-up of the case. 

The mock-up of the case

To complete a final layout we first produced the mounts for each object and then arranged them within the mock-up case to determine their final positions. Individual temporary bases allowed us to do this. In the final case two permanent plinths took the place of these. The barkcloth mount is on a buckram torso and gave a central ‘body’ to the display around which the other artefacts were arranged.
The mounts were made using zf mdf (which does not contain formaldehyde) covered with an inert foam or calico covering to protect the artefacts and provide grip. These were then mounted upon poles as fixing to the sides or the back of the case would have meant too much visible structure due to the size and weight of the artefacts. The poles were colour matched to the case to minimize their visual interference. 

Chris (right) and Al install part of the costume

Particular difficulties were the fragile nature of most of the artefacts, for instance the feathered cloak required full support and this was achieved by stitching to a padded calico covered panel. Also the breastplates and masks needed multiple wire fittings to support individual components of the whole artefact.
As the display had been created off site transferring the mock-up into the case in the museum was a relatively simple task.

The final display