The Other Washington: At the Second International Mount Making Forum, Smithsonian Institution Washington D.C.

Mannequin: a form representing the human figure used esp. for displaying clothes

Mountmaker: An individual who conceives, fabricates and installs specialized hardware for the display, security, and earthquake mitigation of works of art for museums, galleries, and private collections.

The need to revive our mannequin building program this last year coincided with a second meeting of museum mount makers this May in Washington D.C. A call for papers was impetus to document my first efforts and learning process within a twenty minute presentation format. Shelly Uhlir, exhibit specialist at the National Museum of the American Indian put together a two day conference involving 200 participants, presenters and posters. All of the Smithsonian Museums were available for behind the scenes tours.

My paper (A Beginner’s Mannequin: Museum Action Figure or Crash Test Dummy?) was included along with a handful of others that also dealt with mannequin issues. It seems that the dealing with the challenges of crafting a convincing and appropriate human figure is a cottage industry within the current museum profession.

The conference was a great opportunity to see what other mount makers are doing with this wide open area of mannequin building as well as seeing the latest materials, best practices, and earthquake mitigation measures in the broader area of mount making proper. The backdrop of the Smithsonian Museums on the mall was ideal: Shelly Uhlir’s self guided “mounts around the mall” tour offered a vast variety of examples. From work in the African Art Museum to Air and Space to The Natural History Museum, there was no end to objects and accompanying mount fixtures.

Gordon Lambert, SAM Preparator/Mountmaker

National Museum of the American Indian

National Museum of the American Indian



Mannequin-in-progress (left) wearing Mask of Hinkeets’, ca. 1910, Nuu’chah’nulth, Native American, Tla’o’quiaht, Red cedar, brass tacks, and paint, 9 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 25 in., Gift of John H. Hauberg, and finished product in the SAM galleries.