41st Annual Meeting — Textile Session, May 30, “Finding the Ease: Approaches to Mounting and Installation at the Art Institute of Chicago,” by Isaac Facio and Lauren Chang

Isaac Facio, Conservation Assistant, and Lauren Chang,Conservator of Textiles, jointly presented the techniques and mounts they have developed, in concert with other Art Institute of Chicago staff, to “find the ease” in mounting and installing textiles at that museum. They showed three mounting systems, which could be helpful to many other institutions. All were the result of that old saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” They needed to devise simpler and more efficient techiniques for getting textiles onto display because they had fewer people and less time to install more textiles…..a situation familiar to many of us.
To mount medium- to large-sized textiles that would be displayed vertically, they devised a three-part mount, consisting of a fabric-covered board, into which the textile can be pin-mounted (their method of choice for temporary mounts for strong-enough pieces), a C-shaped, metal “kick out” or metal angle bracket to support the bottom of the mount and create a 10 degree angle, and wall cleats for the top.
To mount long textiles that were stored rolled and that needed to have part of the textile rolled for display, they developed a rolling system that fits into brackets that are secured to the walls. The system permits the textiles to go from rolled storage to display without the need for re-rolling. This saves time and aviodes excess handling. The bracket system is one that I would love to see made available commercially.
Finally, they described what they had done to make it possible to mount the large tapestry exhibit, The Divine Art: Four Centuries of European Tapestries. For this exhibit, they needed to mount at least seven tapestries per day, so they needed a system that would be both more efficient and less stressful for staff than how they had previously installed tapestries. The system they developed has two significant innovations. Rather than using a flat “beam” to hold the hook side of Velcro, as is often done, they developed a metal “double-I-beam” style beam, with a square profile. To support this beam, they used a shelf of MDO. The square beam prevented the tapestry from canting forward when hanging. The shelf allowed the tapestry, on the beam, to be lowered into place, with minimal handling.
This is how Lauren and Isaac described the installation process:
• The MDO shelf was secured to the wall with drywall screws at a predetermined height.
• The soft, or fuzzy, side of the Velcro, which was sewn to the tapestry during treatment, was secured to the “double-I-beam” while both were still on the floor.
• A three-foot long two-by-four was placed into the space within the “double-I-beams” at each end, to serve as handles for the installation.
• They positioned a pair of hydraulic lifts with platforms at either side of the tapestry. The lifts were outfitted with arms extending in front of them.
• They placed the two-by-four “handles” on the lifts’ “arms.”
• With one person running each lift and Lauren standing back to guide the positioning, the tapestry – on its “double-I-beam” was lifted into place.
• The “double-I-beam” was then secured to the wall, and the “handles” removed from the beams.
Although I have tried to capture what Isaac and Lauren showed and told, I know I have missed many details. This is a paper for which I will eagerly await the Postprints. I’m hoping that they can include the video clip of the tapestry installation that they showed during the talk.