Back To Schedule
Thursday, May 30 • 2:00pm - 2:30pm
(Textiles) Finding the Ease: Approaches to Mounting and Installation at the Art Institute of Chicago

Sign up or log in to save this to your schedule, view media, leave feedback and see who's attending!

Recent conservation in the Department of textiles at the Art Institute of Chicago reflects the increasingly prevalent philosophy for those responsible for the wellbeing of historic collections of doing more with less. New buildings, gallery re-installations, construction projects, storage moves, exhibitions, loans, and multiple rotations have become routine in a year’s projects for the permanent collection. Over the course of a year there are about 200 textiles in rotation throughout the museum—100 in the permanent textile galleries and another 100 in other galleries throughout the museum. At the same time the economic downturn resulted in an austerity plan, which included a 50% staff reduction in the Department of textiles as well as the art handling staff.

The increased demand for textiles is both exciting and challenging. For the staff at the Art Institute it has reaffirmed the need to develop strategies to decrease stress and strain on the collection as well as the staff. It has also created the opportunity to rethink exhibition demands, considerations and priorities. In particular this paper will focus on the display of large African textiles, longer lengths of yardage, and tapestries.

The African textile collection contains a number of large artworks of varying dimensions. The size of each piece precludes storing individual mounts/platform for each rotation. A modular mount and platform was designed to accommodate a variety of needs and sizes of textiles ranging from 44-115 inches in height and 170-220 inches in width, eliminating mount production and reducing storage issues.

For extra long lengths of yardage, a “roll-top” system was redesigned to hold un-exhibited sections of the textile on the storage pipe suspended in a cradle above the mount. The system allows a textile to move from storage to the mount and back to storage, all on the same pipe, reducing handling. The cradle can accommodate multiple angles to adjust to the needs of the textile or display, while maintaining a smooth transition from pipe to mount.

A tapestry installation protocol was developed for The Divine Art: Four Centuries of European Tapestry an exhibition of over 70 historic tapestries from the permanent collection. As at least 7 artworks needed to be installed per day, it was necessary to create an efficient and safe system that reduced staff fatigue. A newly designed hanging system incorporating a custom-built I-beam and receiving shelf was implemented. Existing hydraulic lifts with platforms were fitted with purpose-built arms to raise and lower the tapestries. The combination of all three elements allowed for a controlled, safe and smooth installation and de-installation of the artworks, while minimizing strain on the staff.

As textiles continue to gain popularity and prominence in the museum, there will continue to be a need for innovation in installation. The strategies in this paper, which are works-in-progress, have transformed some of the more challenging installations at the Art Institute into more routine activities for both the conservation and installation staff.


Lauren Chang

Conservator of Textiles, Art Institute of Chicago
avatar for Isaac Facio

Isaac Facio

Assistant Conservator, Preparation and Mounting, Textiles, Art Institute of Chicago

Thursday May 30, 2013 2:00pm - 2:30pm EDT
JW Marriott White River Ballroom C-D 10 S West St Indianapolis, IN 46204

Attendees (0)