Museum Mounts Matter!

As their exhibition approaches, Museum Studies students have been learning more about the different ways to display objects and the many things to consider:

‘Object mounts are essential tools used to display objects and artefacts to their full potential when constructing exciting and engaging exhibitions. This can be achieved in many different ways and many variables must be taken into account. For example, a shiny black plinth will enhance a shiny bronze objects and a long flat object (like a sword) will be easier to see when lifted to an angle of 30 degrees. Images are also a great addition to displays as they can really enhance an object and give it new meaning. Here are some of the display challenged our sub-groups experienced when preparing for ‘The Scottish Warrior’.

Prehistoric Savages
Creating a display for the Prehistoric section proved to be difficult at times. Chronologically this is the first section a visitor will encounter in our exhibition, which puts a degree of pressure upon this display to be exciting and engaging in order to grab your attention! The Prehistoric segment has been split into two separate cases which flow into each other. These two cases are smaller than others in the museum and have been designed to be looked down into from above. Within one of our cases we have included a jadeite axe that was owned by an antiquarian during the nineteenth century. When looking through the object’s original records kept by the collector, we discovered a fantastic collection of photographs displaying the objects he owned, including the very same jadeite axe! This was a very exciting discovery for us as we will now be displaying the picture alongside the axe in the case.

Medieval Warrior

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Alanna and Melia measuring the space in King’s for the Claymore mount.

For the ‘Medieval Warrior’ topic we will be display a late-sixteenth-century Claymore sword. As it is far to big to display within the case, we have had to find a way for to be exhibited safely on open display. This has been achieved by creating a mount which allows it to be fastened to the window board next to the case. Another object that has required a special mount is a grave slab which features a carving of a sword. Initially we considered having this on open display alongside the Claymore, but the special mount ensured the case could support the weight and this has enabled us to display the slab alongside the other objects in the case.

Jacobites and the Highlands
In the ‘Jacobites and Highlands’ group we have decided that many of our objects are best display mounted to the back of our case .Luckily most of these objects, such as the targe and the pin cushion, have had mounts made specially for them in previous exhibitions. This means the mounts can conveniently be reused in our display to fix these objects to the back of our case. We will also have several objects in our case, including a sporran and carpet sample from Balmoral, which need to be propped up form the base so that visitors are able to see both objects clearly.

Overseas Soldier
One of the three objects in the ‘Overseas Soldier’ display that requires a mount is an African shield. The shield was originally planned to be mounted to the wall at an elevated position where it would be at eye-level for most adult visitors. Unfortunately, due to space being taken up by a world map and a soldier’s uniform, compromises had to be made. The shield will now require a mount that allows the artefact to stand at the bottom of the display case. The most important thing to consider is the angle at which the shield is tilted when held in the mount so that visitors can comfortably look at its surface without having to bend down to see the interesting parts.

World Wars
The ‘World Wars’ section of the exhibition is very fortunate to have a kilt on loan from the Gordon Highlanders Museum. As kilts are a strong symbol of Scottish heritage and worn with great pride we thought it was important to display this item to its fullest potential by mounting it on the back of our case. We needed to be able to show the pleats and movement of the kilt, as well as the little details of  burn marks from where the soldier who wore it had used a lit cigarette to burn away the live that plagued him. There is also mud visible on the kilt from the trenches of the Somme, to date still the bloodiest battle in human history.

The object selection team, and the entire ‘Scottish Warrior’ exhibition class, has had the opportunity to learn valuable information and skills regarding object mounting and object display from Melia Knecht, one of the museum staff. We would like to thank her for all of the knowledge and help she has given us as she moves on to an exciting new project in the wilds of Alaska! Thanks Melia!’

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About uoamuseums

The University of Aberdeen's Museums include King’s Museum and the University's Zoology Museum. The museums can claim to be Scotland's oldest, with records of museums and collections as far back as the late 17th century. Thanks to their status as a Recognised Collection of national significance, the Zoology Museum’s displays are currently being improved, while King's Museum hosts changing exhibitions drawn from across the collections, particularly those formerly in Marischal Museum. Visitors are warmly welcomed to the museums, and there are no charges for admission. Marischal College now houses the Museums Collections Centre, caring for and conserving many of the collections.
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