Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mannequins revisited

Two summers ago, we were busy preparing to open our new building, and I shared some photos from a statewide mannequin workshop for museum professionals, organized by Museum Services Curator Scott Carrlee and funded by an IMLS professional development grant. The workshop was a fun and productive way for museum staff from around the state to learn valuable exhibit-making skills, network with each other, and help the Alaska State Museum churn out 35 mannequins in one week.

All of those mannequins are now part of the Museum's permanent exhibits. After the workshop, heads and arms were added and the mannequins were covered with a stretchy, gray finish fabric by expert sewers at the BrownBoots Costume Company. The curation team decided on the gray fabric to provide a neutral backdrop for the garments, rather than trying to make the mannequins too lifelike.

Here are the mannequins-in-progress alongside their completed exhibit. Mannequin-makers, do you recognize your work?

Anchorage Stealers t-shirt (ASM 97-20-1)
Undressed and dressed mannequin for Anchorage Stealers t-shirt in the Contemporary Alaska gallery
The Anchorage Stealers mannequin was one of the few that needed finishing on the bottom, since it's suspended in the air.

Silk caftan (ASM 94-39-1)
Mount-maker Jeff Thole works on the first stages of the mannequin for the caftan, presented to Mikhail Kuhkhan by Adolf Etolin.
It's hard to believe that the trapezoid shape above became the mannequin for this silk caftan. The tricorner hat had extensive conservation work prior to exhibit.

Chief Kaawa.ee's police uniform (ASM III-O-416)
Textile conservator Sarah Owens of the Anchorage Museum works with exhibits specialist Aaron Elmore (kneeling) and mount-maker Tanna Peters on the first fit of Chief Kaawa.ee's police uniform.
This police uniform was one of several that required torsos and legs, a special challenge for the mount-making team!

Child's parka (ASM II-A-3647)
Although the goal for most of the mannequins was a natural posture, some garments were uncooperative. The parka for this mannequin was tight in the shoulders, so the arms had to be sticking out to prevent strain on the garment.
This was probably our smallest mannequin, and it looks even tinier in the exhibit in its sweet little swans' down parka. The parka was made in Siberia and traded to Alaskans.

Reindeer parka (ASM II-A-4816)
A roomy parka like this one requires a very large mannequin to properly support it while on exhibit.
Adding the head and arms helped fill out the folds in this reindeer parka once worn by territorial governor George Parks.

Japanese uniform (ASM III-O-174 and III-O-175)
This mannequin for a Japanese World War II uniform (ASM III-O-174 and III-O-175) was one of the first ones we created.
Our mannequin-making skills improved with practice! Although most visitors probably don't notice, this mannequin looks a little stiff.

A multitude of mannequins!
Mannequin-makers at work in the Museum's collections processing room during the workshop.
This World War II case shows the variety of uniforms worn by the US military in Alaska and also demonstrates the wide variety in mannequin shapes and sizes!
Float coats on mannequins in the Museum's Oil and Timber exhibit.
Even heavy coats like these have fully finished mannequins inside to support their weight and make them look like they're being worn.

We hope that everyone who helped out with the mannequins has had a chance to visit their creations and enjoyed this look back at the mannequin workshop!

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