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Specialized expertise helps create the new Canada Goose Arctic Gallery
By Graham Larose, June 13, 2017
A lot goes into the creation of a new gallery, requiring many experts with diverse skills – whether they be exhibit designers, curators, artists, fabricators or others.
Some of this expertise is highly specialized—such as building custom mannequins to display garments, or crafting custom mounts for 300-lb whale skulls. The creation of the museum’s new Canada Goose Arctic Gallery, set to open June 21, is a case in point.
Dawn Carlisle has been in the business of mounts and models for 23 years. Now specializing in mannequins she, along with her partner, have made mounts for exhibitions around North America, from Roswell, New Mexico to Northern Quebec.
For the Arctic Gallery, the mounts being made out of Ethafoam (archival foam) have a dual purpose of displaying and also properly supporting the garments in order to conserve the delicate material.
“The biggest challenge is that the curator has a certain image of what they would like it to look like, the conservator has concerns about the artifact as an object and the designer has their concerns about how they want their exhibit to look,” she says. “So for us it’s a balancing act, trying to be respectful of all concerns.”
Her work will be primarily seen in the special exhibition, Inuinnauyugut: We are Inuinnait, in the Northern Voices Gallery, which is curated by the Kitikmeot Heritage Society in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. The exhibition highlights the culture of the Inuinnait (Copper Inuit) and includes a mix of contemporary and traditional clothing and objects. Among the items that Dawn is working on are rare clothing on loan from the Canadian Museum of History.
Ken Eastwood, who got his start in metal fabrication on an oil rig in the North Sea, also has concerns about delicacy. He is a mount maker who has been making custom mounts for all kinds of exhibits since 1989.
“There are very few places on this skull that can bear its weight,” he says of a 300 pound bowhead whale skull, for which he is constructing a mount for the Arctic Gallery. “It’s all about finding the shape of the piece and manipulating steel or brass to fit those contours.”
Although he worked with steel for the skull because of the required strength to hold its weight, he works mostly with brass for smaller items like a single button from the fateful final Franklin expedition that will also be displayed in the Gallery.
“The idea is to get the mount hidden while still creating enough structural support,” he says. “The museum is considerate about aesthetics which is why they hire me.”
Having been in the business for nearly 30 years, Eastwood has mounted all kinds of things from all over the world.
“I’ve seen pretty much everything from 12th-century ceramics, 1,000-year old-glass objects to huge skulls like this one,” he says. “Everything is a challenge because it’s always different.”
Access to the new Canada Goose Arctic Gallery is included with regular museum admission