There are a number of ways to mount a textile safely for display. Ultimately, your choice is dependent on the condition of the textile. The following will assist you in discussing an appropriate mounting technique for your textile with a conservator. The museum also offers regular drop-in Ask A Curator, Ask a Conservator programs; visit the online calendar for details on the next session.
A textile in sturdy condition can be hung from a VELCRO® fastener strip. Textiles that might hang this way are quilts, carpets, tapestries, and blankets. A more complete description can be found in our textile hanging system guidelines.
Larger textiles that are not strong enough to hang from one end, such as a paisley shawl or batik, can be mounted on a square or rectangular, wooden frame called a strainer, over which mounting fabric has been stretched. The textile is carefully sewn to the stretched fabric in such a way that will provide overall support to the textile. Sewing tension and position of stitches have to be carefully selected and executed. The textile itself should never be stretched over the edges of the strainer.
It is also helpful to place a panel of archival cardboard in the center of a strainer behind the mounting fabric. This provides a solid support behind the mounted textile and helps prevent the stretched mounting fabric from sagging. Depending on its size, a strainer with or without a solid support can be framed or glazed.
As an alternative to the strainer with a solid support, smaller textiles can be mounted to a fabric-covered archival matboard. This type of mount is generally appropriate only for textiles that will be framed, as the matboard easily absorbs moisture and can warp if not restrained within a frame.
The materials chosen for a mount are as important as the evaluation of the best kind of mount to support the textile. Use as few wooden materials as possible. If wooden supports need to be used (as in a strainer mount) the wood should be coated with a water-borne polyurethane varnish to seal in wood acids. Even if sealed, however, the wood must never come in contact with the textile.
Archival corrugated cardboards or matboards should be used for solid supports and inserts in strainers. Mounting fabrics must be pre-washed to remove excess dyes, finishes, and sizings. The best choices for mounting fabrics are 100% cotton or cotton/polyester blends. Linen is not an appropriate fabric mount because it easily absorbs moisture from the environment, causing sagging and distortion. Wool also sags easily, and along with silk and silk velvet, is susceptible to insect attack.