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How many conservators does it take to undress a mannequin? « The Polar Museum: news blog

The Polar Museum: news blog

How many conservators does it take to undress a mannequin?

Answer:  4!

Recently we have been lucky enough to have three extra conservators available to help out with lots of projects behind the scenes at the Polar Museum.  Firstly, we have Rebekah Parkinson, who is working on collections care for all the University of Cambridge Museums (UCM).  Then we have Cathy Tully, who is on the conservation training course at University College London (UCL), and has just started a year at the UCM as an intern.  And finally we have Sophie Louise Rowe, who is doing the same training programme as Cathy, and has been volunteering with us over the summer.  Quick-witted readers will have noticed that she has the same name as the Polar Museum’s own Sophie Rowe (who also trained as a conservator at – you guessed it – UCL!)  Obviously we don’t mix ourselves up, but lots of other people get confused, so here is a picture of us together to clarify which is which:


Sophie Louise is on the left, and Sophie is on the right.

Recently all four of us were here together on the same day, so we took the opportunity to undress the mannequin in the Inuit display case.  We wanted to see if the mannequin would be suitable for supporting our gut parka, which will be going out on display in about a month.  At the moment the mannequin is wearing a very thick caribou fur winter parka:


First we lifted the whole mannequin out of the case.  Then we took the detachable head out of the hood:


Cathy is holding the head while Sophie takes off the goggles.

Inside the parka was quite a lot of polyester wadding which was used to pad it out and support it in the right shape.  This was carefully removed – here Cathy and Sophie are reaching in to take it out from the inside.


The parka has no openings except at the neck and hip, so it has to be taken off over the head.  Luckily the mannequin has wire arms, so Sophie Louise and Cathy lifted these up:


Then we started to ease the parka up over the body. It was a bit like undressing a giant uncooperative two-year old.  All of us were needed to hold the mannequin and support all parts of the parka while taking it off.


Here is Rebekah heroically supporting the base of the mannequin.  What you can’t see is that hair from the parka was shedding and getting up her nose …


This is the mannequin underneath the parka, with the fur trousers still on.  Once we had the fur parka off we could judge whether the mannequin was the right size and shape for the gut parka – and it isn’t!  Cathy is now working on a cunning tailor made alternative which will be used instead.  You can read more about this in future instalments.  The winter fur parka is now back on display for a short while longer – if you haven't seen it yet then catch it now before it's gone.

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