Magnetic Mounting Systems
Welcome to the Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter from Northern States Conservation Center. The newsletter is designed to bring you timely and helpful content that is pertinent to situations we all encounter in our museum and archives work. Feel free to let us know what topics you would like to see featured in Collections Caretaker or even contribute an article.
In This Issue

Magnetic Mounting Systems for Museums and Cultural Institutions
Super Panel Display
Featured Course
September 2019 Courses
October 2019 Courses
Conferences and Meetings
Just Published! A new book that showcases new mounting technology for exhibitions! 
Magnetic Mounting Systems for Museums and Cultural Institutions
By Gwen Spicer
Book Description
Magnetic Mounting Systems for Museums and Cultural Institutions serves a critical need in addressing the proper uses of magnetic mounting systems for all types of art works. An in-depth discussion on the subject of using magnets, consolidates existing information on proper use of magnets and their properties.
The book systematically explains magnetic behaviors and the procedures involved in developing a magnetic system. With actual case studies and over 80 photograph images and drawings, the book explores a broad range of artifact types and magnetic systems that can be employed and manipulated for uses in exhibition and storage. All ensures to make this book an essential reference text to any reader planning or executing displays. This book is a must have for everyone who displays collections in museums of all sizes, galleries, archives, libraries and private collections.

The book is an essential text for mount-makers, exhibit designers, museums professionals, curators, conservators, collections managers, archivists, and architects.

It will be beneficial to conservation students and any technical staff who wish to employ magnets in their proper fashion to insure the safety of objects they are installing or mounting.

About the Author
Gwen Spicer is an art conservator who is dedicated to the conservation and care of cultural heritage. As the owner of Spicer Art Conservation, LLC since 1995, she has treated artifacts from museums, historic homes, galleries, and private owners. She earned her MA in Art Conservation from Buffalo State College, and has since taught and lectured around the world about collection care and magnet mounting systems and has become known for her innovative conservation treatments. A recent project was overseeing of the inaugural textiles displayed at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Spicer is a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works (AIC) and the Flag Research Center.

Additional information
Over 400 pages
59 case studies each with cross-sections and images
16 chapters with extended glossary, appendixes and reference list 44 tables
Chapters contain 'how tos', 'Useful tips' and 'Wacky behavior'

Participating in Gwen's "Ferrous Attraction" workshop with the North East Conservation Association was an eye opening experience. It was fascinating to learn about the history of magnets, how they have evolved and the various considerations in using them in conservation. Her comprehension of magnetic systems is astounding and gives credence to the proper use of magnets in our field. This book will be a must have to anyone who uses magnets for conservation work, mounting, exhibition preparation and beyond. - Deborah Howe, Collections Conservator, Darmouth College Library
Super Panel Display
By Michael Dunphy  (reprinted from Collections Caretaker July 2015) 
For several years, we discussed the use of magnets with conservators, and
how they might be used for preparation, support and presentation. In 2011, we had more in-depth discussions with the Conservation and Exhibition departments at Yale University regarding their desire for rigid support panels with multiple applications. They needed archival display panels that could be used with both pins and magnets; one fixture that could accommodate a variety of changing objects, exhibition themes, and curatorial approaches.
We realized that versatile display and support panels could be valuable, as they wouldn't need to be replaced, or even installed/un-installed as often. SmallCorp already offered linen-wrapped archival display panels with ethafoam (to accept pins), and we had been experimenting with rare earth magnets for several years, integrating them with the design of our exhibit cases and LED spotlights, among other things. We worked through several rounds of prototypes with the team at Yale, which helped to fine-tune the design and materials. As a part of the 2012 Swartwout and Street Halls renovation and expansion project, we installed a number of panels at the Yale University Art Gallery. Variations of the panels have been used in several applications since, and it was introduced to our customers as the Super Panel this year.
Super Panels can be installed as a stand-alone wall display, behind a sneeze/dust guard, inside a frame, as a part of an exhibit case, or even as a storage medium. Because they are completely archival, you can feel comfortable using them in a sealed environment.
The panel is a layered sheet of archival materials. The base structure is 4mm dibond sheet (polyethylene core between 2 layers of aluminum), which provides rigidity and accepts cleats for installation. A layer of 9# ethafoam is dense enough to support objects, yet porous enough to accept pins. The ethafoam is covered with a sheet of perforated steel, powdercoated to protect against rust. The solid portions of the sheet accept magnets, which can be used to support objects, textiles, etc. The open portions allow for pinning. We cover the steel with a layer of polycarbonate film -thin enough to pin through, yet thick enough to keep the holes in the steel sheet from telegraphing through the display fabric. We wrap the entire panel in archival linen or your choice of fabric (easily replaced or covered for future exhibitions). We laminate the layers using archival adhesives, and add cleats for installation as required.
There are a few disclaimers, as always. Some conservators don't think magnets are right for every application. And some don't like pins. We don't pretend to know what's best for your objects. We do aim to keep things simple, and we hope a versatile archival exhibit/support panel helps with that. The second concern is weight - given all the layers, these panels weigh about 2.75 pounds per square foot, and that should be considered in terms of use, handling and installation.
Mike Dunphy is the Project Manager and Sales and Marketing Coordinator for SmallCorp. SmallCorp is a family-owned company, formed in 1972 in southern Maine. We make finished corner picture frames, archival exhibit cases, and many, many products for conservation and exhibition. Since 1987, we've been based in Greenfield, MA, and since 2008 we've been solar-powered. For more information visit their website at:

Featured Course: Exhibit Rehab: Breathing New Life Into Old Exhibits

Creating or contracting for new exhibits is often hugely expensive.  But if you
have a small museum, visitor center or interpretive center you may not have the budget to create new exhibits.  This course on exhibit rehab will help you evaluate the effectiveness of your current exhibits and provide a strategy for breathing new life into exhibits on life support - with a small budget but lots of creativity. 
Join Instructor John Veverka for MS272 Exhibit Rehab: Breathing New Life into Old Exhibits starting September 9, 2019 and learn how to make your exhibits more engaging. 
Early Bird Discounts Available for Full Length Courses
An Early Bird Discount is available for anyone who signs up for a full length course from 30 days prior to the start of that course.  
Sign up for a full length course up to 30 days prior to its start and save $100.00!
For our course list or to sign up:  
To take advantage of this discount, you must enter coupon code EARLYBIRD at checkout at
The Early Bird Discount deadline for October Courses is September 7, 2019   
September 2019 Courses
September 9 to October 4, 2019
Instructor:  Kimberly Kenney
The United States has more than 17,000 museums, we can only guess at the world's total. While most people think of a museum as a well-staffed, professionally run institution, the vast majority of museums are started and run by people with little or no basic training in museum studies or preservation. Introduction to Museums is designed to change that. The course introduces basic concepts, terminology and the role of various staff members, including curators, registrars and directors. Introduction to Museums is aimed at staff members, board members, interns, volunteers, as well as anyone interested in becoming a museum professional or learning more about the profession
September 9 to October 11, 2019
Instructor:  Sue Near
Sound business practices are critical for a museum to fulfill its mission. Sounds like vegetables, right? Museum management is complex. A museum exists to preserve collections and educate, but it is also an institution that must employ sound business practices while being accountable to the public as a non-profit organization. Instructor Sue Near teaches participants how to administer a successful museum efficiently and effectively. Participants will engage in discussions about the changing cultural climate and its effect on museum operations.
September 9 to October 4, 2019
Instructor:  Diana Komejan
The seasonal closure of a museum presents unique challenges and opportunities for collection preservation. This is an introductory-level conservation course exploring simple collection preservation methods for seasonal museums. The target Audience for the course is curators and other museum personnel, volunteers, site managers, maintenance personnel. No prior conservation training necessary. Participants will learn about the challenges and opportunities associated with caring for collections in seasonal facilities. They will learn about the risks to collections and how to mitigate them through closing and re-opening procedures, as well as throughout the winter season.
September 9 to October 4, 2019
Instructor:  Tom Bennett
Matting and Framing teaches the materials and techniques of conservation-quality framing. For display, matting and framing provides both protective and aesthetic contributions to art on paper. Students will learn about different types of enclosures, different mat styles and cutting methods, the pros and cons of different backing boards and glazing, and different methods of attaching items to a mat, some of which do not involve adhering hinges to art on paper. Lectures, illustrations, product resources, and additional informational references will be provided.
September 9 to October 4, 2019
Instructor:  Karin Hostetter
Have you done some evaluation but did not get helpful information? Do you wish you could do evaluations, but think it is too hard or too expensive? Do you wonder how to get people to use an offered program more? Evaluations are feasible and easy. This course will help you determine what you really want to know, choose the right process to gather the information, develop meaningful questions, and figure out what the results tell you. Please have a program or text in mind (real or imagined) to work with during the course. Note: this course will not be looking at statistical analysis.
September 9 to October 4, 2019
Instructor:  John Veverka
Creating or contracting for new exhibits is often hugely expensive.  But if you have a small museum, visitor center or interpretive center you may not have the budget to create new exhibits.  This course on exhibit rehab will help you evaluate the effectiveness of your current exhibits and provide a strategy for breathing new life into exhibits on life support - with a small budget but lots of creativity.
October 2019 Courses--New Courses Added!  
October 14 to 18, 2019
Instructor:  Diana Komejan
As we march boldly toward the 22nd century, artifact collecting includes that most fragile of materials - plastic. Not only is it in our collections, but it is used to house our collections, too. What problems have you seen? What problems have others seen? What materials are best? What can we, as caretakers, do to minimize long-term damage? Join Diana in this mini-course for discussing care and deterioration of plastics. Bring any questions you have about plastics in your museum.
October 1 to November 15, 2019
Instructor:  Karin Hostetter
Nearly every museum develops exhibits, but how can we improve communication with visitors while taking care of our objects? Exhibit Fundamentals explores exhibits from idea to final installation in a variety of settings. Topics include exhibit theory, the role of the museum's mission, creating a timeline, accessibility and script writing. Also covered are design elements, installation techniques, object safety and security, visitor safety and evaluations. Each student develops an exhibit plan for his or her museum.
October 7 to November 1, 2019
Instructor: Laura Elliff Cruz
One of the great benefits of the 21st century is the abundance of materials for storing and displaying collections. Materials for Storage and Display covers this vast array in detail. Lectures and handouts separate materials by properties: rigid, padding, barrier and attachments. Slide shows illustrate the use of each. The course emphasizes acid-free materials and how to retrofit less appropriate materials. Materials for Storage and Display keeps current with the latest materials available for preservation. Using material testing as a decision making tool is covered. Participants receive notebooks with samples of all of the materials discussed.
MS 209: Collections Management Policies for Museums and Related Institutions
October 7 to November 15, 2019
Instructor:  Kimberly Kenney
Acquiring and holding collections impose specific legal, ethical and professional obligations. Museums must ensure proper management, preservation and use of their collections. A well-crafted collections management policy is key to collections stewardship. Collections Management Policies for Museums and Related Institutions helps participants develop policies that meet professional and legal standards for collections management. Collections Management Policies for Museums and Related Institutions teaches the practical skills and knowledge needed to write and implement such a policy. The course covers the essential components and issues a policy should address. It also highlights the role of the policy in carrying out a museum's mission and guiding stewardship decisions. Participants are expected to draft collections management policies.
October 7 to November 1, 2019
Instructor:  Sarah Kapellusch
A collection database is a necessary tool for accurate and efficient collections management. In Collection Management Databases you will learn what characteristics distinguish one database system from another; how a database can be used to manage inventory, conservation, pest management, and other aspects of collections management; as well as how to prepare your collection and documentation for entry into a database.
October 7 to November 1, 2019 NEW DATES!
Instructor: Elizabeth Burton
Description :
Caring for paintings requires some knowledge of the component structure of paintings and the reaction of those components to both natural and man-made environments. This course looks at the painting structure, the effects of damaging environments, and proposes simple steps for basic care. Topics include the structure of paintings, proper condition reporting with standard damage vocabulary, and basic care and handling including environments, storage, and transport. The course is intended to help those entrusted with the care of paintings in any environment.
October 7 to November 15, 2019
Instructor:  Tom Bennett
Sprucing up your exhibits with safe, effective, inexpensive mounts can be easier and more fun than you thought. With a few tools, good technique and a bit of practice, you will be well on the way to presenting your objects in their most interesting light, with an eye on long-term safety and security. Design and Construction of Exhibit Mounts presents the basics of mountmaking for the small to medium-sized museum including tools, techniques and materials. Be prepared to construct mounts during the course. Students will be sent a list of materials and tools to acquire before the course commences. Come along and exercise your creative side while doing the collection a world of good.
Conferences and Meetings
American Association of State and Local History, Philadelphia, PA
August 28-31, 2019
Oklahoma Museums Association, Choctaw Casino
September 18-20, 2019
Mountain-Plains Museums Association, Albuquerque, NM
September 22-25, 2019
Association of Midwest Museums, Grand Rapids, Michigan
October 2-5, 2019
Western Museums Association, Boise, ID October 4-7, 2019
Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums, Hudson Valley, NY October 16-18, 2019 

International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection, Denver, Colorado
October 19-25, 2019
Southeastern Museums Conference, Charleston, SC
October 21-23, 2019
New England Museum Association, Burlington, VT
November 6-8, 2019
National Association for Interpretation, Denver, Colorado
November 12-16, 2019
National Association for Interpretation,
Saint Augustine, FL
November 10-14, 2020

Submissions and Comments
How to submit an article or upcoming workshops for inclusion in the Newsletter:  
If you would like to submit an article, notice of an organizational meeting or upcoming workshop for an upcoming Collections Caretaker Newsletter, send your submission to .  
We are always looking for contributions to this newsletter. Submission deadline is the 10th of each month. 
Have a comment or suggestion?   
Northern States Conservation Center (NSCC) provides training, collection care, preservation and conservation treatment services. NSCC offers online museum studies classes at in Collections Management & Care, Museum Administration & Management, Exhibit Practices and Museum Facilities Management.
Helen Alten, Director
Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager