MUSEUM CLASS: Observations on Mounts at an African Art Exhibition

December 22, 2012

We spent last weekend in Ann Arbor, MI to attend Robin’s graduation from the University of Michigan. She now has a master’s degree from the School of Social Work, aka the School of Social Justice, with a specialty in geriatrics and hospice. So very, very proud of her!

I also had time to visit the University of MI Museum of Art (UMMA), which I practically lived in as an undergrad, and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, ditto. This time, I not only enjoyed looking at the art and artifacts, I paid special attention to how the items were displayed, and how the mounts were constructed.

It was eye-opening! Lots of thoughts spiraling in my little brain this week….

First, the UMMA. They had a semi-permanent display of a private collection of African art, mostly wood carvings: Masks, sculpture, fetish figures, ceremonial canes, etc. These objects are from UMMA’s own collection, and borrowed from other museums and from private collections.

The exhibition is called “African Art and the Shape of Time”. I bought a copy of the exhibit catalog. Interesting read (though, of course, dense writing and slow going.) Having just spent 14 hours in a car with my daughter, who is extremely sensitive to issues surrounding culture, class and gender, I was struck by the attitudes toward the continent of Africa popular in European and American academia in the mid- to late 20th century. In 1956, one writer states that there simply was no African history before European contact and colonization. In the ’60’s, when a notion of an African oral history was forming, many Western academics still dismissed the idea of an African history prior to a European presence there. All was “darkness”. Of course, this makes sense. If you want to exploit a continent’s resources without regard for its many cultures and people, it’s easier if you refuse to acknowledge them as “real” and instead portray them as “primitive”, “less evolved” and “timeless” and “unchanging”.

I’d never thought of that before. It makes me uneasy, which means my own prejudices and thinking patterns are being nudged (if not outright walloped.)

But that’s a conversation to have with my daughter. For now, I describe some of the artifacts that caught my eye aesthetically, and how their mounts were constructed. Although ribbons of these past considerations show up clearly in how the artifacts themselves are treated when mounts were made.

I’m going to republish these observations and musings in my blog, too, with pictures of my truly awful drawings. (Note–as soon as I FIND my drawings….) No photography was allowed in the gallery, and I’m not sure it’s ethical to even reproduce the images in the catalog. I may eventually contact the publisher (UMMA) to see if I can use the catalog images, but for now, you have to make do with my scribbles.

General observations:
Most mounts were created to “disappear”, as Tom and Brad mentioned many times. Brass rods were painted one color to blend with the object where it made contact, and another to blend into the display background.

Most of the mount bases seemed to be made of wood.

Most astonishing for me was that many of the mount structures appear to be embedded into the wood of the artifact itself! So bizarre to see that, after all our lengthy discussions and readings emphasizing that the artifact we display must be protected and preserved–it is our first priority. First, do no harm.

I also wonder if all the mounts were made created for the exhibition, or if each donor had provided their own mounts. It occurred to me that most of this collection had been procured in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s–around the time one of my art history professors urged us to enter the field of African Art as a specialty, as it was “wide open”. Not much was known about African art, and it was a field we could make a name for ourselves in.

I’m guessing many of the mounts would have been made in a (relatively) haphazard fashion. That is, made by an blacksmith, perhaps, commissioned by the collector(s), but not necessarily with the tenets now held by mount-makers. That could account for the somewhat brutal drilling of the artifacts to accommodate the mounts.

More disturbing was the thought that maybe nobody thought of these objects as important historical relics, but more as attractive, beautiful “folk art” pieces. Just as I might hammer a nail in the wall and casually hang up a strand of antique trade beads….

OTOH, I gained a great idea on how to create mounts for my artwork that wouldn’t compromise the outside of my display boxes. Some of the mounts for smaller artifacts had bases that were screwed into the floor bottom of the display case. Aha! I could attach my mounts to a base, then install both object and mount into the case. No exterior bolts! I could stabilize the interior mount foundation with screws just long enough to engage the box’s wood bottom, but not penetrate through to the exterior. Yay!

The first artifact that caught my eye was a mask depicting perfect female beauty–almond-shaped eyes, delicate nose and chin, lips slightly parted, with braided/knotted “hair” made from what looks like a combination of cloth, string and fur.

The mount was a simple thick rectangular wood block, with an especially sturdy wood upright. This upright held a half-done block. At first it looked solid, like a hat block, but then I saw it was actually hollow. For all the world it looked like half a coconut shell. The upright fit into another wood cross-piece that held the actual dome. It was really hard to tell if this half-dome was part of the mask, or simply supporting the mask. I was the only person in the room trying to peer behind the artifacts, and up into the artifacts, and I got quite a few curious looks….

The second item was a ceremonial carved wood staff just under 4 feet tall. It was displayed in an upright position. The mount seemed to be free-standing–not bolted into the floor of the display case, nor attached to the back wall. It was a painted metal base, about 4″ square and 1/4″ thick, with a single rod upright about 6-8″ tall. The upper set of arms completely circled the staff. The lower set completely circled….a large 2″ “nail” that had been drilled or hammered into the tip of the staff!

This mount was unobtrusive, painted black to blend in with the staff color. But it seemed like this might not be a particular safe treatment in the case of an earthquake or the case being whapped. I know from experience that even a a 4″ square steel base can be knocked over pretty easily, especially if the object is top-heavy (like this staff is, with a carving of a seated young female figure.) My cats do it all the time!

I think a taller upright, with the arms supporting the staff in a couple of places along its length, and perhaps underneath the carved figuring, and a bigger base (in thickness, and in area) might have been better choice….

Another item, a wood headrest, had a beautiful mount. It was a simple T-mount, with the upright modeled to match the shape of one curved leg! It was almost invisible from the front view. The weight of the item was supported by the curved arms of the T crossbar. I thought it was simple, elegant, discreet, and seemed to cause no damage to the artifact.

But the next display was disappointing. To display two carved wood puppet heads (a ram and a hyena), the mount had been inserted right into the wood base of each mask! I kept looking to see if the base was actually a part of the mask, or simply a well-formed wood support. It really appeared to me to that the mount maker had drilled into the wood artifact. Oy.

Another mask mount showed me how even the same set of artifacts (in this case, wood masks) called for unique supports. One mask had a simple painted steel stand (flat square base, single upright.) The topmost arms (the T cross bars) fit into the small holes that were drilled along the back rim of the mask. (I believe these were holes fro either lacing the mask in place on the bearer’s head, or to attach cloth or some other covering so the back of the bearer’s head wouldn’t be seen.) Another arm below the T stretched forward into the face of the mask, so that the mask would tilt back slightly.

I don’t know what to think about this method of display. This is pretty standard in contemporary mask stands. At least no new holes were drilled into the mask. I decided it’s okay. Not the best solution, but not the worst, either.

I have to say, I found that looking carefully at how the objects were displayed, and how the mounts were made, really enriched my experience at the museum. It’s like watching a movie–yes, the actors are the focus of the film. But appropriate costuming, great sets and backgrounds, powerful music and special effects add immensely to the total presentation. They shouldn’t overshadow the actors and the story, but they do contribute heavily to the total experience.


(Note: This is a looooong, detailed post, mostly about the process of creating a mount (a display stand) for a small boxed artifact. I wrote this up as part of a class assignment.

There’s a life lesson buried in here–there always is!–but I understand if this is too long for most of you to actually read!)

I’m taking an online museum class through the Northern States Conservation Center. It’s my first online class. It’s been fun, exhilarating, thought-provoking, overwhelming and scary.

I’ve always wanted to work in a museum. I loved any school assignment that required me to build a diorama, a display, a presentation. In my own artwork and display, I pay attention to how my work is laid out, how the presentation looks. When people first said my booth looked like museum displays, I was thrilled.

I’ve wanted to take my work to another level for awhile now. I have vague ideas of what that looks like. But I had to explore what was holding me back. Oh! I don’t have the skills! I don’t know how to make something look like a real museum display!

How would I find out? A few hours on the Internet brought me to this online school. I wish I could take ALL their classes, but then I’d never get any art made….

I applied for a grant from the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen to pay for part of the class. I waited eagerly for classes to begin.

And fell in right over my head.

The class was small, but it seemed like everyone else taking the class already had experience. They all worked in musueums. Many had already made museum mounts, and wanted to IMPROVE their skills, not acquire them from scratch.

But I felt heartened by the fact that three of us were also artists. And the instructor, Tom Bennett of the Alaska Heritage Museum in Anchorage, AK was amiable, experienced, and encouraging. Also funny as all get out.

The supplies list for the class was daunting, too. A MAP gas torch?? Large cutting tools? Power saws??? I decided to get the basics and save the large power tools for another day. And Tom assured me I would not burn down the house with the big scary torch, IF I were careful. And IF I kept a big ol’ pot of water handy. And IF I could scamper fast in case of emergency.

It turns out I had most of the pieces I would need for soldering brass, and cutting plexiglas.

Next was the reading list. Holy Moly! I needed an extra lifetime to get through the required reading. Were we going to be tested on all this at the end?? Panic set in.

Until I finally realized I was taking the class to learn techniques for MY purposes. Not to create actual museum mounts for…well, a museum. I could practice the skills, and ask the right questions about material stability, off-gassing, sealants and surfaces–and put them to work making things I needed to display my work. I read most of the materials, put some away for future reading and reference. I realized just knowing about the variables was a valuable mindset.

You’d think I’d be done kicking and screaming and fussing about the class requirements. Nope. When it came time to create a Plexiglas mount, I dug in once again. No way, I said. I don’t like the look of plexi, I don’t want to use it in my work, and there’s no need for me to learn the skills. Tom cajoled me to just try playing with it.

And here’s what got me to take that next step:

When I looked at the mounts my classmates had made, I knew I could do this.

One fellow made a simple Plexiglas mount to hold a shoe. It was time consuming, he said. But the most important thing he learned was to be patient with the material (Plexiglas). I also noticed his mount looked very much like old plastic display pieces I’d seen in old shoe stores. Oh. So we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel! If something worked in one situation, it could very well work in another, more formal setting.

The same with another classmate’s mount, a sort of 3-pronged brass armature that held a mineral sample. It looked sort of like a giant ring setting, she mused. Aha! It did! She didn’t have to come up with something unique and new. If it’s good enough to hold a diamond in an engagement ring, it’s good enough to hold a piece of fool’s gold.

I decided I would try making a Plexiglas mount. I figured I was standing on the shoulders of giants…!!

I want to make assemblages, using old handmade wood boxes and my artifacts. I decided to make a mount that would hold a backdrop of old fabric–specifically, a fragment of a wool Kilim rug, handwoven in Afghanistan and probably at least 50-100 years old. (I bought the scraps from a guy who used to travel to Afghanistan, in more peaceful times, and bring back rugs to sell to merchants in the Boston area in the 80’s.)

I started with this box, from a set of roughly handmade small “drawers” I acquired a few years ago. I love the weathered, worn wood and the green paint.

This small handmade drawer is already the perfect color!

I wanted a mount to hold the fabric along the inside back of the box, and fold forward along the inside bottom of the box. (Got that?)

I made casual internal measurements of the box space, starting with the inside height:

I’d rather eyeball measurements than actually measure. Mostly because I often get figures turned around…. Hey, isn’t the inside of this box absolutely gorgeous??

And the inside depth. The dotted line is where the bend will be.

This seemed like a reasonable way to measure for the size of the mount…

Oops! Adjust the lighting….

I used to shoot with a little light tent, but it was awkward setting up for different things. Now I use an expensive (not!) filter for my photography lights (really bright fluorescent bulbs): A plastic shopping bag. This really helps buffer the light.

Next, I grab my Plexiglas cutter, and get my new split-point titanium drill bit ready. I have no idea what that means, but it sounds great, doesn’t it? (Actually, I can guess. But I’d think that ALL drill bits would be split point…?)

I hope I have the right bit! The store assistants got into a mild disagreement about it….Do I trust the one with the ear plugs in his ear lobes, or the one who thought Plexiglas was a kind of glass?

I score along the cutting line with the cutter. Then I clamp the Plexi onto a surface with a good sharp/hard edge.

I used a potholder to keep the Plexiglas surface from being marred by the clamps. This photo actually shows my SECOND cut, which went a little astray….

I take a deep breathe, and give it a mighty karate chop. Snap! A perfect break! (Yes, I tried it on a scrap piece first.)

Perfect cut!

Now for the bend. Tom kept saying, “Keep the torch moving, keep it moving!” Kind of like a floor sander, I thought. Secretly, I wished for a plastic bending strip heater element. But I knew I should start with a torch. Cheaper. And I already had a torch. Also, I’m realizing I use “shopping” for every contingency a way to avoid committing to any specific decision. So enough tool-buying! On with the Plexi bending!

Time for the torch! I think it’s funny I always thought this was a BENZomatic torch. When some Google hits came up BERNZomatic, I laughed at the misspellings. Then I realized it really is a Bernzomatic…..

I dug around til I found a smooth metal something I could form a good bend with. I’m remembering one of my classmates saying that the heated and softened Plexi picked up “every wrinkle and seam in the aluminum foil.” I line my tiles with aluminum foil carefully, and place a cookie sheet underneath for another layer of protection. At the last minute, I remember Tom’s advice on keeping water handy. Got it!

Fire and water…

After working on a practice piece, I begin to heat the Plexi for a bend. Back and forth, never tarrying long in any one spot… Horrors! Tiny bubbles! In wine, a good thing. In Plexi, not so much. Oh, well, they won’t show. And if I don’t tell Tom….oh, rats.

I quickly move the sheet to the metal frame and bend. I go a little at a time–better not enough, and be able to rework, than too much bend and a melty plastic piece….

Bendy glass!

I’m actually intrigued by the consistency of the warmed Plexi. And I’m surprised how long it stays workable. As it cools, it gets a little harder to form. It feels…malleable, but in a controllable way. This stuff could be fun! I remember the chat session where everyone talks about making Plexiglass “strings”. Hmmmmm…… Not now, Luann! You’ve only got a couple more hours! Back to work!

I finish the bend, and insert the finished piece into the box. Whoops! It sticks out too far on the bottom. I forgot to allow for how much space the Plexi glass itself takes up inside the box. I have to trim off almost a full inch. I use the same technique–clamping, whacking (with a hammer this time) but it’s not as clean a cut (because the split is so close to the edge.) I sand off as much as I can. I smooth off the burrs and heat-melt the edges a little. I’m too afraid I’ll overdo it and have to start over. So, just enough heat to smooth the edges.

Ta da! The basic form is done. Now for the details….

Next, I lay out the places where I’ll drill holes with my 1/16″ split point titanium drill bit. (I just love saying that…)

Hole-y Mole-y! Actually, I did a pretty good job laying out the spots for drilling, without any measuring. Again, it doesn’t really matter how precisely spaced the sewing holes are, so I’m not going to flail myself trying for perfection.

I worry a lot about splitting, chipping or cracking the form while drilling. So at first I clamp the mount to a piece of wood (for drilling into). But after a few practice drills on my scrap, I realize I don’t have to fuss so much. Maybe because the Plexi is thin, and the drill bit is small. I drill at slightly different speeds. I watch for the “curls” of Plexi to wend their way up the bit (like drilling soft iron, Tom said. Like I occasionally drill soft iron…) I go slowly, so as not to heat up the Plexi, and melt the curls. I try not to push down on the drill, but let the bit do its work. I try to drill straight up and down, but that’s not as easy as I thought. (I can see right through the Plexi and see how angled the holes are. Cool!) Again, it doesn’t really matter if the holes are straight, for my purposes.

No chips. No cracks. No breaking. Only scrub marks where the head of the drill rubbed against the Plexiglas, when I had to drill into the tight bend.

One thing: That drill is heavy! And my arms are way out of shape. I wonder if I could have gotten away with fewer holes….??

So many holes, so little arm strength.

This is where I get my brainstorm. I remember that acrylic felt is really safe to use with fabrics. Maybe I’ll line the form with acrylic felt, THEN put the fabric scrap on top of that.

Another brainstorm: I have sticky-back felt! I cut a piece to fit the mount, and apply it carefully and evenly. I got good at this from applying squares of the stuff to the bottom of my steel sculpture bases.

I’m so smart! Or am I…??

The mount with adhesive-backed felt, ready to sew on the fabric scrap.

Here’s the front…..
…and here’s the view from the back. Ready to start sewing!

My next “big” decision: What kind and color thread to use? If I were making a real museum mount, I might opt for white cotton–no dyes. Also, it will show up better on the back, in case someone down the road wanted to undo my work. But for my artwork, I want black thread, because it won’t show so much. I can completely bury the stitches on the front, so they’ll be invisible.

However, I’m conflicted about using cotton. I know from experience it can rot fairly quickly, over a few decades. Is it really better to use than a polyester?

In the end, I opt for black cotton thread. I make a mental note to do a Google search for archival techniques for fiber.

I’m sewing through the holes and catching just a thread or two of the fabric fragment. Then going back down through the same hole and moving to the next one. As a quilter, I know that many tiny stitches can be stronger than a few big stitches. Hand stitching is gentler than machine stitching. And the all-over stitching will support the entire weight of the fabric over the entire mount surface. Just hanging it from the top of the box would put the entire weight of the fiber fragment on one “row” of the fabric, which isn’t good.

It takes a lot longer to sew than I thought.

And for a bad reason….. I didn’t realize I’d be sewing through the adhesive on the back of the felt! It quickly gums up my needle. I have to stop every two or three stitches/holes to wipe it clean with acetone. I realize, too, if this had been a real ancient fiber fragment, I would have practically “inserted” tiny amounts of adhesive into the fiber itself.

So if I were to do this in a “professional” capacity, I’d skip the adhesive-backed felt, and used plain acrylic felt. On the other hand, the sticky backing allows me to “wrap” the felt around the bottom edge of the Plexi mount. It looks great!

I’m guessing my rug fragment already has a ton of antique camel dung ground into it, so a little sticky stuff won’t compromise its integrity.

Stitchery wizardry.

Finally, the sewing is done! You can see some of the thread “tails” hanging loose. I decided not to knot the ends, to anchor them in the fabric like I usually do. It wouldn’t be feasible with a real ancient fragment, and it’s not necessary in this application. The sewing offers sufficient stabilizing of the fragment.

Now to see how it fits in the box….

It fits perfectly!

Let’s take a closer look…

It looks marvelous!

Unfortunately, I neglected to select a box that was tall enough inside to feature a horse sculpture on a steel stand. So I improvise with some other “ingredients”…

My faux “antler tip” earrings on a painted steel stand.
My asymmetrical earrings. The pale colors look good in here!
The carved bead earrings.

Necessity is truly the mother of invention. I don’t have any shorter stands, so I simply stack up some tiles to set a small horse sculpture on. Clay tile, and two “sea glass” tiles.

Improvised stand. Not bad.
Voila! A Lascaux Horse box assemblage, with antique wool rug fragment backgroud.

So what did I learn?

I’ve learned that museum mounts are both simpler, and a lot more complicated, than I could ever imagine.

I’ve learned there really are people who spend their days making such mounts. And I could have had an entirely different, happy career, in an alternate universe.

I’ve learned help is often just a phone call/e-mail/text message away.

I’ve learned I can learn from my classmates.

I’ve learned Plexiglas is fun to work with.

I’ve learned that even when I THINK I’ve considered all possible factors, there will always be surprises. most of which will only be overcome with practice, practice, practice. And good humor. And luck!

I’ve learned there are fixed principles (when heating the Plexi with a torch, move the flame even faster to avoid bubbles.)

I’ve learned there are variable principles (small holes, thin Plexi, slow drilling means I don’t have to clamp the plastic down to a wood base.)

I’ve learned that sometimes the obvious shortcut (the sticky-backed felt) is not the best way to go (could contaminate or damage a true “ancient artifact”.)

I’ve learned there are as many ways to approach a mount design as there are people in the room.

I’ve learned that even a simple decision, like what kind/color thread to use, can cause hugely annoying logic loops.

I’cw learned to allow plenty of time to make a mount. Time from start to finish for this “simple” project was almost four hours. I could get faster with practice. But it pays to plan for every contingency.

I’ve learned when I’m unsure or hesitant, I procrastinate by doing excessive research, second-guessing myself, and S*H*O*P*P*I*N*G for every single tool or supply I might possibly need.

I’ve learned I can use quick, modern, simpler methods to display the elements of these assemblages. But it’s good to know the methods that will keep my work safe and undamaged for many years to come.

I’ve learned I should try making Plexiglas “strings” one of these days, because everyone says it’s fun!

I’ve learned you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. I never thought I’d take an online class, especially one with (necessarily) so much hands-on techniques to learn. But it worked! I bent Plexiglas today!! (I am easily amused, I admit it.)

And even now, I catch myself thinking…

“Hot Dawg! I made a museum mount today!”



I’m taking an online class on making mounts for museum display through the Northeastern States Conservation Center. A mount is the supporting structure that allows an artifact–a bone, a book, a bonnet, a basket–to be safely displayed in an exhibit. I want to learn more about making such displays, for my new series of artwork.

I’m in way over my head. Almost four weeks in and I’m still three weeks behind. There is so, so much more than I could ever have imagined to the incredible world of mount making. Mounts can be as creative and beautiful as any art form. And like many art forms, the discipline is formidable. So many things to consider: How fragile is the artifact? What do you want the viewer to see? What materials will not interact and damage the artifact? What will protect it from shock–everything from bumps and shakes to vibrations from passing trucks and earthquakes? The reading requirements looks about as manageable as WAR AND PEACE, without all the Russian names.

I’ve been reading an article called MOUNTMAKING by Pam Gaible, then Mount Making Supervisor at the Field Museum of Natural History. Ms. Gaible presented it at the American Association of Museums Convention in 1991.

I was fascinated by this paragraph:

How do you make a mount?
There are lots of factors to be considered when making a mount. A very important one is to have open channels of communication between the developer, mountmaker, conservator, and designer.

First the developer compiles an artifact list. Then the mount shop supervisor, the developer, and the conservator review the artifact list and create a photo book of the artifacts. The book contains a page for each artifact, which shows photo, measurements, material notes, and conservation concerns for mounting of the objects. It also contains a rough sketch of how an object can be mounted and a time estimate for making that mount.

She shows a few pages from such a book. The drawings and illustrations are beautiful. It looks like an artist’s sketchbook.

I once had the honor of viewing Cynthia Toops‘ sketchbook. Cynthia is one of my favorite polymer clay artists. Her work has a narrative feel that resonates with me. Sometimes playful, always thoughtful, charmingly folkloric yet sophisticated. Her sketchbook was as beautiful as her artwork, with tiny, exquisite drawings, details and notes. I am reminded that sometimes our tools and processes, just like museum mounts, support our art. And yet are so very artistic in themselves.

Then I read this paragraph, describing kinds of mounts:

* A typical disappearing mount. A mount that you aren’t aware of
when you view the object.
* A mount that keeps an object from migrating in the case.
* A mount that absorbs shock.
(This shock may be as small as the vibration of air conditioning
equipment or as large as an earthquake) [West Coast Style].
* A mount that helps preserve the existing structure of an object.
* A mount that is semi-permanently attached to the artifact and
functions as a handle and support.

(Rather than handling the object, you handle the mount.)
* A mount that supports an object while at the same time creates
the illusion that the mount is something else.
(Such as a mount that looks like a person, horse or campfire.)

I know this is weird–Lord, I can find synergy in anything these days!! But I thought this sort of sounds like my grief writing workshop.

A disappearing mount….that you aren’t aware of when you view the object. My purpose is to get people writing and talking about their grief. But it has to be subtle, almost invisible. Almost effortless. I do this by keeping the writing tasks short and directed. Even the poetry writing exercises are originally designed to be used with elementary school children.

But simplicity does not mean meaningless. Even the “easy” outlines create powerful results.

* A mount that keeps an object from migrating in the case. We use topics and time limits so that people can’t sink into their grief. Everything is quick, moves along. We take time to share, and cry. But we aren’t left to wander off into our misery.

* A mount that absorbs shock. A person who is grieving has suffered an enormous blow to their system. Everything hurts. Nothing brings relief. In our class, people feel like they can relax. They can cry. They can say what they really feel. Because everyone there knows what it’s really like. As one writer said, “It’s like we’re all on the same lake in a different boat!”

* A mount that helps preserve the existing structure of an object. We are deeply changed by grief. We will never be the same. But we are also still… We remain. We survive. We go on, alone.

* A mount that is semi-permanently attached to the artifact and functions as a handle and support. People don’t stay long in the support groups. They come when they are ready for something more, something to help them move along. They get what they need. They heal. They go back to their lives, a little stronger, a little more resilient. They move on.

A mount that supports an object while at the same time creates the illusion that the mount is something else. I had to think about this for a moment. Then it dawned on me….

People think they come to a support group or a support workshop for help. They think we have the answers, or a process that will help them feel better.

But all we do is provide a safe place for them to talk. To share. To contemplate what this loss means to them. They do the hard work, the heavy lifting. They look at the things they’re afraid to say, or think, because that might mean they’re “not a good person”. (Almost all deaths are complicated, and some are more complicated than others.)

They dig deep into themselves, and let the light in.

They share with others who are in the same place. They sympathize. They offer comfort, courage, support. Wisdom. Understanding.

They do this for themselves, and for each other. We, the facilitators, sit and look on in astonishment.

Ah, yes, museum display and hospice/bereavement services. Who knew how much they have in common?!

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