I just got back from a preventive conservation field trip to the 2010 Smithsonian Mountmaking Forum with more respect and admiration for what mountmakers accomplish quietly behind the scenes in museums. As a pre-program intern at the National Museum of the American Indian I had the opportunity to work with the mountmaker Shelly Uhlir. It is great that the NMAI has a mountmaker in their conservation department, I think it really makes a difference.
The 2008 the first Mountmaking Forum was held at the Getty and from what I heard it was great for mountmakers to get together a talk about the unique challenges of their work. The problem solving involved with holding fragile works of art securely but without incurring damage requires a great deal of thought and imagination. I think it is something that could never be taught the way art conservation is taught in grad school, the knowledge of welding and becoming comfortable with the materials you work only comes with hands-on experience.
I really enjoyed the conference, it had around 200 participants, from 7 countries, and it was a professional, casual atmosphere. The first day there were talks and all the question and answer sessions were kept until after 4 or 6 talks so all speakers were on stage together which led to some interesting panel type of discussions. If you are dying to know what was said, these sessions are available to watch in online videos. I learned a lot and I realized the limitations of my own education and vocation, I am a conservator and not a mountmaker, but I hope my being at the conference showed my interest and genuine admiration for the work of mountmakers.