Picture Framing and Fine Art Or Memorabilia - Archival and Preservation Methods For Value Retention

Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Anyone who owns or has purchased fine art as an investment knows the importance of value retention. Most collectors not only enjoy the art for its own sake, but hope it increases in value over time. Any fine art or object will quickly begin to lose its existing value if it has been improperly mounted, treated or framed. The same goes for items of sentimental or historical value. The family Christening gown that is 100 years old may not be of much worth to a stranger, but to the new mother who inherits it, beautifully framed to hang in her baby's nursery, it is priceless.
Archival and preservation framing methods are necessary to keep the art or item pristine (or at least in its current condition). Acid-free backing and matting materials, UV or museum glass and proper mounting and hinging methods and seals are a must. At one time, the use of cardboard, adhesives (like glues or most tapes) and items such as construction paper, and wood backers was common practice. Today, things have come a long way. Even if your art is currently in a framed showcase similar to the above mentioned, it can and should be removed and re-framed properly, thereby extending its life.

Years ago, matting materials were made from wood pulp just as most paper products were and framers commonly used a piece of cardboard or wood as a backing for the art. Today, these mats and backings are available in cotton or "rag" material which removes or greatly reduces the acidity level in the product. The acid is harmful and part of the reason art can become faded, yellowed or brittle over time.
Glass used to be just glass, also not as advanced as it now is. UV glass is available and should be used to keep out ultra violet light which is another source of great damage to art. It can cause yellowing and/or fading depending on the type of paper or material the art is on. Dyes, inks and paints can be irretrievably lost without a quality glass to protect them. (Think about that signature from your favorite pro athlete you so proudly show your friends. Without UV or museum glass it will be invisible, not to mention worthless, in a very short time.)
The art should never be glued or adhered to the mat or backing, rather hinged or suspended with acid-free corners or archival tapes. Ideally, your art should be almost "floating" within the frame with as little material as possible actually touching it.
In essence, your art should be sealed in an acid-free environment, meaning the only thing in direct contact with it should be as free of acid as possible. When you consult a custom picture framer, keep this in mind. Do not be afraid to ask about cotton/rag matting, UV or museum glass, acid-free backing materials (either heavy ply mat board or foam core), and hinging methods (should be linen or Japanese rice paper tape or photo corners in most cases). Any professional should be happy to discuss these methods with you and be comfortable explaining the differences between them.


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