Conservation Framing for Treasured Photographs

Frames do not only enhance the visual aesthetics of a picture. It also serves to protect the picture and minimize possible damage. Sadly, not all frames are created equal. Non-conservation frames can actually result in damage to your picture over time. Now, if your picture is something that you already have in your computer files and something that you can print again, conservation is not an issue. You can go with any ordinary frame. However, if you are planning on framing a rare photograph, it is best to go with conservation framing to prevent discoloration, fading, or brittleness on your photograph.

Why is conservation framing necessary?

The photographic paper is vulnerable to a lot of elements. Acids from the backing, the tape or glue, or the mounting board can leech into the paper. Moisture that can come in from the changes in temperature can also affect the photo, especially if the photo touches the glass. With conservation framing, you are using methods and materials that minimize these risks from affecting the picture. With conservation framing, pictures will last longer with no or little damage and discoloration.

Some trademarks of Conservation Framing

The following shows some of the elements that characterize conservation framing:

  • Use of acidic and lignin-free material. As mentioned, acids in any material that touch the photo can cause damage to the photo in the long term. In addition, some acid-free paper that contain lignin can also cause the paper to break down and produce acid. With conservation framing, there are different grades of archival material with its own level of acid and lignin content. This involves the use of 100% cotton fiber or museum quality rag matting and backing or acid-free foam boards.
  • Careful preservation of the picture’s original appearance. Folding the ends of the picture or cutting the edges is a big no-no for conservation framing. In addition, using glue or commercial adhesive tape to attach the photo to the mounting board or using dry-mounting techniques are also to be avoided. Instead, one should strive to keep the condition as close to the original, so as to protect the photo’s or artwork’s value. It is best to use a frame that fits the picture rather than forcing a picture to fit into a small frame.
  • Preventing damage caused by the elements. In the past, frames use convex glass to keep the contact of the glass with the photo. Moisture can come in through condensation (especially during the winter season). The moisture can cause the photo to stick to the glass. That is also why frames are not completely sealed, to allow the inside of the frame to “breathe”. This also prevents the formation of mold and mildew. Conservation framing also ensures that all the layers that are placed inside the frame fit into the space provided. For some antique picture frames, the frames may need some revision to ensure that the frames adhere to conservation framing standards.
  • Careful mounting techniques. The picture is mounted to the frame with a hinging technique, rather than by using glue or drymounting. Other framers also use archival photo corners.
  • Use of conservation glass. Conservation framing uses glass that has UV-ray protection. This protects the photo from sunlight and artificial light, which can cause fading.
19th Feb 2015 Eric Morgan

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