Conservation Picture Framing: Do’s and Don’ts

Some photos are irreplaceable treasures, even in today’sdigital age. These are worth our efforts and expense in preserving throughframing. These efforts help to extend the life of the picture, minimizing theefforts and deterioration that time can bring. Admittedly, conservation pictureframing is much more expensive than normal framing, but it can make yourprecious photographs and even artwork last for a far longer time.

Here are some of the factors that cause the deterioration ofa photo:

  • -Light. Ultra-violetrays from the sun can cause damage to the photograph. In fact, light (whetherfrom the sun or from fluorescent sources) is one of the primary causes of photodamage. Light emits photons, which are absorbed by the paper and this causesthe basic structure of the paper to break down. Light can result indiscoloration and brittleness.
  • -Moisture,heat and humidity. The environment of the frame (heat and cold) can causecondensation to form inside of the frame. The moisture can cause the photographto stick to the glass or for mold or mildew to form.
  • -Presenceof acid in materials that touch or surround the photograph. If one usesnon-archival materials, these can emit acids and gases that can interact withthe photo paper and cause damage. Over time, the lignin in “normal” paperbreaks down and produces acids. These acids react with the photo paper andcause discoloration and deterioration.
  • -Dirt anddust. The dirt in the surroundings can penetrate into the frame and damagethe photograph.

Here are some do’s and don’ts in conservation pictureframing:

  • -Do usearchival materials. There are specially produced tape, glue and paper thatyou can use when framing your photo. These are acid-free and lignin free. Usematting, backing material and adhesives that are strictly archival materials.Archival materials undergo a special process that introduces calcium carbonateinto the materials. These, in turn, increase the alkalinity level of thematerials and offset their acidity.
  • -Don’t usenon-archival plywoods and fiberboards. The components of the frame, becauseof its proximity to the picture, can mean that any gases emitted are also nearthe picture and can easily react with the photo so that it becomes brittle andstained over time.
  • -Do usearchival matting. Matting, for archival purposes, is not just fordecoration. It keeps the surface of the photo away from the convex glass andprevents the photo from sticking to the glass.
  • -Don’tforget to seal the picture frame. Seal it by using archival backing. Thisprevents the entrance of moisture that can cause the presence of mold andmildew. But as you seal, be sure to add space for the photo to “breathe” andfor air to circulate.
  • -Do useconservation glass. Conservation glass usually is equipped with UV filtersthat prevent much of the light from penetrating the glass and hitting thephotograph.
  • -Don’texpose the frame to extreme heat or cold. Don’t place the frame near thefireplace or somewhere where it gets too cold during the winter.
  • -Do ensurethat the framing is retrievable. In case you want to remove the photographfrom its antique picture frame and move it into another vintage picture frame,you should be able to do so. If in some way the photograph or artwork isaltered because the framing job was not retrievable, then the value of thephotograph may be considerably affected. Thus, think twice before applying anyform of adhesive at the back of the photograph.
  • -Do choosethe frame carefully. Whether you choose round, square or oval photo frames,it is important that the moldings of the frame are sturdy enough to hold theentire frame over time. The size of the molding will also help provide thenecessary space to enable air to circulate within the frame.
9th Mar 2014 Eric Morgan

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