How to Frame Important Documents

Diplomas, maps and historical documents need more than the standard care we use when framing photographs. The rarity and value of such documents call for an extra level of “TLC” (tender love and care) to ensure that these are properly preserved, not damaged or exposed to harmful chemicals. Otherwise, these irreplaceable documents can suffer discoloration, fading, twisting or distortion.

These are some things you need to remember when handling and framing important documents:

  • The document may hold inherent qualities that will result to long-term damage. It is helpful to remember that ancient documents are usually not made with the paper we now have. These also do not have the advantage of modern paper manufacturing technique that renders a piece of paper more durable. The document may be housed in antique paper, parchment or animal skin. The old ink may also have damaging components.
  • Store and handle documents with preservation in mind. Store your diploma and antique documents in an acid-free environment. When handling the documents, it is best to wear cotton gloves. This way, any oils that are present in your fingers will not be transferred to the document. The oils can be acidic and result in the deterioration of the paper. The oils can also stain the surface.
  • Use an appropriate frame. When choosing your picture frame, choose one that will display your precious document in the best light. Old documents such as parchment diplomas or maps can be framed using an antique picture frame. Check to see that your selected vintage picture frame is made from archival and acid-free materials.
  • Use a matting board. The matting will prevent the surface of the document from touching the glass. The matting will also keep the document from curling as it looks the document securely in place.
  • Clean and prepare the document prior to framing. Using a dry and clean brush, gently clear out any debris and dust that may have settled into the surface of the document. Do not use harsh materials such as rubber erasers or tape to remove markings or to attach a cracked section. If the paper has curled, do not iron the document in an effort to flatten it out. You can think about pressing the document flat by placing it between two flat boards and then weigh it down with some books. You can also consider having a professional flatten it out by archival methods.
  • Limit the document’s exposure to the elements. Even after framing, the document may still be vulnerable to damage. This includes continuous exposure to light and humidity. Use a glazing that has UV filters so as to minimize light damage. Light damage is not just caused by the sun’s rays, but also artificial light such as that from incandescent bulbs. Also, hang the picture frame away from areas which have the most exposure to sunlight, as well as away from areas that are hot and humid, such as near air conditioning vents.
  • Maintain the right temperature. Since you are displaying valuable documents, it is also recommended that you invest in ensuring that you have appropriate temperature control. Antique documents, since they can be made from vellum (calfskin) or other animal skins, are very sensitive to light and humidity. If the atmosphere is too dry and hot, the “paper” can dry up and crack. If the atmosphere has a high level of humidity, the ink can run. Humidity also encourages the growth of mold and fungi.
21st Aug 2015 Eric Morgan

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