Types of Damage You Need to Avoid for Framed Photos, Artwork and Documents

Photos and artwork that we display in our homes are a reflection of who we are. These images may trace our family history, display precious memories, or showcase our passions. Artwork also serves to set the atmosphere of the room, to relax or invigorate the viewers. Meanwhile, important documents such as diplomas and certificates serve as a testament of you and your loved ones’ achievements. As such, special care and consideration should be made to ensure that these items are preserved and are in good condition, even with the passing of the years.

One of the primary purposes of using a frame is to protect the item being framed from long-term damage and from damage caused by the surroundings. When you know the potential damage your precious photo, artwork or document may sustain, you can now make the necessary steps to prevent such damage.

With this article, we will identify the various areas and causes of damage:

  • Paper damage. For one, the paper used may not be designed to last. Ordinary paper used for certificates, maps, love letters and documents are prone to wrinkling and cracking, especially with the passage of time. The best step is to use materials that are designed to last. If ordinary paper was used, framing it can do much to protect the paper from the elements.
  • Acid damage. Even photo paper can be damaged by exposure to acid that may be present in the adhesive, backing or other materials in the frame. The result will be a photograph that is brittle, discolored or faded. If the document or photo was improperly mounted such as what happens when it is glued to the backing, the paper may tear if you attempt to remove it from the backing. This damage is irreversible. To prevent this damage, make sure that any material that touches the items is acid-free and lignin-free. When using antique picture frames, the old materials (which may not be acid-free) should be replaced with archival materials.
  • Light damage. Artwork and photos that are continuously exposed to light (both natural and artificial) can fade over time. The sun’s ultraviolet rays are especially harmful and can speed up the rate of damage. This type of damage can be prevented by using glass or acrylic fitted with UV protection. You can also keep your frames and artwork away from areas that are directly hit by the sun’s rays.
  • Water damage. Exposure to water can cause the materials of the paper itself to break down. This is not just with direct exposure to water, but also moisture produced by condensation and humidity. For instance, during the cold season, the difference in temperature inside and outside the frame can cause droplets of water to appear on the inside of the glass. This moisture can result in the appearance of mold or mildew. The photo may also stick onto the surface of the glass. You can use convex glass or add another layer of matting to limit the contact of the surface of the photo or artwork with the glass. Keep frames away from heaters or air conditioning vents. When not in use, the frames should be stored in an area where there is little danger of flooding. Thus, do not place important framed artwork or photos in the basement. When cleaning the frame, avoid using a spraying glass cleaner. Instead, wipe the frame using a clean damp cloth.
  • Staining. When framing artwork, be carefully not to use masking or cellophane tape. Some types of tapes (even those with archival quality classification) can leave stains on the fabric or paper. 
25th Mar 2015 Eric Morgan

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