8 Fundamental

Lessons for Archival Framing


By April Hann Lanford

8 Fundamental Lessons for Archival Framing

By April Hann Lanford


When you meet with a specialist about framing your work of art, selecting the right frame is only part of the equation.  The proper frame should not only beautifully present the piece, but it should also protect it too.  Over the years we have seen many pieces arrive in the studio needing conservation due to improper framing with non-archival materials.

8 Common Issues that Result from Non-Archival Framing


1-Regular Glass – Works framed over 30 years ago are frequently framed with non-UV protective glazing. While on display, the artwork in the frame is exposed to both sunlight and artificial light, both of with can cause fading and discoloration.


2-Acidic Matting Acidic mats are made of paper-based support that darkens over time. The acids migrate into the artwork causing discoloration and embrittlement.


3-No Spacer or Mat – Matting not only serves as a decorative element but also provides space between the face of the artwork and the interior of the glazing. Artwork should never be in direct contact with glazing because the artwork can adhere to the glazing over time, resulting in disfiguring damage to the piece.


4-Improper Hinging Adhesive from pressure-sensitive tapes can be difficult to remove, often causing discoloration and or skinning of the paper support. It is a common practice to tape the artwork directly to the back of a mat, however, that can lead to damage when handled in the future.



5-Cardboard – Often used as a backing material in the past, it is highly acidic. Like matting mentioned above, acids can migrate into the artwork and cause significant discoloration and embrittlement.



6-Inappropriate Size – Artwork is folded or trimmed to fit within an existing frame. This is not always readily evident when reviewing a piece firsthand in a frame. Original artwork and limited edition prints should never be altered to accommodate a frame.



7-Unstable Frame – The frame should be constructed to be able to support the size and the weight of the components it houses. Improperly designed frames can have rails that bow, and corners that open and are weak. This can not only cause damage to the artwork but also can lead to safety issues.



8-Loose Hardware – Hardware is one of the piece elements and is often one of the most overlooked. Small screw eyes are often too weak and can pull out. Improper installation of fasteners can cause splits in the frame, resulting in further instability, and damage.



The issues listed above were also in part can be attributed to the lack of availability of proper framing materials. Over the past 30 years, the quality and availability of archival framing materials have dramatically improved. Here are a few basics to remember for your next framing project.


8 Tried and True Archival Framing Recommendations


1-UV Filtering Glazing – Artwork should always be protected with UV filtering glass or acrylic.  There are several options available that protect up to 99% UV.  In addition to providing UV protection, there are also anti-reflective options that reduce and almost eliminate glare.


2-Rag Board Matting and Mount Boards – Rag boards are made of 100% cotton rag and do not acids from wood pulp that can deteriorate your artwork over time. Rag boards also come in a variety of tones and thicknesses, in the event that a neutral mat is something that you don’t have in mind.  Artwork should always be hinged to a rag board mount, rather than to the mat.


3-Use a Spacer or Mat – If you are not using a mat, then a spacer should be used to prevent contact with the artwork with the glazing.


4-Reversible Hinging – for archival mounting, reversibility is key.  Photo corners allow for mounting without the use of adhesives.  If photo corners are not a suitable solution, use ph-neutral adhesives such as methylcellulose or wheat paste with Asian paper for hinges.



5-Backing Board Coroplast backing boards not only provide additional rigidity to the framing components but also help protect from moisture.



6-Appropriate Size – Artwork should never be folded or trimmed to fit within a frame. Frames should also be built with an added allowance around the piece to accommodate the expansion and contraction of the sheet in the future.



7-Durable Frames – Make sure that the frame profile is constructed to properly support its size and the components within.  If you have a large piece with an eye set for a narrow frame profile, a strainer can be fabricated to support the piece. Metal frames are also good options for oversized works.



8-Proper Hardware – Having the appropriate hardware installed on the back of the piece is imperative for the overall safety of the artwork, and frame.



A well-designed frame can serve two functions, to display a piece and with archival materials, it can help protect a piece too. Using these 8 basic guidelines is a good start for the archival frame design.  


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