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Conservation Framing

   6-Feb-2000  by Fred de Jager

1. What is Conservation Framing?

Whatever is done to a work during framing should be fully reversible without causing any damage or altering ( cutting, folding ) the work. It should limit the deterioration of the work over a period of time as much as possible by limiting the influence of detrimental external factors such as moisture, UV light and acid from mounts and backings.

2. When is it appropriate to conservation Frame?

Whenever something of value is framed like an original graphic, screenprint, etching. watercolour, pastel or other paper born art - that has investment value or if it is worth while preserving, like an old map.

3. How is it done?

Conservation material, which is acid free, is utilized.

The artwork is inspected first and if it is in a good condition it can be framed. If there are signs of damage the work should first be restored and stabilized. 

Acid free backing and mounts are used and artworks are attached with a variety of hinging methods. Acid free gummed linen tape is used to attach heavy work and P90 tape or clear Mylar corners to attach a fragile work to the mount. The work is attached by means of a framers hinge on the window mount or a T- or S-Hinge on the backing board. This ensures that the work is only attached at the top and that it can hang freely to expand or contract with different moisture levels without warping. 

UV glass can protect against light damage and limit UV damage to paper. The backing board is waterproofed. A very important but easy method of attaching two small pieces of cork at the bottom of the back of the frame will protect the work from moisture being drawn from the wall but will also keep dust out and allow light to penetrate behind the picture. Insects and fishmoths will then also not seek out the dark space behind the painting.

4. What is acid, fox marks, mould and how is it caused ?

The pH of the board should be neutral ( Ph 5 ) if not, it will act in a corrosive manner and damage the paper of the artwork. Introducing an alkaline substance will neutralize acid.
Fox marks develop when acid migrates through moisture and concentrate in brown spots. 
Mould is caused by a fungus that grows because of excessive  moisture and low light. 

5. How can I see if a mount is acid free after the work is framed?

It is easily distinguished by inspecting the bevel at the window of the mount. If it is yellow or sandwiched between two outer layers of paper it is probably not conservation board. With time it will also yellow more. Acid free board (pure rag board) is pure white at the section through it. It is important to keep in mind that acid can move from an acid backing through acid free board and still cause damage. All materials used should thus be acid free.

6. What can I do to preserve my artwork?

Regular inspections by a qualified conservation framer, every 3 - 5 years, will detect any problems so that remedial action can be taken in time.

Back of  board showing slit with conservation tape through slit in back mount. The tape can easily be cut to release the artwork, - so called S-hinge, useful when the edges of the artwork have to be displayed.
Framers hinge on window mount. Artwork is attached with conservation tape and starch glue
Foxing caused by acid from the back mount on a certificate 15 years old.
Conservation board appears white at the bevel, whereas acid board is yellow