Caring for Works on Paper | Frames
Works on paper includes everything from printed documents to watercolor paintings
to photographs. As photographs have some unique preservation and restoration issues,
they are discussed in another section, but many of the same rules apply. Paper objects
are extremely fragile and therefore special handling and storage is critical to
Paper should be touched as little as possible with uncovered hands. If you must
handle important documents or works on paper it is best to use white cotton gloves.
Having paper encapsulated or encased in archival Mylar or archival-framed can not
only lengthen the life of the object but also make for easier and safer transportation.
Ideally, paper should be stored or framed in archival materials. This means that
the surrounding area is free of acid. Paper, made from wood pulp, will almost always
contain some degree of acid and overtime this acid will cause the paper to turn
yellow and brittle. Deacidification solutions applied by a paper or photograph
restoration specialist can neutralize these acids to prevent decay.
This process should be done prior to encapsulation and/or framing. Archival or acid
free matting and materials for frames should also be used so that the acids in these
materials do not migrate and contaminate the preserved object. If a paper artwork
or document is to be mounted to a backing it is important that archival (non-acidic)
adhesives be employed and that all procedures be reversible. The glass or glazing
used in the frame should also be of a high quality, such as UV glass, which diminishes
the amount of damaging Ultraviolet light reaching the paper. Glazing is also available
in non-reflective or non-glare glass. Glass such as Low-E glass is not recommended
as a frame as it does not sufficiently reduce the amount of UV light where the
glass is set close to the object needing protection. Acrylics such as Plexi-Glass
maybe used in certain framing situations where the materials are stable and unlikely
to be affected by static electricity (such as pastels or charcoal mediums). Since
acrylic is a plastic material there is also the risk of off gassing, which could
be potentially damaging to paper objects. It is also very important that there be
a small amount of space between the glass and the paper so that should any condensation
occur, it will not damage the object's surface or cause it to stick to the glazing.
All frames should be sealed sufficiently to prevent air and moisture from entering,
but allowing space between object and glazing is a precautionary measure. Hanging
hardware, both for the wall and art, should be selected based on the weight/size
of the work and the type of wall.
Works on paper include everything from printed documents to watercolor paintings
and photographs. Our photograph restoration and preservation tips
can be viewed from the side navigation.
Should you choose not to frame your works on paper, they should be stored in archival
boxes and flat files. Folders made of archival board can also be used provided they
are slightly larger than the objects they contain and stored in a humidity-controlled
environment. Flat files should be made of anodized aluminum or powder-coated steel,
not wood since most wood contains acid that will yellow paper. If you must use a
wood flat file, encase the papers in Mylar envelopes or at least line the drawers
with Mylar sheets.
Ultraviolet light can be very damaging to works on paper. Not only should the glazing
used in the framing be UV glass, lighting in the room should be non-UV light. Windows
in rooms where paper is to be displayed should be coated with UV protective film
and lighting should be incandescent or tungsten since these bulbs emit a very small
amount of UV light. Closing draperies or blinds as much as possible is recommended
but alone will only diffuse light, not prevent UV damage.
Temperature and humidity are important factors to consider in the preservation of
any art object, but are especially important for paper. Humidity changes can cause
paper, a wood based product, to actually change shape and size. These changes can
crack and damage the medium as well. Generally the relative humidity should not
exceed 60% and the temperature should remain constant at 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whenever paper comes in contact with water it is more fragile than when dry. The
threat of damage from flooding due to inclement weather or damaged plumbing is an
often-overlooked factor in art preservation. If an object is soaked, partially wet
or merely damp, mold and mildew can begin to grow and stain it almost immediately.
Additionally, if framed improperly the object can stick to the glass or glazing
and removal can tear the paper's surface. Wet paper should be dried immediately,
but if it is stuck to another surface it can be frozen without being removed until
it can be taken to a paper, photograph restoration specialist,
or conservator who can address the condition properly.