Acid free mats vs. Museum Grade mats

100% Cotton RagWe have all heard the term “acid free” regarding the quality of mat boards used in framing. This term is used frequently in framing circles when it refers to the quality of mats to protect his/her artwork. These mats are supposed to protect artwork, diplomas, and other items of importance when being framed.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Did you know these mats are made of WOOD pulp and will harm your item over time? That’s right. In reality acidic paper is touching your precious artwork. Though the mat board is chemically treated, fluctuations in heat, humidity and light, will break down the “protection” of the matting. This leads to bleeding, also known as a “mat burn” onto the artwork!

Only 100% pure cotton cellulose rag matting has a much longer, more stable shelf life in protecting your artwork. The matboard samples you see pictured are examples of such mats. Museums and libraries only use these for their works as they have been proven to provide longevity in protecting artwork.

Most framers will also tell you a white core mat board is archival quality. That is also nonsense. Mat Board companies realize people’s perception of having a white core shows a clean look over time and hence, conservation quality. In reality, they are also made of wood pulp and can do equal harm to artwork over time. Again, 100% cotton rag should only be used in framing.

By the way, most people say they won’t be around to see the ill effects. Nonsense! the harm will start almost immediately based on environmental factors. A portion of our business re-frames diplomas, artwork, historical items for people wanting a new mat, frame or inspecting the interior. Virtually all the time a wood pulp mat is used, I have seen mat stain the object.

Just recently, I have seen diploma frame companies market these mats as being “museum quality” and “conservation”. They are not! A couple months back I went to a convention where vendors market their goods and products to colleges and universities to resell to their students. When I inspected some of the framing companies’ products, I was shocked to see the quality. The glass was run of the mill glass, the mats were cheap dark colored mat boards made of low grade wood pulp and the backings were similar in quality. And at high prices. You could get the EXACT quality at your local big box store at a FRACTION of the price!

In the end, I cannot stress the importance of framing your artwork, diploma correctly the first time. Don’t throw your money away on junk that won’t protect your artwork. Framing needs to proudly display AND protect what it contains. And, the truth is, true Museum Grade framing costs should be negligible.

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