Framing Antique maps

Circa 1750s map showing British and other European presence in the American colonies

Antique maps, as with other antique paper items, requires proper conservation framing to ensure longevity and protection of your antique map.  Unless trained to correctly frame a map, some framers use tape, glues or other adhesives to mount the map.  Many have even glue/tissue mounted the map to backing not realizing doing so would devalue and eventually harm the item.

Another common framing method in routine framing establishments (including arts and craft chain stores) is the use of any foamcore board as backing. This is an example of “acid free” foamcore after being in frames for about 10 to 15 years each:

This is an example of so called “acid free” foamcore. Notice the stark yellowing from outgassing

Brittle “acid free” foamcore that has been outgassing










Although most framers only offer foamcore products, make sure you ask the framer that you want both museum grade 100% cotton rag backing AND archival coroplast for final backing.  Nothing should ever be compromised regarding the framing of your important artwork.  After all, preservation should be part of the framing package.  Doing otherwise will create problems down the line.

When inquiring about glass, only use 99% UV filtered glass.  Don’t use a substitute!  Over the years, I have taken apart frames for customers who realized that some of their artwork showed signs of fading or discoloring.   Coloring on antiques maps is very sensitive to light and any intense light without protection will be evident over time.   Remember, your artwork is in constant contact with light daily.  If you use the proper glazing, and keep your artwork out of DIRECT sunlight, your framed items will be fine.

A key ingredient to proper museum quality framing is the application of museum grade 100% rag matting.  Don’t accept other mat types.  Even if the framer tells you it’s “acid free”, I can almost guarantee you it’s not unless they show you it’s made from 100% cotton fibers.  Other matboards will leave a darkened ring around the antique map, which is called a “mat burn”.  If you have ever purchased previously framed artwork in older or not properly treated framing jobs, you will notice a mat burn around the artwork.  And that was due to acidic mats mounted onto artwork.

Protecting your antique maps and ensuring proper framing is done to them is very important to their longevity.  When visiting a framer, ask the necessary questions to ensure they do what’s needed to protect your artwork.


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