Framing Historical Documents and Autographs

Abraham Lincoln ordering that a young child in military should be sent to his mother.

Archival Framing

Conservation Framed President James Monroe Signed Document


As a long time collector of historical autographs and documents, it still amazes me that materials and techniques used to mount and frame historical letters and documents.  If not done properly. acids from the materials will adhere or eat into the item and cause deterioration, thereby reducing its aesthetics and value.  When asking a framer to frame your artifact, explain to that person that you only want reversible methods used.  Meaning, if you decide to remove the item (or even keep it in the frame) you want to ensure the techniques he/she uses is 100% archival based.

Just recently, a prominent dealer showed examples of rare framed letters and documents that made me cringe. Some of the photographs showed examples of items that were improperly mounted (acidic tape).  One had a wood fillet up against the letter!  This is a big NO-NO!  Over time, the acids in the wood will migrate into the paper of the letter, causing an unsightly dark mat burn (or line) around the perimeter of the letter. (Due to copyright reasons, I cannot show their frame on this site).

You would think a dealer of rare letters and autographs would ensure the framer would used proper museum quality treatments on the item(s).

Proper framing techniques

Vellum Document was professionally encapsulated in Mylar for maximum preservation

The most important consideration to follow is that the autograph is framed with proper matting and glazing.  As mentioned, doing otherwise will just cause it to deteriorate over time.  As a collector, I have removed frames (even recent framing jobs) from autographs to only be saddened by what I see.  If it can be done, I have a paper conservator restore the item.  The unfortunate thing is that, in most cases, the item cannot be completely repaired. And, expert conservation sometimes can’t help or is very expensive.

Ironically, this is what led me into the conservation framing business.  When I wanted some autographs and memorabilia framed, I have to visit several shops until I realized that I had to bring it in house to ensure proper framing was done. When collecting or selling historical documents, I didn’t want to worry about any harm occurring on the autograph should a framer sacrifice the quality needed.

For framing, you need 99% UV filtered glazing, 100% cotton rag matting and archival coroplast for final backing.  NO foamcore!!

These important archival elements are needed to maintain condition consistency over time.  Otherwise, why spend good money with a custom frame shop?

As I have mentioned on previous blogs, framing autographs should allow the consumer or collector to easily remove the item from the framing with no harm and no visible effects on it.  It is as simple as that.  Of course, environmental conditions can alter that, but it is minimized with proper framing techniques.  Even with proper glazing don’t display your autograph in direct sunlight.

Most museums and organizations involved with antique paper will usually have a brief article on framing, like the Library of Congress or National Archives. It can’t be stressed enough how important this is for framing.  Again, 100% Cotton rag mat boards, High quality UV filtering glass and proper archival backing must be used to maintain the quality of the autograph being framed.

Categories: Alexandria framing, art, Autograph collecting, conservation care, Conservation Framing, custom framing, Document Framing, Framing, Historical Autographs, Military Framing, Museum Framing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.