Just the other day, I had a sales rep from a prominent moulding and matting manufacturer pay me a sales visit. Knowing that I only trust 100% cotton rag products, she tried to make the case for wood pulp Alpha® mats. These are mats that have been chemically treated in order to reduce acids and impurities in mat boards. Many framers use this product and some even claim it to be the best or one of the best in the business. The main reason I hear is the wonderful diversity of colors offered, while being “museum quality”.
Knowing that they are NOT true preservation quality, I debated with the sales rep, but stopped when I realize that I won’t change her mind. First, let me sale that I do use Alpha® rags, which are 100% cotton and superior in quality. But, sorry, no dice on the Alpha® Mats. Although great in theory, my extensive years of practice has led me otherwise.
So, then, the rep leaves me this gorgeous beautiful card that states how the Library of Congress spent a “Culmination of an 8 Year Study….Confirms the Benefits of Artcare”. Artcare is their description of their mat boards, partly because of containing zeolites. Zeolites is chemical used to absorb pollution, which, in my opinion, may be hype, but the jury is still out.
Now to get to the main point! The study was conducted by Cindy Connelly Ryan of the Preservation Research and Testing Division, according to the flyer.
What do I do? I, of course call her. I introduce myself and explain my business model of doing preservation framing. I explain the brochure. Needless to say, she was not happy with the flyer, in fact disturbed.
Now, my purpose is not to beat up on the manufacturers, but to make sure the record is set straight.
Here is what Ms. Ryan emailed me in her own words, in part:
As we discussed, I have not tested the “AlphaMat” boards, and L(ibrary of) C(ongress) has not examined them in our ongoing product testing program; we only use neutral colored boards for making mats, so this is a product we’re not likely to be interested in.
The AlphaRag ArtCare boards I studied were cotton rag, rag with calcium carbonate, and rag with calcium carbonate and the zeolite. I’ll note that the study was done in 2004-5, and manufacturers change their products frequently, though the current description of AlphaRag on the Nielsen-Bainbridge site (checked today) still indicates the same composition.
I’m pretty distressed to see my tiny little 6-month study described as “extensive” and “8-years”, and being quoted in a context that obliquely implies that I, personally, and the Library by extension, endorse the entire ArtCare product line, when we’ve never tested most of it.
At this point, I’ve passed this up to my managers. I hope that NB will be amenable to some re-wording for clarification without too much drama. I wonder how many of those fliers have been passed out so far? Sigh….”
Though the Library of Congress states on their website: we specify “rag or other high alpha-cellulose pulp”, lignin free, acid free, and, for most of our collections, buffered…………true conservators and other museum preservationists primarily trust rag, buffered or non buffered. The ONLY mat board Museum Framing uses.