What REALLY is Museum Quality Framing?

Conservation Framing

Framed document signed by Abraham Lincoln during his presidency appointing a Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court


What is Museum Quality Framing?  Genuine Museum Quality Framing is when the art or artifact being framed is really protected from harm, not only from external factors like lighting, but also from improper materials and/or techniques used in the framing process.

In my over 25 years of framing, I have seen artwork and important items ruined from so called “museum quality framing”.  With heavy competition from big arts and crafts chains (who lack the skills and materials know how of real museum quality framing), many smaller shops will play the word game to lure people into their stores for framing.  The sad thing is that most of these shops have minimal knowledge what is required for the protection and preservation of art in framing to qualify for museum quality framing.

Just recently, I had someone bring in some antique maps for re framing with different frames.  When I took the frame apart, I noticed the antique map was glued onto an acidic backing board.  Also no elements of the frame qualified for real museum quality framing.  But, there was a label on the back of the frame that stated otherwise. Sad.  This person was not happy with the prior framing as it damaged her map.  In this case, a conservator can be contacted for treatment, but 1) the cost can be very high for such restoration and 2) there is no guarantee the map can be salvaged.

A common problem I see in my shop is the improper framing of college and university diplomas.  All too often students and/or their parents bring their framed diploma in the frame they bought at the college bookstore and ask me why there are certain issues with the diploma, like fading or toning.  They were upset as the frame was advertised as conservation or museum quality.

Make sure your framer explains the proper materials and techniques he/she is using when framing.  Is the framer using proper mounting techniques?  Correct grade of glass?  Does the matting and backing contain rag material and give support to the art?  There are many things consider when choosing a frame shop.  After all, this is your art and your money we are talking about.

Don’t rely on advertising slogans or promotional gimmicks for your experience with a framer.  Do some research into the history and qualifications of finding a framer.  And, don’t fall for fancy words and phrases used in advertising.  As the saying goes: An ounce is worth a pound of prevention.

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