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Does My Art Really Need Special Materials to Protect It?

Badly Faded Artwork
Over the past 33 years I have been in the framing business, many people would call and ask me if they need museum grade materials for their artwork or artifacts.

My response would always start with the same response.

"What are you framing?"

If you are framing an antique item, like a map or print, the answer is yes.  Framing a sentimental or valuable item like a wedding photo?  Again, yes it needs protection from the elements of the environment, such as light.

But, if you are framing an inexpensive rock poster you bought for your child's dorm room while in college?  Probably not.  My "wall decor" while in college was discarded when I moved out of the dorm.

It is very important that 99% UV glass or acrylic is used on any important or valuable artwork and artifacts.  The image at the beginning of this blog shows the disastrous effects of not using true conservation glazing. 

Through interaction with other framers and reading articles they and customers have written, I have noticed that many rely on the term "acid free" to indicate quality.  In truth, "acid free" does not signify quality. It's just a buzz word used to promote and sell products.

Mat burn caused by Generic over the counter "acid free" mats

When disassembling artwork for any number of reasons, when I noticed a mat burn or discoloring around the artwork, the customer would tell me the framer would state they used acid free materials.  And, yes, according to some manufacturers, the materials may be labelled "acid free".

However, these mats they used had wood pulp in it.  And, over a period of time, that wood pulp would break down through exposure to heat and light and bleed on the artwork. The diploma shown above is an example of damage caused by typical "acid free" mats sold by general custom frame shops and big box art and craft stores. 

The bleeding would eventually leave a mark around the artwork and cause what is called a "mat burn". And, the longer the mat came in contact with the artwork, the darker and more pronounced the stain affected the art.

It's always important to archival materials and techniques on your art.  Service your art with important treatment so it will be preserved and last without deterioration.

It’s rare when I don't see the negative effects of common framing materials affect the aesthetics of a person's art. Either colors fade or even change appearance. Writings become light and in some cases, barely noticeable.  Or, foxing can appear in the paper.

Foxing is when brownish spots are scattered throughout the paper. This can be due to the acid levels of the paper or moisture and humidity coming in contact with the paper.

So, in summary, yes, if you want to frame to last, use the necessary materials to protect your items without worry of harm over time.

And, remember, if it's worth framing, it's worth protecting!