What is Museum Quality Framing?

UV filtered glass and rag mats are some of components in a museum quality frame

For many years, “museum quality” has meant something made with high quality materials or techniques. Basically, a cut above the rest. The term meant a level of protection or preservation used in the framing process.

Unfortunately, many framing jobs labeled as museum quality, fall short

Recently, a customer called me to inspect a framed antique print she framed elsewhere sometime ago, troubled by the noticeable fading. She came into my studio for me to inspect it. Taking it apart, I noticed it had a label marked “museum quality” on the back of the frame. However, it had NO UV filtered glazing, NO 100% cotton rag matting, NO 100% cotton rag backing and NO final layer of archival backing. Thus, it was not close to being “museum quality”.

Framing establishments from the largest to the smallest know this term is one that gives them credibility. Many frame shops, through ignorance or intentionally, use the term loosely. This can be harmful if the item being framed is important, valuable, or even irreplaceable. In my years, I have seen clients very disappointed when they see the effects of improper framing on their art or artifacts.

It’s called marketing. In fairness, some do perform framing at this level. But the truth is, most don’t.

Frame shops can and do make claims without substantiating it. The consumer is unknowing because he or she assumes all frame shops follow a set of established framing guidelines. Unfortunately, it is up to the frame shop as to what constitutes this.

Framing a Diploma with 100% Museum Quality materials

In order to attract more business, framing establishments want to show they are different and better from the rest. This includes competing on quality and price. People are entrusting them with their item(s). If framing their artwork wasn’t that important to them, they wouldn’t take the time or shell out the money.

The excessive, meaningless use of the term “museum quality”, has led me to use the term “Museum Grade”.  Another term I support is “Museum Level”. This is a categorized phrase used by the London based Fine Art Trade Guild.  Museum Framing is  an organization Museum Framing is proud to be invited as a member. Few framing jobs qualify as either “Museum Grade” or “Museum Level”.

Going back to the woman’s antique print. She wanted me to restore the framing with proper materials to salvage it, but, most of the time, the original condition can not be restored, at least not at great cost.