What is conservation framing?

Picture framing provides an attractive presentation for art and objects, but it serves another function as well: protection. Some protection is provided simply because the artwork is behind glass, shielded from the environment. But for valuable artwork (whether it is monetary or sentimental value), what is going on inside the frame is also important.

Conservation framing uses materials and techniques that contribute to the longevity and beauty of your original artwork photographs and objects.

Conservation framing begins with the materials that will touch the art. This includes the board that rests behind the art, the matboard that touches the front of the art, and the adhesive or other material that holds the artwork in place. All materials must be acid-free, and stable. The artwork should be able to be removed from the framing without tearing, marking, or staining the art.

The next step in conservation involves the rest of the materials; the frame, the glass, etc. These materials must be inert, causing no harm to the art either now, or in the future.

In conservation framing, space is always provided between the art and the glass, to allow room for air circulation. If art is pressed against glass, changes in temperature and humidity can cause condensation of moisture inside the frame, leading to the formation of mold, or even causing the art to stick to the glass (this is especially a problem with glossy photographs).

The glass used in Conservation Framing can be just as important for the protection of the art as the other materials. Excessive light can be damaging to many types of artwork. Special glass made for framing (called conservation glass, museum glass, or something similar) has a coating that provides a block of harmful UV rays.

Do not assume that Conservation Framing is expensive; the cost is often not much more that ordinary framing, and the protection provided to your valuable artwork is a worthwhile investment for the future.