Are these ALL needed to 'conserve'?

Sherry Lee

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Jun 25, 2002
Phoenix, Az.
When does this become 'overkill'?

After an ORIGINAL watercolor is hinged, the rag mats applied, and the entire package sealed with conservation tape (888), WHY/WHEN is it necessary to:

1) seal the frame with archival frame sealing tape? Nothing comes into contact with the wood because the packaged is taped.

2) use archival dust cover? There is already Artcare foamboard behind the acid from Kraft paper going to ooze through the substrates and penetrate the art?

If I understand the 'why' then I won't feel like it's all redundant treatment (like I do now).


I seal the frame when I am framing an original to keep the canvas edge from touching the wood. I seal the frame when any image is mounted without matboards, again, to minimize contact of the art paper with the frame wood. I do not seal all frames. That is my personal policy and does not follow any written "rules" or guidelines.

Regarding dust covers, I use the archival "blue" paper because it stands the test of time. I just tore down a print that was framed in 1986 and had a brown kraft dust cover on it. The dust cover was deteriorated so badly that, when I removed it, most of the edges crumbled when I tried to scrape them off the frame. And the large center section crumbled in my hands when I attempted to wad it up to throw it away!

That was after just 18 years of hanging on a wall.

Aside from all the proper reasons to use the "blue" paper, I just like the look of it on the back of a frame package. And my customers like it also.

My beach bum friend has it right.

Most of us use the Lineco paper, not because it'll make the art last longer, but because it'll last longer itself. A dust seal can't seal out bugs and dust if it's falling apart, and kraft paper self-destructs.

I think sealing the frame rabbet is overkill if you're already sealing the frame package. It may be overkill anyway if the art is a least a few inches from the frame, which it would be with most mats. I myself rarely seal a frame rabbet.

Don't follow my example, though. I am a notorious slacker.
Sherry, your right, most of it IS overkill.

I have a print in my shop that was framed in Italy in the early 1800s. The print has no mat, it is placed directly against regular glass, the old rolled kind, there is a piece of barrier PAPER behind the print, then it has a wooden backing. The print is a colored print. It is a totally viable picture, that could hang in any home today.

The materials we are using in framing today, have no match in our industries history. Acid free mats, four ply acid free backings, UV glass, acid free fillers, backing paper yada yada. Based on that old print I have, the things we are framing today should last at least a thousand years. How many of our customers actually want their pictures to last two hundred years?

I honestly believe we are getting carried away with our efforts to preserve Little Bobby's kindergarten artwork. He will be long dead and his tombstone will have disintegrated, but his scribbles will still be going on and on.

Oh gosh John,

I understand what you're saying but don't quite agree. The few artworks of my daughter's that I've decided to save are worthy (in my mind) of preservation.

I don't think that the measures required to perserve them are necessairly heroic. Encapsulation, interleaving with buffered alpha cellulose tissue in Rubber Maid boxes... these are good enough for me.

I do agree that we're lucky that poorly framed items have survived for many years. That can be attributed to environment (dry, cool...etc.) as much as anything. And the fact that they have survived is testimony that environment is just, if not more, important than the quality of contact materials.

I've seen things framed/stored with rotten quality materials, but in good environments, last longer, and in better condition, than things framed/stored in qood quality materials in rotten environments.

Still, we try for the best of both.

Ron's point about the longevity of the backing
paper should be noted. Poor quality paper tends
to embrittle along the upper edge and when the'
frame is picked up, the holder's fingers are likely to go through the paper, there, making
the dust cover into a dust collector.
When a mat/glazing/backing board package are taped
together, it is useful to put some sort of barrier, such as a strip of Mylar, between the
tape and the edge of the mat. This keeps the adhesive from the tape from transferring to the
edges of the mat and ensures that the mat will stay clean when it is reframed. The tape, by itself should keep any emissions from the wood
from affecting the mat.

Future archaeologists are going to LOVE this era.

*dig, dig, scrape, scrape, brush, brush, poof, poof*
"Oh. It's just another early 21st century picture frame." *toss*

The scrap books will drive them crazy, too.
Originally posted by HannaFate:
Future archaeologists are going to LOVE this era.
The scrap books will drive them crazy, too.
I don't think that the measures required to perserve them are necessairly heroic. Encapsulation, interleaving with buffered alpha cellulose tissue in Rubber Maid boxes... these are good enough for me.
Rebecca, I can't believe that a conservator such as yourself would stoop to using common Rubbermaid boxes, available at K-Mart, for storing valuable artwork, when Light Impressions has True-Core boxes available. This is just outrageous!
That old framed print started in Italy. It crossed the Atlantic by ship. It resided in An eastern industrial city for many years before it made it's way west. I think this picture has been in just about every rotten environment that we could provide.

I agree, environment is an issue that has to be taken seriously, yet if we ignore it, I don't think it will be of any consequence to most pictures being framed today. The materials we use in todays framing just about guarantees a viable picture in several hundred years. I am not saying there will be no damage to the picture, I am saying it will continue to be worth displaying, that is all.

We do, however, have an environmental problem in my area, it is mold. Even the best materials do not seem to stop the stuff. It is in just about every home in our neighborhood. The framing jobs that are unlucky enough to contract this stuff are doomed to a very short life span. Most of them end up in the trash. A few make it to a conservator, very few. My shop is on a peninsula, the weather can get hot and a little humid in the summer. This just started a few years ago, before that, we rarely experienced any humidity at all, at least not noticeably. I think this is the cause of the mold outbreaks.

While the frame package will hold up through the years, I worry that the images won't. Today you don't now what chemicals are in these papers. How will they realy react in 100 years? Are accelerated tests reliable? I don't know, but I won't be around to see or not see as the case may be.
I have often had this thought that the framing can outlive the artwork it contains. More often styles, taste, and trends change to the point that the owner no longer cares about the art. Hence another reason cheap off the wall pre-framed art is selling so well at the big boxes. We here in the US live in a disposable society. We have to pick and choose where museum quality in needed or wanted. The strange thing is, people with cheap posters think that they will be worth thousands of dollars one day, and people who buy LE work want their framimg for $50 because the print was "so expensive".
When comparing things framed 100 years ago to those framed yesterday, remember that the materials are just not the same. One has only to look to newspaper for the proof of this. Ten year old newspaper articles are already very yellow and brittle. Articles from 30 years ago probably look about the same, if laid side by side. And if you go back a hundred years, these, too would look the same. This is because paper is produced more cheaply and with more chemicals every year.

And the art itself was no doubt printed on much better quality than art today, quality for quality (unless we are comparing truly fine art, and that is not of which I speak)
Art that was framed 100-150 years ago had higher rag content and lower lignin content as a matter of course. And of course, rags ain't what they used to be either...