The Importance of Framing   by Debra D'Souza

About 20 GRC members listened carefully when member Debra D’Souza presented important information and fielded our questions about framing our art. Debra is nationally certified as a framer and has many years professional experience with the best conservation practices. 

Deb emphasized knowing enough about matting and framing so that we can choose materials that preserve our art safely in its original condition. They will cost more but they are better for the art. She showed us an example of an etching that was damaged by improper matting and mounting, and distributed sample kits showing us the difference between good quality and poor quality materials.

With mat boards and backing board-the pieces that touch the front and back of the art work-the key is to avoid materials with acid content. That means avoiding paper and board made from wood pulp. The acidity in wood pulp mats and boards is released as a gas within the frame and inevitably damages the artwork. The damage will be visible within months as the bevel cut of the mat darkens, and eventually the same happens to the paper support for the art itself. That’s because the outgassing acid actually burns paper. This is the same reason that pages of old books become brown with age-the paper is actually burning.

Beware of mat board labeled “acid free,” which may have a core of wood pulp that’s simply been covered with chemically buffered paper. Instead ask for “conservation board” or “museum board” that’s made from 100% cotton, also referred to as rag board. 

The backing is just as important. Foam board is used most often. Its core is inert and safe for art, but ask for the kind that’s covered with acid-free paper instead of regular paper. (Alternatively, mat board may also be used for the backing.)

Good framers will minimize sticking adhesives on the back and corners of the art. Deb showed us linen tape with a safe type of glue that can be removed later on as needed. She shared a technique for making corners out of mulberry paper so that a sheet of art can be held on the backing board without any adhesives touching the art itself. 

When it comes to glass, the important thing is to protect the art from light’s ultraviolet rays. UV rays will fade the image and harm the paper support. Deb recommends always using “conservation glass” which blocks 95% of the UV rays. “Museum” glass blocks even more, but is significantly more expensive. 

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