A Modern Guide to Archival
Museum Quality Matting and Framing For Your Audubon Prints
When hiring a frame shop to mat and frame your Audubon prints, the
words "museum quality", "conservation" and
"archival" will be terms you will hear often in connection
with materials and techniques. You might naturally think that the term
“museum quality” means better or a higher standard, and that
“conservation” and “archival” mean longer lasting or preserving.
Unfortunately, there are no agreed upon industry standards that define
these terms, or guarantee the quality of materials used and/or the work
done. Rather, these terms are used by the manufacturers and framers to
describe the many different products and techniques they use in matting
and framing. The purpose of this chapter is to point out the differences
in these products. This will help you decide which matting and framing
products and techniques are right for your particular prints, in the
location and environment where they will be displayed. You will need to
weigh the monetary or sentimental value of your prints, against the
costs of using different framing and matting materials and techniques,
to achieve the overall appearance you desire with the appropriate level
of protection for your artwork.
My wife has been a watercolor artist for a number of years, and I
have been collecting and selling antique prints for many years. We have
a considerable amount of matting and framing work done. We do no matting
and framing ourselves, but are fortunate to have access to private
framers. I regularly confer with our framers, and the curator at the
local college museum, about the latest materials, techniques and
thinking in the areas of archival museum quality matting and framing.
Generally, it is recommended that your artwork be hung in areas
with relatively constant temperatures, and away from excessive heat and
humidity. Sunlight, halogen spotlights, black light, and direct indoor
incandescent and florescent lighting can all fade colors, darken
unpainted paper surfaces, and contribute to the deterioration of the
artwork over time.
The basic purposes for matting and framing are to display your
artwork in a way that will best enhance and highlight the beauty of the
art itself, plus encasing it in a protective stable environment that
will greatly lessen the potential for damage and deterioration from
interior and outside sources, and prolong the life of the artwork.
When matting and framing your Audubon prints, there are 3 main
areas of consideration: the glazing, the frame, and the matting package.
There are a few other items to think about, which I will also discuss
Glass, of course, will protect your artwork from airborne dirt and
pollutants, especially in areas where smoking is prevalent. It also
affords some protection against damage from little flying objects that
children might throw around. Finally, glazing prevents very interested
or curious people from actually touching your artwork and leaving finger
smudges or natural human body oil residue from their fingers.
Regular picture framing glass (perhaps under different names
regionally) is the most common material used for glazing. In quality, it
is a step above ordinary window glass that you might buy at your local
hardware store. Picture framing glass can come in different qualities
from different manufacturers. At a minimum, picture framing glass should
be clear and without imperfections. Popular back in the 1960s-1980s and
now experiencing a comeback, non-glare forms of regular picture framing
glass are available. Non-glare glass has been lightly sandblasted or
etched on one side. This cuts down on the reflection of light when
artwork is viewed from different positions. Avoid textured or etched
non-glare glass. Acid residue could remain which has not been completely
neutralized. Also, some non-glare glass will not be as clear, and will
slightly distort the details in the artwork or change the colors of the
artwork underneath it. If you are thinking about using non-glare glass,
be sure and view your artwork (in natural and artificial light) under a
sample of the glass. Borrow a few of the frame shop’s mat board corner
samples and set them between your artwork and the glass. You’ll then
see your artwork, through the glass, at the same spacing as it would be
when matted and framed. This is important! If your artwork does not have
a relatively high sentimental or monetary value, you could safely use
regular picture glass (clear or non-glare) if your artwork is hung in
places where only reflected or ambient light reaches it.
Conservation Glass -
Obviously, you want your artwork displayed in an area with enough
light so it can clearly and comfortably be viewed. Too much light,
however, will cause damage to your artwork over time. Quality frame
shops will now likely suggest that you use conservation glass for all
your artwork. Conservation glass (sometimes referred to as UV glass)
will filter out various levels of the damaging ultra-violet light rays
from the sun and from fluorescent and other artificial light sources.
However, UV glass does not prevent damage from visible light sources.
Apogee Enterprises Inc. produces a wide range of glass and acrylic
products under the Tru Vue trademark name. Tru Vue has virtually become
a generic term in speaking about glazing for framing. Other companies
have come out with similar products using slightly different spellings
of the Tru Vue name.
There are 2 important characteristics that you should consider,
against the cost of the glass and the value of your artwork, when
choosing conservation glass. The most important is the percentage (%) of
UV light that the glass blocks. The second consideration is the
percentage (%) of transmitted light that the glass does not block, and
therefore allows your artwork to be seen in its best light. In both
cases, the higher the percentage the better.
Conservation glass is available in both clear and non-glare forms.
Always bring your artwork to the frame shop to see how it will look
under non-glare glass, if you are considering using it. Depending on the
individual manufacturer of the glass, there may be one to several
different conservation glasses available, with different specifications.
Its costs will range from 2-3 times more expensive than the best picture
framing glass. Today, it is probably a good idea to at least use a
conservation glass with all your Audubon prints. You should find out
what percent of the light in the UV spectrum is filtered out by a
particular glass. Conservation glass will generally filter out 85% - 95%
of UV light.
Museum Quality Glass -
I think it would be fair to say that any museum would utilize the
highest standards and very best materials in protecting and displaying
their artwork. Again, there are no agreed upon standards for a “museum
quality glass.” Some UV
glass is also called museum quality. However, a true museum quality
glass will cost considerably more than any other previously mentioned
glass, and will exhibit superior qualities and features.
A good museum quality glass would offer non-glare features to
eliminate reflections from your artwork when viewed from different
angles. Yet, this glass would be smooth and hard, to reduce excess
collection of airborne dust and dirt. It might also have an anti-static
coating. A good museum quality glass would be harder and stronger than
other picture framing glass, but it would be optically clear and
distortion free, allowing 96% - 98% light transmission through it.
Finally, a good museum quality glass should offer filtering of 98% - 99%
of the radiation from the ultra-violet light spectrum.
a list of the costs I found for an 8” x 10” piece of the various
listed glass products –
Best Museum Glass
$47.00 (this is NOT a typo)
Clear acrylic sheets (Lucite®, Plexiglas®, and Lexan®) are
materials that are being used more and more today as quality glazing
materials in archival matting and framing. Acrylic sheets are perfectly
safe for your Audubon prints, but they can develop static charges and
may not be safe for other artwork such as chalk and pastels. Their chief
advantages over glass are their nearly unbreakable characteristics and
their lighter weight. They should be considered for any size artwork
that will be hung in a rec room or children’s room where balls or
other objects might be tossed about. When matting and framing double
elephant sized Audubon prints, whether original or modern reproductions,
acrylics might be used in place of glass to reduce the overall weight of
the finished framing job.
Acrylics cost a bit more than regular picture glass. It can be
considered archival because it is stable and does not out-gas any fumes
that would harm your prints. Acrylics are optically very clear and
distortion free, and come in several thicknesses. However, acrylic
sheets can show up with minute scratches in them. Do not hesitate to
reject a sheet with scratches. If the scratches are miniscule and in an
area over the window mat, they will be virtually invisible if placed on
the inside, up against the window mat.
Acrylics are available with a UV coating that will filter 95-99%
of ultra-violet light. They are also available now in non-glare forms.
While certainly not traditional, acrylic sheets have legitimate uses in
modern matting and framing, and are now being used more often.
Antique Glass –
Framing with original antique glass is becoming more popular.
Individuals or frame shops will rummage through salvage yards where
fixtures and furnishings from old buildings and homes are sold. Often,
old windows or individual glass panes can be purchased at fairly
reasonable prices. This 75-100 or more year old glass will give some
authenticity to framing an antique print. The imperfections and other
marks commonly found in glass of that age would give it some original
character. The glass can be cleaned up and cut to size, often trimming
off the edges where glazing putty has stained it for many years. Some
frame shops can arrange to have a clear UV coating applied to this glass
to further protect your artwork.
No Glass –
One of the newest ideas in framing is to frame a print without
using a glazing covering. Using blind archival fastening, the print
would be mounted to a back mat or board, and framed without a top mat,
as if it were an oil painting. This technique would not yet be
recommended for antique Audubon prints. However, it is something to
consider when framing modern high quality Audubon reproductions.
There is a relatively new product called Print Guard, manufactured
by Lyson Inc. in Illinois. It is recommended for use on any watercolor
or water-soluble surfaced print. It comes as an aerosol spray, and 3
light coats are applied to each print. The flat non-glossy finish
provides protection from moisture and humidity. The print can be dusted
or lightly scrubbed to remove dirt and fingerprints. The most important
feature of this coating is that it filters out 97-99% of ultra-violet
I have treated 2 later edition Audubon octavo bird prints, and
another 12 assorted modern prints, with this product. All are framed,
without glazing, and are hanging on a wall that is bathed with direct
morning sunlight, plus they receive several hours of overhead
incandescent lighting each day. I have control samples of all prints
stored in my paper vault. Upon comparison after more than 3 years, there
is no noticeable fading of colors, or darkening of any of the uncolored
paper areas, from either of the light sources.
Frames for your Audubon prints can be made from many different
materials. Wood is, of course, the most popular material. Frames are
also made from metal, glass and plastic. I will not discuss glass or
plastic frames because they are either, in my opinion, inappropriate or
not structurally sound. There are hundreds of metal frames available
that might be used in particular decorating schemes. Metal frames are
mostly extruded in very simple profiles and designs. There are a few
ornamental cast metal frames also available. Metal frames come in
various natural metal finishes, as well as painted colored finishes.
Metal frames are structurally stronger than wood frames. Therefore, a
smaller width metal frame will safely hold and support a larger and
heavier sized framing job, compared to an equally sized wood frame.
Wood Frames –
There are thousands of different wood frames available in various
profiles and finishes. This chapter is not intended to favor particular
frame finishes or profiles. The selection is vast and the final decision
is up to you, and your particular taste and decorating scheme.
Wooden frames, and some simple metal frames for that matter, are
available in standard sizes at Wal-Mart and other major discount store
outlets. Some of these frames are made of solid woods, like oak, and are
adequate, but often the assembly is not precise and professional
In terms of quality, the next step up from pre-manufactured
standard sized frames from retail outlets is the so-called custom frame.
The term custom frame or custom framing has many meanings. You can find,
on the Internet, many companies selling a vast selection of “custom
frames” at “discount prices.” While the profile selection and
variety of finishes is generally fairly large, and certainly more than
your local Wal-Mart, they are usually made from inexpensive woods, or
other wood materials, and come in standard sizes only.
A few of the Internet custom frame shops will allow you to
provide your own measurements, and they will manufacture a custom sized
frame for you. The cost will be somewhat higher than their standard size
custom frames. You should again take note of the materials used and the
quality of workmanship in the finished product. Most of the Internet
custom frames are a bit better than what you might find at a Wal-Mart or
similar store, but local frame shops can do much better in terms of
quality and service.
Custom Frame Shops –
When you walk into your local framing shop, with the idea of
matting and framing one or more of your Audubon prints, you should get
the impression that you are dealing with professional competent people,
who have knowledge of the latest materials and techniques of archival
museum quality matting and framing. When you go, bring your artwork and
all your questions. You should expect individual and personal attention,
specific to your needs. You may want to call first and ask some of your
more important questions. Maybe you’ll discover that a particular
frame shop is not equipped or knowledgeable enough to suit you. If you
phone first and tell them what you want done, you might make an
appointment with the owner/manager or person most knowledgeable about
your area of matting and framing.
At a frame shop, you will likely see scores or hundreds of
pre-finished frame samples from a number of manufacturers. Some samples
may come in various colors, but not all will be displayed. If you find a
profile you like, ask what finishes it comes in. Pre-finished frame
mouldings are usually sold by the foot, and each side of a frame is
measured from point to point to get the total number of feet needed for
a frame. Prices will vary widely. I’ve seen pre-finished wood frame
mouldings from a company like FrameAmerica at less than $5.00/foot, and
mouldings for over $30.00/foot for some Larson Juhl frames.
Once you have selected your frame, glazing and matting (discussed
next), the frame shop will do one of two things. Most frame shops do not
actually make your frame in their shop, for lack of space, or lack of
money for a large moulding inventory. Instead, they will phone in your
frame’s manufacturer name, style and measurements, to a regional
manufacturing warehouse. The warehouse will cut and assemble your wood
frame and ship it to the frame shop. Some of these manufacturing
warehouses are near enough to the frame shop so that someone can make
regular trips to pickup assembled frames and other matting and framing
supplies as needed.
Some frame shops will have the inventory and equipment to actually
assemble your frame at their store. No matter who assembles your frame,
it is the quality of the work that matters. Look around the frame shop.
They will likely have framed art or prints for sale, or have framed work
there that is waiting to be picked up. Examine the quality of the
workmanship. Look at all four corners and see how they line up. Whether
you pay $5.00/foot or $30.00/foot for your frame, you do not have a
quality frame job if the corners aren’t well constructed. This is an
easy way to evaluate the work done by a particular frame shop.
Whether you choose an authentic antique frame reproduction, or
choose a period, contemporary or modern design, the choice of frame
finish and profile is yours to make from the hundreds that are
available. Finally, your frame shop should advise you on frame size and
structural stability. If you are framing a full double elephant sized
Audubon print using a metal frame, with either glass or acrylics, a 1”
to 1-1/2” wide metal frame should be structurally sufficient. If
framing the same print with a wood frame and acrylics, a 1-1/2” to
2” wide wood frame should be adequate. For a wood frame with glass,
probably a minimum 2” wide frame should be used to carry the weight
and maintain structural integrity.
Custom Wood Frames –
If you want the very best of frames, you can have a truly custom
frame built for your artwork. You will find these custom frames
available at large or exclusive print dealers, highly specialized frame
shops, and at upscale art galleries. A truly spectacular authentic
custom frame, along with hand colored mat, and museum quality glass,
might cost in the $1000.00-$25000.00 range for a double elephant sized
This type pf frame is assembled from unfinished hardwood mouldings.
The mouldings can be ornate designs made by machine, or can be hand
carved. Once assembled to the correct size for your artwork, they are
sanded to perfection, and then finally finished. How your custom built
frame is finished can almost be left to your imagination. However, many
examples of authentic period frame finishing designs will be available.
You could easily take features from more than one example, and combine
them into your personal custom frame.
Simple yet elegant hand rubbed wood finishes, in most any shade you
want, are available on a large variety of different woods. Custom
colored hand painted features and accents can be added. Various
complementary or contrasting wood inlays can be included. Gold-leaf and
white gold-leaf accents can be added. For an authentic yet completely
different look, the unfinished frame is covered with gesso (a plaster
like coating), followed by a smooth clay layer in one of several colors.
Gold-leaf is then applied to the colored clay layer, and burnished by
hand (a very laborious process). The burnishing of the gold-leaf gives
the gold its luster. Further hand burnishing removes minute areas of the
gold-leaf, revealing portions of the colored clay beneath it. This
produces a very stunning and dramatic effect. To complete these unique
custom frames, additional hand antiquing and distressing provide the
Wood Out-gassing or Leeching
There is the potential for out-gassing, or leeching out, of harmful
fumes or by-products from some wood frames. In certain unseasoned or
inexpensive wood frame mouldings, resins or other acidic chemical
compounds may exist in the wood. These acidic compounds or resins, or
fumes from them, could actually come out of the wood mouldings and get
into the mat package and damage the matting materials or even the
All surfaces of pre-finished frame mouldings are generally finished
and sealed, except for the rabbet. The rabbet is the right-angled cutout
in all wood frame mouldings that accepts and holds the glazing, matting
(with artwork) and any support backing. A frame rabbet usually comes as
freshly cut unsealed raw wood. Conservationists now recommend that the
right-angled rabbet of any wood frame be sealed with either a clear
acrylic sealer or a polyester tape with acrylic adhesive, before
assembling the entire frame package.
I’ve discussed the frame and the glazing. The rest of the
materials that go into a framing job are referred to as the “framing
package”, “mat package” or simply the “package.” A few people
might include the glazing as part of the “package”, and I won’t
The most important parts of the package are the window or top mat
and the back mat. Besides hinges and fastening devices, the window and
back mats come in direct contact with your artwork, and therefore must
be made of materials that will not damage your artwork. Unless your
artwork is fairly small, you will undoubtedly need a backboard or backer
board, which goes behind the back mat, to help support and give
structural integrity to the package. Finally, a moisture barrier and
dust cover would complete the package.
Mat Board Composition and
The window mat and the back mat would generally be made from the
same mat board material. The window mat is, of course, the one on top
with the beveled cutout to reveal and display your artwork. Only about
1/4” of the window mat, along all four edges, need contact the artwork
to hold it down. However, some Audubon prints and modern reproductions
are done on large paper sheets with smaller image areas. In these cases,
a larger area of the window mat will cover and contact the artwork. The
artwork is attached to, and rests entirely on, the back mat. Mat boards
are a pressed board made of fibers. They generally come in various
thicknesses called plies. Commonly, mat boards are sold in 2, 3, 4, 6,
and 8 ply thicknesses. 3 and 4 ply are the most commonly used. 2 ply is
more for photographs and very small artwork.
The thicker 6 and 8 ply are used for their added strength to very
large mats, or where special effects such as added depth are required.
Added depth can also be achieved by double or triple matting.
There are many different kinds or grades of mat board. Some are not
acceptable for archival museum quality matting, despite what is claimed.
Read the specs before you decide which one to use.
Standard mat board is made from bleached wood pulp. It is not acid-free. Lignin, and
other chemicals from the wood pulp in the mat board, will soon turn a
standard mat yellow or brown, and turn any artwork it touches acidic.
When this happens the artwork will discolor and begin to deteriorate.
Standard mat board is NOT RECOMMENDED.
Buffered mat board is made from bleached wood pulp and is treated with a buffering
agent, like calcium carbonate, to make it acid-free. Buffered mat board
is a little better than standard mat board. However, the buffering agent
will gradually wear away or deteriorate. When this happens, you
basically have standard mat board. While buffered mat board will offer
acid-free protection for a while, it is NOT RECOMMENDED.
Acid-free mat board is made by chemically neutralizing the acids in bleached wood
pulp. It is sometimes also buffered. However, acid-free mat board is not
lignin (a complex polymer in wood) free. Eventually, acids and other
chemicals in the lignin will begin to discolor and damage the artwork.
While providing adequate protection for a period of time, acid-free mat
board is NOT RECOMMENDED for archival museum quality matting.
100% Alpha Cellulose mat board is an acceptable archival museum quality mat board for use
in matting your finest artwork. It is made from wood pulp, but has been
emaciated and chemically purified to remove all lignin and other acidic
chemicals. It is 100% acid-free and 100% lignin free. It is also
buffered, to raise its pH* to 8.5-9.5, for additional protection.
Finally, the very best archival museum quality mat board that you
can use for your artwork is 100% cotton rag mat board. It is not
made from wood pulp, and is naturally 100% acid-free and 100% lignin
free. Little purification is required because cotton is nearly 100% pure
cellulose. 100% cotton rag mat board is also available in a buffered
form, for additional protection in areas where light sources and
airborne pollutant levels are high.
*pH is a chemical measurement of how acid or alkaline a material
is. The pH scale goes from 0-14.0, with 7.0 being neutral. Numbers below
7.0 are acid, and above 7.0 are alkaline. The pH of a high quality
archival museum quality mat board should be in the 8.5-9.5 range.
Colored Mat Boards –
Mat boards are available in literally hundreds of colors, including
an amazing variety of whites and off-whites. Mat boards also are
available in various patterns and textures. Today, mat board
manufacturers have changed their color selections, in various grades of
mat board, as consumers have become more aware and knowledgeable about
the need for archival museum quality matting and framing for their most
The three NOT RECOMMENDED mat boards above now come in a limited
selection of colors. These three grades of mat board have legitimate
short-term uses. In fact,
many frame shops now explain and sell them for “temporary” or
“short-term” matting of inexpensive artwork and other items that
people might want displayed for a relatively short period of time.
However, frame shops would offer no guarantee of longevity in using
these grades of mat board.
Today, the 100% cotton rag mat boards are available in the largest
selection of colors and variations. You can be as creative as you want
in putting together a matting package for your artwork. You can double
and triple mat for extra depth and interesting effects. For antique
artwork, you can select off-white colored mats to match the color of the
antique artwork’s paper. You can pickup a specific color in your
artwork and use a matching colored mat. Or, you can do both by double
matting. It is not necessary or recommended to use a colored back mat.
You artwork lies directly on the back mat, and is never seen, so use a
plain white back mat.
There are two other considerations when using colored mat boards.
You should be CAUTIONED that not all colored mat boards, even some made
from 100% cotton rag, are “color safe” or “color fast.” Colored
mat boards that are not color safe can easily fade, even if protected by
UV glass. More importantly, however, is the danger of non-color safe mat
board colors running or bleeding when displayed in certain environmental
situations. If colors run or bleed, they could ruin your artwork. This
is further reason to never use colored mat board for the back mat.
Various manufacturers will certify and label some of their colored mat
boards as “color safe” or “color fast.” Use only those.
The 2nd consideration, when using colored mat board, is to realize
that the color is only on the surface. When the beveled window cutout is
made, the white inner core of the colored mat board will be exposed on
all four inner edges, and will be next to your artwork. This may or may
not matter to you. If you use a single colored top mat to pickup a color
in your artwork, the white beveled edge inner core may closely blend or
match the color of your artwork’s paper. You could use a white or
off-white inner top mat, and double mat on top of that with a colored
mat that picks up a color in your artwork.
There are at least two manufacturers, that I am aware of, who make
a “solid core” 100% cotton rag mat board. This means that the
surface color, and the color of the inner core, is identical. When the
window mat cutout is made, the four beveled inner edges will match the
surface color of the mat. This can be very useful, in either single or
double matting, if you don’t like the look of the exposed stark white
beveled inner core. Bainbridge makes a line of solid core colored mat
boards, which I have seen, and Crescent has a similar line, which I have
extensively used. These “solids” aren’t available yet in a wide
range of colors. Until just recently, Crescent had only 25 colored
solids, mostly off-whites plus beiges and grays and black. Both
companies are regularly coming out with more colors for their solids.
They are available in 2, 4, 6 and 8 ply, and either buffered or
Custom Mats –
Your local frame shop will custom cut the mat for your artwork and
personally mount and assemble your artwork in a complete framing package
ready to hang on your wall. While that is custom service, it is not a
custom mat. You would find people with the knowledge and skill to create
custom mats at upscale print dealers or art galleries, if your local
frame shop does not do this work. The work requires a lot of experience
The simplest, and perhaps most elegant, custom mat that you can
have done is the French mat. The term French line is also used to
describe this mat finishing technique. Usually 1 or 2 fine accent lines
are hand drawn around the entire window mat, using colors that are
picked up from the artwork. If 2 lines are drawn, they run parallel to
each other around the entire mat. Often the space between the two French
lines will be hand painted with another complimentary color.
If you think it appropriate for your artwork or decorating scheme,
you can order a hand painted mat. This requires an artist, but the
possibilities are limited only to your imagination. Typically, one or
more different decorations would be hand painted and evenly spaced
around the entire window mat. A straight or wavy hand painted line might
connect these painted decorations. Also, the cut beveled edges of the
window mat can be painted with an accent color. If you cannot find just
the right color, among the hundreds of available colored mat boards, the
bevel and exposed surface of the lower mat (in a double mat system) can
be custom painted to any color. Finally, a hand painted frame liner or
fillet can be used between the glazing and top mat. They can be painted
and decorated in any color, including metallic finishes.
Some people would say that the finest of all custom mats is the
French Silk mat. Actually, the French Silk mat falls into a category of
custom mats called “hand wrapped mats.” Hand wrapped mats fall into
two categories, paper wrapped and fabric wrapped. In both types, a 4-8
ply 100% cotton rag mat is cut to size and the beveled window opening is
cutout. At this point, the mat could be finished in any of the
For a paper wrapped mat, the cutout window mat is hand wrapped with
a 100% cotton rag artist’s watercolor paper. The paper can be any
color, and any available finish or texture. From there, the custom mat
can be decorated and finished with any or all of the techniques
A fabric wrapped mat is a step above the paper wrapped mats. The
process is the same as for a paper wrapped mat, except the mat is hand
wrapped with a fabric. Fabric wrapped mats are made using linen, suede,
satin or silk. I suppose of those four fabric types, silk could be
considered the “queen” of fabric wrapped mats. The choice of fabric
colors and textures is certainly in the hundreds, and probably exceeds
the number of colored mats that are available. The silks and linens can
also be hand painted with additional decorations and accents.
The variations for custom mats are only limited by your
imagination, taste and pocketbook.
Completing the Mat Package
A number of other details and techniques go into completing the mat
package. The artwork cannot touch the glazing. The common use of a
window top mat will generally provide enough space between the artwork
and the glazing. If for some reason a top window mat is not used, either
spacers or a frame liner or fillet will have to be used between the
glazing and the back mat. Even if both a 4 ply top mat and back mat are
used, it is generally recommended that a rigid backboard or backer board
be used behind the back mat. Mat board is fairly rigid, but over time
and under certain conditions, it could sag or warp. An acid-free
backboard, such as foam core or tiger board, would prevent this.
The top mat and back mat are generally hinged along one common side
so that the two pieces would fold open like a book. Acid-free archival
linen tape is generally used. The top mat and back mat inner surfaces
(the surfaces that will touch the artwork) are placed face up and two
sides butted. A strip of linen tape applied straddling the butted seam
will create the hinge. The artwork is secured or mounted to the back
mat. Two T-hinges made from Japanese rice or mulberry paper, and
attached using wheat or rice paste, is the best way to mount artwork.
There is an acid-free paper tape roll available, with water-activated
adhesive that is also used to make T-hinges. Clear acrylic or Mylar
mounting corners can be used, if they do not prevent the top mat from
lying flat and the artwork is not too tightly constricted. The T-hinge
method is best because it allows for some natural expansion and
contraction of the artwork. Dry mounting and heat-activated glues are
not safe for your artwork. Also, there is no pressure sensitive adhesive
tape that is safe for your artwork.
After the mat package is mounted in the frame, a polypropylene or
polyester sheet should be affixed as a vapor barrier. This is especially
important in cold weather climates where the frame is to be hung on an
outside wall. Finally, the back of the frame is sealed with a special
Kraft paper dust cover. In cold weather areas where the frame is hung on
a colder outside wall, spacers are placed on the back of the frame to
provide warmer air circulation behind the frame.
IF YOU VALUE YOUR AUDUBON PRINT, DO NOT FOLD OR TRIM IT TO FIT A
SMALLER SIZED FRAME.
Frames Unlimited, a chain of framing shops here in the Midwest,
offers a technique called encapsulation, for added protection, as part
of their framing package. Encapsulation is a process that uses a gel
adhesive to seal your artwork in a clear archival Mylar envelope. This
clear envelope, containing the artwork, is mounted to the back mat in a
mat package, and covered by the cutout window mat, for conventional
matting of antique prints. I’ve seen a sample of their encapsulated
artwork, but not matted and framed. This technique, though used in
libraries for document storage, is not yet proven as a safe environment
for artwork within a framing package
Alternative UV Protection –
When I purchased the condo I now live in, all windows with a south
and west exposures were lined on the inside with a protective film. This
film provides filtering out of 98% of UV light from the sun, and also
filters out some percentage of the sun’s infra-red (IR) energy, which
additionally helps cut down on air conditioning costs. These films are
available in clear, tints and reflective colors. My reflective film has
a 20 year warranty, and only reduces the amount of visible light in a
room by 5%. If you cannot find a satisfactory UV glass (non-distorting
and non color altering) to protect your artwork in a particular room,
you might consider this option for UV light protection. These films are
now available at Lowes, Home Depot and other home supply stores for
do-it-yourself installation. However, you must not defeat the purpose of
these films by using direct fluorescent or incandescent lighting on your
artwork. Visible indoor light on valuable artwork should always be
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