painting "Aunt Emma"
Courtesy of Andrew
In general, these are the highest grade of art and framing
materials used by artists, museums and galleries who
may be concerned about the life-long preservation and
care of the artwork. This is an area that is too often
understated by artists, galleries and dealers who fail
to educate the average consumer on the subject. Overlooking
the issue of art conservation can bring about irreversible
damage to art that might be important to you.
Paper or canvas is treated to neutralize it's natural
acidity in order to protect fine art and photographic
prints from discoloration and deterioration. Note that
the natural acidity of some papers will return over
extended periods of time. In particular, wood pulp paper
is known to regain its acidic properties once the neutralizing
(or buffering compound) deteriorates over time. cotton fiber paper and canvas is a wiser choice, both for creating artwork
or for matting materials when framing your valuable
Inherent in wood is a chemical called lignin. Paper
mats made from wood pulp are acidic and can damage the artwork over time.
The manufacturers of paper mats add a "buffering compound"
to the wood pulp to "neutralize" the damaging
effects of lignin.
100% Cotton Fiber (Rag) Mats
A paper that is often used in printing fine art because
of its purity and longevity. All components of rag
mat board are naturally 100% acid-free and do not
contain alum or lignin.
Conserving works on paper
Although works of art on paper such as prints, drawings,
and watercolors are inherently fragile, they can be
easily and effectively protected from damage and deterioration.
Preservation measures include:
- proper storage and handling, including framing
- protection from light
- protection from unsafe temperature and relative
- protection from pollutants and airborne particles
Proper Storage and Handling
Works of art on paper should be touched as little as
possible. Be sure that your hands are very clean, or
wear white cotton gloves. Better yet, mat, frame, or
store the works in a manner that permits viewing and
transporting without direct handling. Its a good idea
to make sure that your framed works have the proper
backing and are covered on the backside to keep the
tiny paper-eaters (insects) out. When they die they
release acids that will discolor your artwork. When
you see those brown specks, you know they are there!
Protection from Light
Light causes fading of
artwork. Art Museums take special precautions to limit
exposure of it's invaluable masterpieces to both natural
and artificial light. Light can also darken or cause
paper to become brittle. The damage to both, pigment
and paper is cumulative and irreversible.
Protection from Extreme Temperature and Relative Humidity
Because warm or moist conditions accelerate deterioration,
temperature and relative humidity (RH) should not exceed
20C and 60%, respectively. High temperature and RH also
encourage mold growth and insect activity. Very low
RH, below 25%, is believed to be less damaging but may
cause paper to become brittle.
During periods of high humidity, use fans to circulate
air and help discourage mold growth. Above all, do not
store works of art in basements or attics. Do not hang
them in bathrooms or over heat sources. Unless the building
has excellent climate controls, do not subject art on
paper to seaside locations or other damp areas.
Protection from Gaseous Pollution & Airborne Particles
dust and soot will soil delicate, porous paper surfaces
and are difficult to remove safely. Ubiquitous pollutants
from industrial gases, auto emissions, and heating compounds
are readily absorbed into paper, where they form harmful
chemicals that discolor or embrittle. In addition, sources
of internal air pollution, such as copying machines,
new construction materials, paint fumes, new carpets,
janitorial supplies, and emissions from wooden cabinets,
can attack paper.
When to Call a Conservator
Treatment of art on paper must be done by qualified
conservators specializing in paper, not by those who
claim to treat all types of objects. Want immediate
detailed information about art conservation? Check out
the AIC American
Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic