Importance Of Matting & Framing For Works On Paper And Photographs

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The need for adequate matting, mounting, and framing as a critical component of collections management and preventative conservation is frequently underestimated. Poor quality materials and incorrect frame procedures are major causes of harm to otherwise good artwork and cultural heritage artifacts. Staying aware of proper framing procedures and selecting conservation-grade mounting, matting, and framing helps prevent many problems that will be much more difficult or perhaps irreparable in the future. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” as Benjamin Franklin once stated.

Matting & framing for works on paper and photographs

  • Choice of a framer

When selecting a framer, look for someone that is knowledgeable about the best conservation framing methods and has experience adopting them. Picture framers may be under a lot of pressure to make a sale, so it’s a good idea to have a basic awareness of suitable conservation framing materials and processes before speaking with a framer or inner frame paper suppliers, so you know what to ask for.

  • Materials

Many materials routinely utilized in picture framing can harm the thing contained within. Even products marketed as archival-quality could be hazardous. Do not let aesthetics take precedence over preservation alternatives. Many products labeled “archival” may not meet the requirements for long-term preservation. Poor grade materials are less expensive and might give the client the illusion of value while incurring damage over time. Oxidation and the discharge of acidic gases from low-quality materials can hasten the disintegration of paper products, producing embrittlement, staining, and discoloration.

For all window mats and as the principal backing board on which the item will be mounted, use 100% cotton rag, and mat board. Archival corrugated boards, and 100% cotton honeycomb boards are also suitable choices for supplementary backing boards that you purchase easily from tear paper manufacturers.

{:gap {:kind :userinput}} should use none of the following materials: foam board, “archival” paper-faced foam boards, Gatorboard, expanded PVC boards, any lignin-containing paper-based mat boards, Kraft (brown) paper, non-archival or self-adhesive tapes (i.e. document repair tapes), or ATG (adhesive transfer gum).

  • Matting

The traditional mount for works on paper is the window mat. The ideal window mat will be aesthetically beautiful while also protecting the piece from damage from the outside. Mats are a great means of storing works on paper and can reduce damage caused by handling in collections used for exhibition and research. Some institutions use mats with exterior dimensions that fit within standard-sized archival storage boxes or modular frames to simplify framing and storage processes.

A window mat and a primary backing board are included in a conventional mat kit. A strip of gummed linen tape down the interior of the longest edge holds the two boards together. 100% cotton rag board is excellent formatting. Although most mat boards are buffered with an alkaline substance like calcium carbonate, unbuffered mat boards are available for use with sensitive photographic materials like cyanotypes, some albumen prints, and many color prints.

  • Cover sheets Matting

A cover sheet may be used to preserve a mounted object when it is matted but not framed. There are a variety of materials suited for use as a cover sheet, each with unique properties that make it more or less ideal for particular sorts of matted objects.

  • While many archival buffered papers can be used as a cover sheet or as interleaving on prints and drawings, they might produce chemical reactions in sensitive photographic materials. Look for a product that is acid- and lignin-free and passes the Photographic Activity Test (PAT), such as Micro Chamber paper, for the latter sorts of materials. Unbuffered archival papers free of calcium carbonate additions are also available for photograph storage.
  • Because it is transparent and chemically and dimensionally stable, clear polyester film, an archival-quality polyester, is frequently used for cover sheets. Polyester, on the other hand, has a high static charge and is thus unsuitable for use on objects with friable media, such as pastels, weakly connected graphite, chalks, and other types of media that are not securely attached to the paper. Polyester film is not a good choice for light, tissue-like materials or photographic prints on polyester substrates that will be attracted to it.
  • Use archival tissue paper for delicate media like pastel, charcoal, soft graphite pencil, or opaque watercolor.
  • Acid-free glassine is not suggested because it becomes acidic over time and distorts easily with humidity swings, perhaps causing surface damage to the product.
  • Mounting

Mounting procedures are the most varied and difficult component of conservation framing. Mounting methods are classified into two categories: sticky and non-adhesive. If you’re not sure which approach to choose, talk to a paper conservator or an expert conservation framer about your alternatives.

The object should always be mounted on the principal backing board and never on the reverse side of the window. It should not be glued directly to the supporting board under any circumstances. Attaching the object to a primary backing board serves many purposes: it keeps the object aligned with the window mat and picture frame opening, and it protects the object from damage, Preventing your object from coming into contact with the glass and the inner edge of the picture frame, preventing general distortion and edge damage to the object

Japanese paper hinges attached with wheat starch paste are the most prevalent conservation mounting method for works of art on paper.

  • Mounting without any window Matting

A spacer can be used when a regular window mat is either appropriate or acceptable. To establish the proper space between the glazing and the item. Then the spacers can be created of 100% cotton rag-board, acrylic, strips of wood, or aluminum.

Spacers should be set in a post and lintel pattern, with the top piece resting above the side parts. And the bottom piece resting below. If the spacer’s attachment to the frame should ever fail. This arrangement ensures that no parts will fall and injure the framed object.

Many custom framers can make spacers that are built in or match the outer frame finish. As always, the object should be mounted on a suitable supporting board and framed. Such that it does not come into contact with the glazing or the frame interior.

  • Glazing

Glazing, which might be glass or acrylic, is an important part of the frame package for works on paper. Also shields the fragile, porous paper surface from airborne filth and contaminants. And it guards against unwanted touching from interested visitors in a gallery setting. Objects should never come into touch with the glazing. Objects that come into touch with moisture on the inside of the frame’s glazing are at danger of being stuck or attached.

Each type of glazing product has advantages and disadvantages. Glass is significantly heavier than acrylic glazing. Acrylic glazing comes in bigger sizes than normal picture framing glass. Laminated glass can be utilized for very big projects that require glass. Glass is normally less expensive, but it is difficult to ship properly. Due to the risk of breaking or shattering, which can cause significant harm to the object contained within. Acrylic does not break as quickly as glass, but it is more easily scratched. Acrylics are typically more expensive than glass. Especially when additional choices such as scratch resistance, anti-reflective, and anti-static coatings are included.

  • What else goes into a frame Matting?

A secondary backing layer, unadhered, should be placed beneath the primary backing board on which the object is attached. This supplementary backing board, is intended to provide physical and thermal protection. Should be archival and lignin-free, such as a corrugated board. As the outermost backing, a vapor barrier such as polyester film can be used for added protection.

Wood can emit volatile chemicals that are harmful to paper. While this is especially true of newly cut wood, aging wooden frames will also off-gas. This is most noticeable in frames with wooden slat backing boards. Which can burn a strong wood grain pattern into any paper-based item they come into touch with over time. On each side, the inside of the frame should be an inch or more away from the object. To add extra security, line the frame rabbet with a barrier material. Such as polyester film or impermeable aluminum self-adhesive frame sealing tape.

The frame should be sufficiently deep to accommodate all layers. When purchasing new frames, ensure that they are deep enough. Existing wood frames can have their depth increased by adding wooden build-up. That has been stained or painted to match the frame and then screwed and/or glued into place. The frame should be as airtight as feasible to keep dirt and pollutants out. And to stabilize the inside against short-term temperature and relative humidity swings. The frame’s contents should be securely fastened with points, brads, or strainer back. The back of the frame should be finished with an archival paper dust cover. That fastened to the back of the frame with archival double-sided tape for objects. That will be housed permanently in the frame Matting.


Even if UV-filtering glass is employed, works on paper should be hung in dimly lit locations. Conservators recommend that no paper-based piece of art be kept on permanent display. Because light at any level is potentially destructive.

In a gallery context, works on paper and pictures should be rotated on a regular basis to decrease exposure. Lights should be turned off whenever feasible and windows covered with UV filtering film. The environment surrounding framed artifacts, as with all works on paper, is critical to their preservation.



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