Framing it up: proper preservation of those precious memories

Liz here! I thought I would take the reigns of the blog this week with a couple of reasons in mind. First, I wanted to give Patrick the extra time as he’s been very busy editing photos for many of our fantastic fall clients! Second, I wanted to use this opportunity to write about another topic which is near and dear to my heart: artwork and photography preservation!

Now, in past blogs: “Cutting corners on your wedding prints? You’ll pay later!” and “Investing in your photos, investing in the future” I go into detail about the importance of not only making the investment in quality prints, but also making sure your photos are stored properly. A light-protected, acid-free environment ensures the best life duration of your prints. In this blog, I’d like to expand into another form of image storage: framed artwork and photography.

I’ve mentioned before my background in framing where my interest in artwork preservation all began. Back in my framing days, I would see folks bring in all kinds of different pieces to be framed and re-framed.

Some were prints bought at a museum, some artwork was created by their children, or a piece of art they purchased at a show. However, many times folks would bring in already-framed artwork looking for reasons to re-frame it. There always seemed an element of surprise in these already framed pieces. You see, when a piece of work has been framed once before, you never knew what condition the artwork is in until the frame is dis-assembled and the piece is exposed.

Think of it like renovating an old house. You have no idea what is behind the walls until you begin tearing out the drywall. Sometimes you can get a hint into what condition things are in via visual cues, but you won’t know for sure until you see what’s going on behind those walls. The same goes for framed art!

Image courtesy of Gildedfarmer’s Journal:

I recently came across a blog article written by a specialty art preservation company where a dear friend of mine works. The article, titled “Inspecting your Framed Art”, goes into detail about the visual cues to look for to determine whether you artwork has been properly preserved. It elaborates on issues including: yellowing in the core of the mat board, crumbling of the backing paper behind the frame, and moisture spots behind the backing. Any of these issues may be indicators that a framed piece of art is in an acidic environment.

Image courtesy of Baxter’s Frame Works:

Again, these are just visual cues. There may be more issues with your artwork that you cannot see until it is removed from the frame. In my framing days, after a framing order was placed, artwork was left in the frame until one of our certified framers was ready to re-frame the piece. Backing was removed, and artwork was carefully taken out of the frame. I recall seeing a broad spectrum of conditions the artwork would come in. If the artwork was properly preserved, it would come right out of the mat and backing with little resistance. If the artwork was in a highly acidic environment, the piece would be brittle, yellow and have difficulty being removed from backing. If the glass wasn’t UV protected, the piece would be faded, and you could see the contrast between what was under the mat or frame, and what was exposed. Sometimes the mat was glued to the backing and artwork, making it a surgical procedure just to separate the pieces!

This is why it’s so important to enlist the help of a professional framer when framing or re-framing your beloved artwork. Like many seemingly straight-forward projects in life, when you really get down to it, the devil is in the details. Also not unlike remodeling that old house; if you want it done safely and correctly, hire a professional who knows these details! For more information about the importance of caring for your art, visit the National Archives website. You may also consider visiting the Library of Congress website.

Image courtesy of

By having your artwork properly framed in an acid-free, UV protected casing, you can prolong the life of your treasured piece. This goes back to a point I’ve made in the past; whether it’s a photograph, a painting, a print or other cherished memory, you not only owe it to that precious piece to preserve it properly, but you also must consider future generations who may also value that same artwork as much as you. Those folks in the future will thank you for making the investment in that heirloom!



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