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Conservation Framing is defined as framing that causes no damage to the artwork, protects the artwork from external environmental elements, and is completely reversible.

Following are both the internal and external environmental conditions which can deteriorate and damage artwork.  They may cause damage such as foxing (brown spots in the paper), cockling (buckling of paper), mold, discoloration and embrittlement.

LIGHT Ultraviolet light, which is present in sunlight and fluorescent light, causes fading.  Light also accelerates conversion of lignin (wood pulp paper) into sulfuric acid.

TEMPERATURE/HUMIDITY Rapidly fluctuating temperatures and excessively high temperatures cause paper to deteriorate.  High humidity also promotes growth of mold.

AIR POLLUTION Sulfur dioxide from fossil fuels will be absorbed by paper and be converted into sulfuric acid.

INSECTS May attack paste, sizing, wood pulp, and the frame itself.

MATTING/BACKING Mat contains acids which can leak out over time, and damage the paper it is touching.  The bevel of a regular mat will also turn brown over time.

HINGING Many pressure sensitive tapes like masking tape and packing tape will dry out and stain artwork, and are difficult to remove without damaging artwork.

GLAZING Placed directly against art, it invites condensation and the growth of mold, and the artwork may become stuck to it.


Conservation Framing can be used on anything you want to preserve beyond the immediate future. Most people would agree that original paintings, etchings, original lithographs, limited editions, and serigraphs require conservation framing.  However, anything else can be added to this list if it is highly valued by the customer.  Not valued in terms of actual cost, but in terms of what it means to the customer personally, such as needle work, antique photos, or children's artwork.

Other reasons for using conservation framing may have nothing to do with the piece being framed, but with the framing materials themselves.  If you know the bevel of the mat board is going to turn brown, you may opt for a conservation quality board, so the bevel will remain white. Or you may want to use conservation glass on any favorite piece of art, regardless of its value, just because they don't want the colors to fade.

Source: Framers' Inventory, Inc.