Frame Destination
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January 2010

A Consumer Guide to
Materials for Preservation
Framing and the Display
of Photographic Images

Created by Image Permanence Institute with support from Tru Vue

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(click any picture to see a larger picture)

raming and displaying your photographs (both traditional and modern digital) is one of the best ways to enjoy them and share them with your friends and family; however, it can also place great stress on them, resulting in fading, yellowing, embrittlement, and other types of decay, and ultimately reducing their lifespan. The goal of this guide is to help you understand why photos on display become damaged and how thoughtful framing and display practices can help keep your pictures safe. Let's start with describing the various parts of a good-quality frame.

ANATOMY OF A FRAME PACKAGE

A frame package is made up of several important parts that contribute to the decorative, rigid structure that protects a photograph on display. The individual parts of a good-quality frame package are shown in Fig. 1. More elaborate frame packages can include other components, but this is the basic setup.

The Frame

In addition to providing an attractive border, the frame functions as the structural support that holds the entire package together. The frame must be strong enough to support the weight of all of the other framing materials and the photo, while hanging on a wall or standing on a shelf.

The Glazing

The glazing, which can be either glass or plastic (such as acrylic or polycarbonate), is the clear sheet over the face of the photo that provides protection from dust and pollution and that also filters out some of the harmful UV energy (see page 2). Glazing can be treated or coated with a variety of substances to more fully block damaging UV energy as well as to reduce reflections from its surface, making it easier to view the photo.

The Window Mat or Spacer

The window mat can be a decorative element, but its main purpose is to hold the glazing away from the surface of the photo (see Fig. 2). In some instances, it may be desirable not to have a window mat but to have the edges of the photo go right under the edge of the frame. In this case, spacers are placed out of sight just inside the edge of the frame to create a space between the photo and the glazing (Fig. 3).

The Mat Board

The mat board is the rigid surface to which the photograph is attached and held in place. It should be a good-quality, nonreactive paperboard. It should also be strong enough to support its own weight plus that of the photo so that it doesn't sag over time.

The Filler Board

The filler board is placed behind the mat board to fill up the space between the back of the mat board and the back edge of the frame (Fig. 4). It is important that the filler board also be made of a nonreactive material. Even though the filler board doesn't touch the artwork directly, a poor-quality board might cause damage by giving off harmful pollutant gases over time.

The Back Paper

A liner paper is adhered to the back of a wooden frame to keep dust and insects out (Fig. 4). In addition, it helps to reduce fluctuations in humidity and limit infiltration of airborne pollutant gases. It also provides a nice surface on the back of the frame to which to attach a label.

It is difficult to attach back paper to a metal frame. If a metal frame is used, polyester tape should be applied around the edge of the inner framing package to seal the contents (see Fig. 5). The edge of the frame hides the tape.

Labeling

While not a structural element of the frame package, a label on the back, providing information about the photo and the frame, can be very helpful later on. Useful data on a label might include descriptions of the people or the scene in the photo, the date the photo was taken, the photographer, the date of framing, and the framer. When labeling by hand, use a pencil or waterproof, fade-resistant, pigment ink pen. When printing labels, use a laser printer; many inkjet printer inks are sensitive to fading or abrasion.

Next...

FORCES OF PHOTO DECAY

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This document can be found in PDF format at http://www.imagepermanenceinstitute.org