Quality framing is about more than displaying a piece of art in a beautiful way. Framing is also vital for protecting artwork and other framed treasures. Proper framing supports the object being framed and protects it from damage, both immediate physical damage, such as tears, stains and smudges, as well as subtle damage caused by substances in the environment that can accumulate over time.
The Dangers of Airborne Pollutants
One area of focus by conservationists is the kind of damage caused by airborne pollutants. Most people tend to think of pollution as a problem that exists primarily in outdoor air, but indoor air can be just as polluted – or even worse – than outdoor air. Common contributors to indoor pollutants include:
- Furniture materials
- Heating systems
Conservationists noticed that objects were collecting damage from airborne pollutants even inside controlled museum environments, spurring research into where such pollutants come from and how to protect artwork and documents from them.
One of the worst pollutants for artwork is acetic acid, a substance that comes from wood, manmade materials such as acetates, and even from some papers. Acetic acid speeds up the process of deterioration in paper, which is bad news for many pieces of artwork and documents. Even worse, the damage it causes is not immediately visible. Acetic acid can cause a great deal of degradation to paper before the damage can be detected by the eye alone.
Protection from Acetic Acid and Other Pollutants
Because of the dangers of airborne pollutants to conservation efforts, conservation scientists have conducted extensive research into ways to protect artifacts against such pollutants. One of the leading conservation research institutes in the world, the Getty Conservation Institute, has been at the forefront of such research efforts.
One Getty study, conducted by senior scientist James Druzik, examined the effectiveness of different kinds of materials for absorbing and holding acetic acid and other pollutants. Because it is difficult – maybe even impossible – to completely remove all pollutants from the air, the next best option is to filter them out of the air before they reach artifacts. The study examined a range of materials for their absorbent properties, including activated carbon, calcium carbonate, some types of clay, and minerals called “zeolites,” which have naturally absorbent properties.
The study discovered that a zeolite called SPZ and activated carbon provided the best absorption and retention of acetic acid. Activated carbon is unsuitable for most conservation uses because it is a dark, sooty material, but SPZ zeolite is a white, clean mineral that is highly suitable for use in conservation efforts.
Further Research Efforts
Another study looked at the potential of zeolites in more realistic conservation settings. The Getty study used high saturations of acetic acid to test the limits of effectiveness of the materials studied. In contrast, this study by the Library of Congress examined lower concentrations of acetic acid, more in line with real-world settings. Again, the presence of zeolites combined with calcium carbonate absorbed more acetic acid than plain rag boards and absorbed it more quickly as well. The results are not as extreme as those in the study that used high concentrations of acetic acid, but they still demonstrate the effectiveness of zeolite as a material that can be used to absorb acetic acid and prevent it from interacting with framed artifacts.
Using Conservation Quality Materials
The study by the Library of Congress chose Artcare boards buffered with zeolite and calcium carbonate as their test materials to determine the efficacy of these materials in protecting artifacts. The Getty Conservation Institute research also highlights Artcare technology as a prime example of conservation quality materials containing SPZ zeolite to protect against airborne pollutants.
Artcare mat board and mounting board use a special formulation of zeolite and other buffers to absorb and trap acetic acid and other airborne pollutants that cause yellowing, fading, and deterioration in framed artwork. The Library of Congress, the Getty Conservation Institute, and other research organizations have proven Artcare’s patented technology is effective in protecting artwork, photographs, documents, and other framed artifacts against damage caused by pollution in the environment.
Using conservation quality materials such as Artcare mat board helps keep your framed art looking its best for many years, preserving your art in the best condition, and protecting your investments in both art and framing.