Once you acquire an archival photograph, you want to protect it. The first step is to understand what you have:
- Archival ink
- 100% cotton archival paper
Your photograph is packaged with glassine, a translucent archival wrap. The tube, outer carton, and other packaging are intended only for transport and not long-term storage. You should frame your artwork or transfer it into appropriate archival storage within a few weeks.
Protect Your Artwork
Photographs are sold unframed to to give you control of presentation and greatly reduce the cost of packaging, shipping, and insurance.
Don't be intimidated by the framing process. You're not the first customer to walk into a frame store and admit you have no clue what you want. You also won't be the first to bring a nude photo in for framing.
The frame has two purposes: to protect the artwork and to present it well. The mat is an integral part of both functions.
When your artwork arrives, I recommend taking the unopened tube to a professional framer. Your local frame shop will be able to help you choose a mat and frame that suits your personal style. Because the photographs are shipped rolled in a tube, your framer must flattened them prior to matting and framing. The framer will gradually unrolling the photograph(s), with the glassine (translucent paper they are packed in) remaining on top. Flat, smooth weights are placed on the glassine as the photograph is unrolled to keep it flat.
In addition to enhancing the presentation, the frame and glass will seal the artwork from possible contamination. Here is a basic suggestion for framing:
- Frame: 1 to 1½ inch wide black matte/satin MDF or wood
- Mat: 8-ply white museum board
- Backing: acid-free foam board
- Glazing with 99% UV protection (photography up to 36 inches: glass; over 36 inches: acrylic)
- A wire hanger and bumpers on the back allow for level hanging with two wall-hooks
Choose a frame shop that uses materials that are archival, beautiful, and acid-free for the protection and enjoyment of the artwork. Use the list above to start the conversation with your framer, who will also provide expert consultation and specific advice.
Choosing a Local Framer
Choosing a frame shop is a personal decision, but one that can be daunting for the uninitiated. Your primary concern is the safety of your artwork. If you're looking for a framer for the first time, here are some recommendations:
- I prefer owner-operated shops instead of chains, for less employee turnover and greater accountability.
- Expect to pay for, and receive, quality. Don't be shy about asking for a quote (see specifications above as a starting point.)
- The shop should be organized, well maintained, and visually pleasing.
- Look for museums, galleries, and other prominent clients on the frame shop's client list.
For works on paper such as my limited edition archival photography, a climate controlled environment is a must. Unheated or unairconditioned locations can damage artwork or allow gaps in the framing which may allow insects or contaminants to harm the artwork. Museums typically maintain a temperature of 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit/20-22 Centigrade and a relative humidity of 45-55%. Excessive humidity (70% and above) can support growth of harmful mold and bacteria.
Your home may not meet these exacting standards, and that’s okay. The more consistent the environment, the better. Avoid direct heat sources and HVAC vents.
Direct sunlight is harmful to artworks; hang it in the shade. Artificial lights are fine, but avoid continual, close fluorescent or halogen bulbs because these emit higher levels of damaging UV (ultra-violet) light.
If you do not frame the artwork, make sure it only comes in contact with archival materials.
If you can't or don't wish to frame your work immediately, it can be stored unframed in archival storage. Your art arrives protected by archival glassine. This translucent paper that directly contacts the artwork during shipping is intended to isolate it from the shipping tube for a few days or even a couple of weeks. The shipping tube is not intended for long-term storage. If weeks turn to months, it's time to transfer it to archival storage.
Archival storage can be portfolio boxes or archival tubes. Note that the shipping tube is not an archival tube.
An archival portfolio box is a good start. Additionally, place each photograph in an archival sleeve, archival envelope, or interlieve with glassine. The strategy is to seal out contaminants (such as acids from wood, cardboard, paper, dust, and dirt) with a series of tight-fitting, neutral barriers. Stored flat, the photographs can be viewed from time to time.
An archival drawer system (flat files) can store the sleeved photographs with or without the use of a portfolio box. An archival flat file system is bulky and expensive, but is a good option for a large, serious collection that cannot be framed. Flat storage is used by many museums for items which are too numerous to be displayed.
For space-saving archival storage, archival tubes can be used to store rolled photographs.