A University Products How-To Tip: Conservation Framing

You have just completed the framing of your photograph, print or document, and have it proudly displayed in your home or office. Already, certain chemical reactions have begun to occur which can result in yellowing, brittleness, and overall deterioration. Colors can fade, clarity will decrease, and eventually, the value of the image will diminish.
A framed item is usually exposed to direct or indirect sunlight, as well as interior lighting (both fluorescent and incandescent). All of these emit varying degrees of the damaging ultraviolet portion of the spectrum that causes paper to discolor and inks to fade. In addition, the paper, board, adhesives, glazing (glass) and even the frame itself, can accelerate the process of disintegration.
While it may seem that your only option is to lock up your collection somewhere, away from the perils of man and nature, it is no longer necessarily to resort to such extremes. Conservation framing techniques and materials available today allow you to exhibit your cherished photos and prints in relative safety. To insure they are properly framed you should consult either a qualified conservator or picture framer trained in conservation framing techniques. You may even wish to attempt the job yourself, although the time, patience and expertise required to do the job properly is considerable. Whether you decide to work with an expert or take on the task yourself, there are a few basic principles you should be aware of to make sure the job is done properly.

The Frame Package
Conservation framing starts from the back of the frame and works forward through the framing package. The sealing of the back of the frame provides protection from dust, moisture, atmospheric pollution and varying climatic changes. It should be acid free, and buffered to prevent the development of acids in the future. The frame backing should be secured using pH neutral adhesives or tapes. There are many available for just that purpose.

1. Frame Back
Beneath the frame backing paper (sometimes called the dust cover), is the backing board or filler. Sufficient backing provides additional strength and rigidity. Several types are used including corrugated paper board, corrugated plastic, and solid foam core boards. There are dangerous as well as safe varieties of each available. Any paper backing board should be acid free and preferably buffered. Plastic board should be inert and free of harmful plasticizers. Solid core foam boards should also be both acid free and inert.

2 . Back Mat
As you proceed toward the front of the frame package, the next layer would be the back mat. Museum board will provide the safest support for your artwork. Made of 100% rag, this board should be acid free and lignin free. Since the entire back of the autographed document will lie completely against this layer, it may very well be the most crucial layer of the frame package.

3. Attaching Art to the Back Mat
Proper hinging and mounting materials are a necessity when attaching the document or photo to the back mat. By museum standards, the only proper method involves attaching hinges made from acid free Japanese tissue. Wheat starch or rice starch paste are the only acceptable adhesives for this application since they are acid free and reversible. The first piece of hinging tissue is adhered to the back of the photo or document, leaving a portion of the hinge protruding above the item. The adhesive should face out when the document is laid face up on the back mat. The second piece of tissue lies over the first, without touching the document, securing the document to the backmat. The window mat can then be positioned over the document to completely hide the hinges. New products such as mounting strips and mounting corners are also available. These products allow you to mount without using any adhesive on the artwork, and are extremely efficient. However, Japanese hinging remains the time tested choice of most conservators.

4. Window Mat
The window mat is the next layer, offering strength and support in addition to providing sufficient air space between the glazing and the artwork. Ideally, the window mat should be 100% rag, acid free, buffered, and contain no alum or lignin. In addition, colored window mats should be bleed and fade resistant (conservators usually prefer white or cream white to be on the safe side).

5. Glazing
Finally, comes the glazing. Both glass and Plexiglas are now available with UV filtering layers to protect your print or photograph from dangerous light. You may find that the UV filter glazing materials have a minor tint that changes the appearance of your document. This is preferable to an actual change that will undoubtedly occur in its absence. Make sure whatever glazing material you choose, that it does not come in contact with the artwork.

Remember that framing is the creation of a storage container that allows you to view its contents, and that improper storage is a leading cause of deterioration of paper and photographs. When properly framed, your prints and photographs will be enjoyed not only today, but for generations to come.

National Archives Unveil Newly Encased Magna Carta

A newly-restored 1297 Magna Carta, complete with a brand-new encasement, is the prominent piece in a new exhibit at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The Magna Carta, originally issued in 1215, was the first document forced onto an English king in an attempt to limit his powers by law and protect the privileges of the feudal barons. The charter was an important part of the historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law in the English speaking world. This copy, owned by managing director of the Carlyle Group, David M. Rubenstein, was donated to the National Archives. The document underwent a 10-month conservation treatment before its unveiling on February 17.

Page one of the Magna Carta Manuscript.

The treatment process began with the National Archives’ team of conservators performing an intensive examination to identify the repairs that needed to be done to the 715-year-old document. Then the conservators applied moisture to aid in the removal of old fills, adhesive residues, and old repairs. Losses in the parchment were repaired using Japanese papers that were toned to match the hue of the document. The long fibers of these papers were applied to the fills by using a mixture of gelatin and wheat starch paste. National Archives conservator Terry Boone was able to accurately match these colors by using watercolor paints. Finally, the document was humidified, flattened, and dried over the course of several months.

In its new encasement, the Magna Carta rests on a sheet of unbleached, all-cotton paper that was custom-made by the University of Iowa’s Center for the Book. This sheet acts as an acid-free buffer between the document and a perforated metal platform as it rests in the new case constructed by the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST). The paper also brightens the appearance of the translucent document and helps to keep the relative humidity inside of the encasement at a stable level. NIST scientists devised a system to measure oxygen and moisture content within the encasement which includes filling it with humidified inert argon gas. Also, the interior of the display is filled with an atmosphere of 99% high-purity argon, 1% helium and an initial oxygen content of 1 part per million.

University Products offers a variety of materials, tools, and equipment for document conservation including: 100% cotton rag papers, pre-shred cotton linters, Ex-Libris economical portable vacuum table, micro-spatulas, and white cotton gloves.

Stereographs and the Stereogranimator

stereo card viewerA current and popular trend in film-making is shooting films in eye-popping 3-D format. Throughout history, 3-D technology has evolved from the simple red-blue anaglyphs of the mid-20th century, to big-budget effects that are displayed on the cinema screens today. But the fascination with 3-D and special effects is certainly not a new phenomenon, and a new project from the New York Public Library has rekindled interest in stereographs, a precursor to 3-D, with their Stereogranimator. This new page puts the NYPL’s large collection of over 40,000 stereographs at your fingertips where they can be instantly converted, viewed and shared as either animated GIFs, or 3-D anaglyphs. This initiative was loosely based on the works of artist Joshua Heineman on his site, Cursive Buildings, that he created in 2008.

stereo card archival storage boxStereographs were a popular form of entertainment over a nine-decade period spanning from the 1850’s to the 1930’s. Queen Victoria praised stereographs and consequently popularized them after they were displayed at London’s famed Great Exhibition in 1851. Oliver Wendell popularized this medium in America with his invention of the hand-held stereoscope and promotion of stereograph libraries. The first of these types of images were printed on copper (daguerreotypes) or glass (ambrotypes). It wasn’t until the printing of stereographs on card stock that their popularity truly skyrocketed. Eventually, companies like the London Stereoscopic Company started to establish and sell millions of stereoscopes and stereographs in the mid-1800’s.

four flap stereo negative storage envelopeThese images gave viewers a glimpse of a very early variation of 3-D possibilities that we see in movies today. While peering through a stereoscope at two seemingly identical photos, the viewer’s brain tricked them into thinking that they were looking at one three-dimensional image. However, unlike the animated GIFs made through the Stereogranimator, original stereographs were motionless.

Do you own or care for a special collection of stereo cards? University Products offers products to both view your images and keep them archivally safe. Our stereo card viewer is an economical option for viewing your prized stereo cards. We also provide enclosures for your stereo cards and stereo card negatives as well as stereo storage boxes to house both.

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

dr. seussToday is Dr. Seuss’s 108th birthday. The famed author and illustrator was born Theodor S. Geisel, in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1904 to parents who had emigrated to the U.S. from Bavaria, which is now a portion of modern-day Germany. The famous Seuss surname was both his mother’s maiden name and his middle name.

Seuss began his writing and illustrating career while in college as he served as a cartoonist at Dartmouth’s humor magazine, The Jack-O’-Lantern, in the mid-1920’s. After a very brief stint at Oxford, Seuss returned to the States and started working on a new profession, drawing cartoons for corporate advertisements. Included in these pieces are cartoons created for Flit, a popular bug spray at the time. Seuss came up with Flit’s famous tagline, “Quick, Henry, the Flit!” which became the catchiest advertising slogan of it’s day. Seuss also drew advertisement cartoons for NBC, General Electric, Standard Oil, Ford and many others. These pieces are housed in the Mandeville Special Collections Library within the University of California-San Diego’s Geisel Library in La Jolla and in an interactive online database on the library’s website.

Geisel Library Building
Geisel Library Building

As the international climate turned to war in the 1940’s, Dr. Seuss used his talents to make a statement about what was going on abroad. Seuss was an interventionist who believed strongly that America’s involvement in the war was necessary. Captain Geisel (as was his military title) served in the war with a unit alongside famed film director Frank Capra and even made military training films with Chuck Jones, who would later develop the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons. From 1941-1943, Seuss served as the editorial cartoonist for a liberal-leaning newspaper in New York City, PM. The Geisel Library website contains hundreds of these cartoons. According to Seuss scholars, Seuss’s political views formed during WWII later influenced his famed children’s books, Yertle the Turtle and The Sneetches.

Dr. Seuss died in 1991 at the age of 87. However, his legacy lives on today with a reading celebration Read Across America and other events across the country. The Geisel Library is also home to close to 8,500 Dr. Seuss items ranging from books, to speeches, to films and fan mail. Due to the fragility of some of the pieces in this collection, it is available to researchers by appointment only at the library.

dr. seuss national memorial sculpturesUniversity Products is fortunate to be located near Theodor S. Geisel’s birthplace. The whole Greater Springfield area has ties with the famous author and his characters. For example, it is said, that “The Lorax”, on which the new movie coming out today is based, has direct references to some local landmarks (where Seuss grew up). To get a feeling for the place that inspired the iconic children’s author, please visit¬† Dr. Seuss National Memorial, at the Quadrangle in Springfield, Mass.

For more information on Dr. Seuss, his works, Seuss related-events, and much more visit Seussville.com.