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    museum-quality framing: photo of art print with pink matting and gold moulding on white background

    What is Museum-Quality Framing?

    Frame Envy Team

    I was talking to someone about museum-quality framing the other day, and their reaction surprised me. They said “museum quality” felt “old and like something [their] grandparents would want.” I wanted to reply, “I should be so lucky to have my grandparents’ things. Can you say, ‘solid wood?’”

    Instead, I clarified.

    “Museum quality” isn’t about what is on the outside of the frame or how a frame looks. It isn’t old like your grandmother’s late 19th-century frame, which can be completely gorgeous, by the way. (Don’t get me started on how much an antique reproduction can cost.) You can have a modern, funky frame that is of museum quality.


    Because it is about what’s on the inside of the frame.

    It’s the materials.

    It’s in the fitting.

    It’s about preserving.

    We’ve all heard how important it is to put the right things inside of our bodies. More quality, less junk. The same can be said for your art. You want to provide a quality home for your pieces. This is museum-quality framing.

    Let’s start with the guts of your frame.

    The Materials

    A typical framing project includes glazing to view the art (glass or acrylic), the supports to mount the art (matting and/or backing board), a frame, and hanging materials.We left out the other bits (mounting materials, spacers, etc) for another article.

    Glass allows you to view the art, while protecting it from physical and environmental damage (fingerprints, dust, bugs, humidity, etc.) and UV damage (fading, silvering, etc.). Some of today’s photo and art papers are designed to prevent fading, but that doesn’t mean you can skip on UV protectant glazing. Matting will fade. Museum glass–a trademarked non-glare UV protectant glass–looks as though there isn’t any glass in the frame. Museum glass is a stunning product for objects and textiles or for frames hung in rooms with direct light.

    Matting can transform a piece of art. The right matting can accentuate certain colors or patterns. It can reflect your personal style and connect you to the art. The right mat also protects your piece by providing a barrier between the art and the glass. This creates an air space that prevents art from sticking to the glass. In this case, the “right” mat is an archival mat. Acidic mats “burn” art over time, leaving discolored lines and spots when removed. Once this damage happens, it cannot be reversed. The specific information on usage of mats will be listed on the back of the samples (good for textiles, photographs, etc.). They are not all the same.

    A quick note about acid free products. They’re not all appropriate. Acid free adhesives can be permanent and create future issues. Many box stores feature “acid free” products that are supposed to protect and preserve art. You can look at the back of the samples and note the uses of the manufacturers list on them. The mats in ready-made box store frames (the kind you grab off the shelf) are often the cheapest, acidic and are not of the same quality you’d receive at a professional studio. If you love your ready-made frame, you should replace and upgrade to archival matting and backing materials, even on ready made frames.

    The Fitting

    This is arguably the most important part in custom framing. You can have an antique frame, a modern frame, an expensive frame, a cheap frame, or anything in between–the fitting is what preserves the art..

    Think about your favorite ready-made frame. When you flip it over, it will have a paper, wood, or velvet backing board with either an easel for tabletop display or a hook or wire for a wall display. There may be a little tab you can swing to the side or pull back to pop out that backing board. You pull the board out, remove the cardboard, and a little piece of paper before popping your photo in the frame. You put the frame back together and voila! Your art is ready to go.

    It’s easy. It’s fast. It’s bad framing.

    These frames are mass produced and slapped together. They’re pretty, but they aren’t always stable. The glass shifts around in the frame and the backing board is either too loose or too tight. Bugs, dust, humidity, glass cleaner–they can all sneak in there and attack your art. Glass cleaners sneak in the frame and adhere the art to the glass.

    A museum-quality fitting is designed specifically for your art and the frame itself. A pro will create a microenvironment with archival materials and a conservation seal to protect your piece. It’s like a little art sandwich that pops right into your frame. It’s sealed properly. It doesn’t shift around, and if a bug could get past the backing paper, it still wouldn’t be able to feast on your sealed art if it tried. The frame is finished with backing. We’ve actually had clients run their hands over it and say, “Oooo.” It’s super fancy.

    The Preservation

    So here’s the question: does your art need the museum-quality framing treatment?

    We believe it does.

    Listen, everyone enjoys a fun ready-made metal or ceramic frame from your favorite box store (even custom framers). Some of this may seem like overkill to you. Your art isn’t hanging in a museum. But that’s not the point.

    The art you love–the art you want to last–deserves a museum-quality framing treatment. It doesn’t matter if it is a cheap reproduction print or an expensive one-of-a-kind piece. In fact, take a look at your grandma’s things. How long has she had some of them? I know my grandmother had items that were 60 or 70 years old that still looked great, and they weren’t the posh, expensive pieces of her day. She loved them, and she took care of them. “Museum quality” means providing a home that’s built to last.