Okay, so I was not going to run the below article just yet, but I found a fascinating document this weekend. It was printed by Francis Bailey (1735?-1815), one of my favorite printers.* The document is an early judicial appointment, not something I often come across. Unfortunately, the 18th century document was framed by a self-proclaimed professional. The certificate was mounted to a piece of cardboard (acid free? Not a chance) and pasted down with cement glue (awful stuff!). To top it off, someone placed scotch tape across areas with paper loss. Somehow, this article seemed fitting. Best, Pat
*To read more about Bailey, see The Black Art: A History of Printing in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Website by Lee Stoltzfus (I am not the only one who holds Bailey in high regard)
Pet Peeve Number 1: "Archivally Framed"--NOT!
by Russell Earnest
To date, I have unframed more than 4,000 fraktur, broadsides, documents, and paper ephemera. To share with you what I witnessed based on forty years of seeing what is behind the glass, I will begin with a recently framed broadside.
An embossed sticker proudly proclaimed the sheet was “archivally framed” by a shop that advertises its use of archivist-approved materials. Before removing the broadside from its new frame, I knew there would be problems. The most obvious issue was that the sheet was against the “UV Resistant” glass. There were no spacers, nor acid free matting surrounding the sheet.
When I popped the broadside out of the frame, I found acid-free backing—a good sign. But here is what was not good. The 180-year-old paper was stuck to the backing at all four corners by household cement. Household cement not only sets up like cement, it is not water soluble and in a few short years discolors whatever it touches. Where there is discoloration by cheap glue, there is paper degradation.
Next, I discovered the glass was not UV resistant, nor was it covered by UV resistant film. The obvious question is, do archival framers know what they are doing, or are they blatantly misleading customers, thinking that once the sheet is framed and nailed or taped in place, no one will ever take it out?
Unfortunately, nothing here is unique. A friend found his “professionally” framed documents showed similar disintegration due to modern resins, especially those used at corners to hold sheets in place. In that case, the person framing and matting the documents had no training regarding paper conservation, and our friend paid a high price to a paper conservationist to restore his documents, undoing damage that had so recently been done. Too often, the consumer pays for a skill that does not exist, for “archival framing” can actually shorten the life expectancy of valuable documents.
My advice is, and has been for a long time, get a good image of the document and frame that. Put the original between sheets of acid-free paper in a safe and clean place, out of light, where it can lay flat and not be handled.