by Melissa Coleman
Fine art is as worthy of conservation as are natural resources, so we asked some art conservators and the director of a photography gallery for tips on keeping photographs and paintings in good shape
for the long haul.
Photographs. Direct sunlight is any photograph’s biggest enemy. To protect photographs from fading/discoloring in any light, invest in conservation glass or museum glass (i.e., nonglare, very clear conservation glass). The photograph should never touch the glass, so a mat or spacer must be used. In addition, all framing materials and anything that touches the photograph must be archival, meaning the materials will retain their original properties over time and not leach harmful chemicals into the photograph, which can cause spots (called foxing).
Artwork. Watercolors, drawings, and paintings should never be hung in areas of high moisture. A constant humidity of around 50 to 60 percent is best. Changes in humidity are even more detrimental than variations in temperature. If the canvas is buckling, get it keyed out. Most framers and all conservators can do this quickly, and a taut canvas will minimize environmental damage. You should also attach foam core or card to the back of a painting to prevent dust from collecting behind the stretcher bars. Dust attracts moisture, which in turn swells the canvas, which loosens the paint, causing it to flake. Flaking paint should be remedied as quickly as possible, and if the painting is punctured or torn, don’t wait to fix it: the canvas threads will distort over time, making what might have been a simple repair into a costly procedure.
The Maine Project for Fine Art Conservation by the former conservators of BD Mattozzi, Inc.:
Anthony Moore Painting Conservation: