There are two different types of techniques in mounting art work, museum mounting and dry mounting. Museum mounting is archival and reversible and dry mounting is archival (in most cases) and non-reversible. All works of art on paper have to be mounted with one of these two approaches.
Museum mounting is archival and reversible
Museum mounting is defined by the nature of the technique being archival, stable (acid free) and reversible. The art is secured down with a paper hinge. The most common approach is the use of acid-free framer’s tape or Japanese mulberry paper with wheat starch paste. Both of these tapes are pH neutral, meaning it is free from high levels of acidic wood pulp and will not damage the art. Acid-free adhesive is water soluble, which makes the adhesion reversible with water, allowing the framer to remove the hinges easily if needed. Acidity is the kiss of death for works of art on paper. If the tape has a high acidity level, the adhesive will burn, discolor and break down the fibers in the paper damaging the art. Everyday tapes such as: masking tapes, scotch tape, packing tape and duct tape do not pass the test of archival integrity. In the last 12 years I’ve taken apart hundreds of old frames and the prints are stained brown with acidic adhesive that has leeched into the edges of the paper.
The museum mounting process begins with tearing small strips of Japanese mulberry paper 1 ½” x 1” (L x W). Then with a tapered soft bristle brush a small amount of wheatstarch paste is applied to the end of the strip, just about a ¼” or so. The ¼” portion is adhered to the backside of the art (see photo example #3). The hinge is then blotted twice with a piece of 100% cotton paper to absorb the excess moisture. A weight is applied for 2 or 3 minutes. Now the hinge is ready to be secured. Hinges should be spaced 3” to 4” apart. The number of hinges to secure a piece of art varies depending on the size and weight of the paper itself. Museum mounting is always applied to original works of art, pastels, watercolors, signed and number limited edition prints or anything that has a significant monetary value.
Dry mounting is archival and non-reversible
Dry mounting is defined by the nature of the adhesive being in a dry state when applied to the art, and in most cases is a non-reversible process. It’s archival in the sense that the art is mounted onto an acid-free board, called a substrate, which will not break down over time. The adhesive used in the mounting process is permanent. Dry mounting is designed to keep the art from warping and buckling, due to moisture and temperature change in the atmosphere. The mounting process begins with positioning the art on top of what is called H.A.M board (Heat Activated Mounting Board). The art is then put into a VacuSeal hot press machine set at a temperature of 185 degrees. The VacuSeal hot press activates the adhesive and mounts the art to the acid-free board in one shot. The art stays in the press for 3 minutes under 10-14 psi of pressure to ensure a solid application. Dry mounting is applied to works of art on paper such as: posters, family photos, photography, sentimental wedding invites or greeting cards, diplomas, letters, water- sensitive art work and when there is no significant monetary value.
In addition to the Conservation and Preservation qualities of mounting techniques, matting and glass also lend their own contributions to preserving the life span of your art. Both of these substrates have built in preservation technology to protect your art from environmental damage. A mat is a thin flat piece of 4py paper material that goes around the art, which serves as additional decoration and functionally keeps the art from touching the glass. Conservation mats are acid free and hold their color longer than non-conservation mats. Along with adding scale and aesthetic balance, matting offers a barrier from pollution. The Alphamats Artcare System technology works to trap and neutralize pollutant gases before they can reach your art. The fibers in the mat board called “molecular trapes” trap acids both from the air and from the art itself. This kind of technology is especially important in big city areas because of the higher amount of air pollution caused by automobiles and industry.
Glass also referred to as glazing ultimately protects the art from the environment as well. First and foremost glass keeps out dust and other unclean things that float in the air. However, the biggest benefits to glass today are the archival properties it has to offer from protecting your art from harmful ultra violet (UV) light. The damaged caused by UV rays is pretty much permanent, so it’s extremely important to protect your art from UV rays. Photos can be fixed in Photoshop but most other artwork cannot. Today the technology available in glass provides 99% UV protection, protecting your art from direct sunlight and fading. Museum glass, being the most expensive, offers 3 preservation properties in one glass: 99% UV protection, anti-glare and ultimate clarity. It is so clear that from the naked eye it looks like there is no glass on the piece of art. I’m sure most people have experienced the damaging effects that the sun can do to your skin, just from being exposed for only a few minutes. Imagine what it must be doing to a piece of art exposed to direct sunlight for hours in a day.