Oil paintings generally cost less to frame initially because they don’t need matting and glass. However, they must be maintained periodically. Even in (apparently) good condition, paintings should be cleaned and resealed regularly. Paintings accumulate dirt, residue from cigarette smoke, etc. on their surface so gradually that we don’t notice it. Old varnish yellows, darkens, and cracks and no longer protects the painting.
Original art on paper—etchings, lithographs, serigraphs, drawings, etc.—cost more to frame but, if framed properly, should never need attention again. Everything that touches the print must be acid-free so that it never discolors, spots, or develops fungus or mold. A mat will separate the print from the glass so it can “breathe” and not trap moisture. Ultraviolet glass filters out almost all of the harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun and now costs just a few dollars more than regular glass.
If you had a print framed more than 30 years ago, it does not have these preservatives. Prints framed more recently may or may not have been properly preserved. The print has value, sentimental or monetary, and probably should be reframed. If it already has damage, we can deacidify it to a neutral PH to halt further deterioration. However, this does not change its appearance. A special bleaching process can lighten the paper and help eliminate unsightly spots.
Old or damaged photographs can be copied and restored, even if they have been torn in half or are missing areas (referred to as “loss areas”). The original photo should never be retouched—what if the person working on it makes a mistake? The proper procedure is to take a new photograph of the old photograph and to do all work on it. Then we photograph the retouched photo and the result is what the owner would display from then on. Additional copies at a nominal cost can easily be made for other family members. We recommend that the owner tuck away the old, original photo between acid-free mat board and store it in a climate-controlled room. One of the most rewarding projects we’ve recently completed is photographing every page of an old family cookbook and making bound copies for living members of the family, complete with handwritten notes and doodles in the margins!
Vicky Kornemann is an owner of The MUSEUM SHOP, LLC. Now celebrating its 54th anniversary, the business began in 1962 on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C. While there, her conservator husband, Richard, was recommended by area museums for art restoration. The gallery spent the next 25 years in Frederick, MD’s charming Historic District. Currently, Richard continues his restoration practice from his studio in Rockville, MD. © Vicky Kornemann 2016