Conservation mounting for prints, and posters

When I began my framing career in picture framing, mounting - flattening the artwork with adhesive onto a board - was pretty much limited to posters and photographs. The decision not to mount was often based on high material costs, storage, or the risk of damaging collectable artwork. As Mainframe progresses with a variety of challenging pieces that have come in recently, I've been researching and rethinking the practice of conservation mounting for prints and other documents. This article includes some things to consider when mounting prints and artwork and how to avoid loss of investment in collectable artwork and prints.

Like all collectibles, a print's condition is an important factor in assessing it's monetary value. An original 1960s Vespa poster recently came into the shop with several issues affecting it's current value. The 27x39" poster was dry mounted onto non-archival Foam-cor and stored unframed in a basement. Mold spores developed across the surface also called foxing or spotting. Our paper conservator noted that although the dry mount was keeping the mold from spreading even further, causing more damage, the barrier created by the drymount tissue between the poster and the acidic backing may have prevented further yellowing.

Conserving and restoring the Vespa poster is not impossible but would be labor intensive and costly: removing the thin poster paper from the Foam-cor being the bulk of the work. Most better frame shops would not recommend dry mounting such a valuable poster unless it was severely torn or ripped. In the case of severe damage the print could be mounted onto a flexible substrate such as Seal Chartex (if available) or mounted onto PH neutral museum board with an archival product like Seal/Beinfang Buffermount (which is reversible), just to name a few possibilities.

The takeaway here is that mounting a print or other important document may well affect its longevity and value. In some cases it's possible to negatively affect the value of the print by mounting it onto a non-archival substrate. Storing it in a cold or damp environment is never a good idea. It's best to have a professional assess the item's condition or damage to determine if mounting the piece would enhance its appearance and value.