Caring for and Preserving Antique Prints

BASICS IN CARING AND PRESERVING ANTIQUE PRINTS

Antique prints, old maps and manuscripts were printed or written on paper. This paper was treated during its manufacture to hold inks and with-stand the pressure from a printing press. Old paper is organic and undergoes many transformations throughout the years. In order to preserve it there are things you can do. The following points are what you need to avoid doing when dealing with old paper.

1. You should not expose your print to sunlight.
Paper is sensitive to UV light and it should not be exposed to it. The colors and inks used for writing and printing will fade over time if exposed to natural light. If you must have sunlight, protect your print or paper in a frame using UV protection glass that filters out 97% to 100% UV. You should also avoid exposing your print to fluorescent lights.

2. You should not leave your print in a humid environment.
Once again as an organic material paper is sensitive to the elements. You should avoid exposing the paper to humid environments. Paper often contains unseen mold that will proliferate under humid conditions and deteriorate your print over time. Keep your prints somewhere dry, such as in a box on the top shelf of your closet in an air-conditioned house.

3. You should not manipulate the paper with dirty hands.
This will seem obvious. However, even apparently clean hands contain oils that will be absorbed by the paper and will affect it over time. Buy some cotton gloves and use these when touching antique paper.

4. You should use appropriate materials when framing.
When considering framing your antique print you should use acid-free materials. Cheap framing materials often contain harmful acids which will leach into the paper over time and destroy the integrity of the paper. For this reason it is best to use 100% cotton rag mat board and acid-free back board for your matting.

5. You should not use solvents, petroleum-based glues or tapes for repairs.
These products will damage your print irrevocably. It is best to avoid them and use natural products such as wheat paste glue. These were used hundreds of years ago and have proven to be very good. However repairs of expensive prints should be left in the hands of professional restorers.

6. You should be careful of which materials you use to store your prints.
Just as cheap framing material can damage a print over time, it is best to use proper conservation materials to preserve your print. For example do not wrap them in news print as this paper contains high levels of acid. Use plastic acetate bags from your art supply store or specialty folders with plastic sleeves to fit your prints into.

These guidelines should put you on the right track to correctly protect your old print, map or manuscript.