Monday, April 18, 2011

Tips from the Conservationists of Art

From the April 2011 Bright-Minded Home column in Maine Home + Design:

Fine art is as worthy of conservation as are natural resources, so I 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.


  • Direct sunlight is any photograph’s biggest enemy. To protect the photograph from fading/discoloring in any light, invest in conservation glass or museum glass (non-glare, very clear conservation glass). The photograph should never touch the glass, so a mat or spacer must be used.
  • 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, causing spots (foxing)


  • Watercolors, drawings, and paintings should never be hung in areas with high moisture content. A constant humidity of around 50 to 60 percent is best. Changes in humidity can be 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.
  • Attach foam core or card to the back of a painting to prevent the collection of dust 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 as the canvas threads will distort over time, making what might have been a simple repair into a costly procedure.

What are your thoughts or questions on art conservation for our experts?

Heather Frederick/VoxPhotographs | Portland and Belfast | 207.323.1214

B.D. Mattozzi Fine Arts Conservation and Restoration | Portland | 207.871.1678

Anthony Moore Painting Conservation | York | 207.363.1794