proper storage of art

Acidic cardboard backboards can damage framed prints. 

People love their collections. No matter the type of object — cookie jars, military memorabilia, fine art prints — collectors want to add to a collection, display their assembled objects and enjoy learning more about their treasures.

One of the most important and interesting aspects of collecting is preserving collectibles, whether art or antiques, for the long term. Many collections include family heirlooms or assembled collections that will be handed down, so preservation is very important.

Here are some key points about how to protect, preserve and enjoy your collections.

— Light is the real problem when it comes to preservation of paintings and works on paper. UV protection, using UV-filtered or opaque materials, is key to preventing fading and light damage. One of the best ways to preserve fine art is investing in quality framing. A frame will protect both the stretcher and canvas of an oil-on-canvas painting, as well as give a finished look to the work.

— Unlike paintings, which should not be framed under glass as a general rule, prints require a different type of protection. Prints and other works on paper such as antique maps, historic documents, etc., should be matted and framed under glass using materials that are free of acid in order to protect the paper. A pH level of 7.0 or greater used at the time of manufacture and adhesives that are pH neutral are recommended for framing fragile works on paper.

Some acid-free materials also are made free of lignin, which can produce acid and darken paper, a condition known as tanning or acid burning.

— Some of the most critical damage that happens to art and antiques happens when objects are stored. When you first put them away in storage everything is fine but, over time and when no one is looking, changes in temperature, humidity and other effects will impact the condition and value of an antique collection. Although it is little known, significant damage can occur during storage.

— It is important to store objects in archival boxes intended for a certain type and size of collectible. Support is necessary for fragile objects and storage containers like archival boxes need to be constructed to stand the test of time. One size does not fit all when it comes to storage.

— Large paintings should be stored off the floor, preferably hanging up. If there is no room for that storage solution, then store large paintings standing upright. While it may seem convenient, never lay paintings flat and face up under a bed.

— Smaller paintings may be stored upright back to back and face to face on separated shelves. Use acid-free foam core dividers to prevent the wire from the back of one painting from scratching the front of another painting.

There are specific techniques to protecting art. A good rule of thumb is to handle with care, display works of art away from direct sunlight and store works in areas where temperature and humidity fluctuations are minimal.

  • Dr. Lori Verderame is an author and antiques appraiser on History channel. With a Ph.D. from Penn State University and vast experience appraising art, antiques and artifacts worldwide for museums and collectors, Verderame is the director of, a resource for identifying art and artifacts. Visit, or call 888-431-1010.