Imagine you own a piece of vintage sports memorabilia that you’d like to display at home. Maybe you want to display a century-old document that has turned brittle. Transforming valuable collectables into art should be undertaken with delicacy and diligence to prevent long-term damage, according to Geoff Gaunt, co-owner of Providence Picture Frame. And he should know; customizing collectables is their business. “There are many methods, but the end result should be zero impact to your object,” says Gaunt.


ARTWORK AVAILABLE AT Providence Picture Frame, Dryden Gallery

Talk first, frame later

Gaunt cautions that the process should begin with a detailed discussion with a professional concerning the value of the piece, the procedures that will be followed to protect it, and the costs associated with it.

The best way to frame valuable collectables is through a process known as “conservation framing,” says Gaunt. It allows them to retain their original condition if the frame is removed, yet still provides a beautiful display.

In general, qualified framers, like those at Providence Picture Frame, will identify collectables that are intrinsically valuable enough to require this more costly method. Items that carry more sentimental value, like a child’s artwork, do not usually require conservation framing. Value, of course, is ultimately in the eyes of the consumer.

Guidelines for conservation framing

The subtle nuances of conservation framing are many, as Gaunt explains: All collectables on paper, such as watercolors and pastels, must be attached to acid-free board via Japanese wheat-paste hinges, rather than acid-free tapes which tend to hold the item too aggressively.

For vintage or brittle documents, Gaunt suggests having them treated first by a paper conservator who can generally safely re-hydrate the item. Once it’s ready for framing, Japanese hinging or a process called “encapsulation” is the best method for preservation.

Encapsulation involves placing the work between thin, clear plastic sheets of Mylar, UV glass or high-end acrylic. An air gap, created with an acid-free mat or spacer, should always exist to prevent contact damage, Gaunt explained.

Works on canvas, like oils and acrylics, need to breath so the front and back should be exposed to ambient air. After each appropriate step is taken to preserve your treasure, a process which clearly should involve a professional, the appropriate framing can then be designed around your work.

With the proper care, and the deft touch at Providence Picture Frame, your collectable can be turned into a work of art that can be safely, and stunningly, displayed for years.