Framing Old Documents

Dear Donia,
What are the best options for framing my great-great-grandfather's Civil War discharge paper?


Q. Dear Donia,

I would like to display in a frame my great-great-grandfather's Civil War discharge paper. It has printing and handwriting on both sides. What are my options? It has been stored in a plastic sheet protector in a file drawer for many years. I would like to frame it so I can eventually pass it on to someone younger in the family who would appreciate displaying it and not have to put it away in a drawer. Sally

A. Dear Sally,

What an exciting piece of family history!  First, it would be best not to display the original as the iron gall ink in the script can fade in the light. The best thing to do would be to get a good scan of the document (in color, at least 300dpi) and save as a .tif. This will give you a good image to print so that you can display both sides at once. A good digital image will also allow you to share the image with your whole family!

Even though you will be displaying a copy, a good print will look virtually the same as the original. When displaying, mount in a window mat. The mat and mount should be a good, museum-quality mat board (most frame shops will have this type of mat board). The glass should be UV coated to protect the copy and give it a longer life. If you want to use Plexiglas (for earthquake purposes - I notice you are in CA), Lexan would the the best choice as you can find UV blocking Lexan. The piece can then go into a frame of your choice and displayed anywhere in your house.

You will want to continue to store the original in an acid-free, lignin-free folder (the plastic sheet protector could be bad for the document) in your file drawer to continue to protect it. I know this is not exactly the answer you want, but it is the best approach to displaying the information and yet protecting the original for future generations.

If you have any more questions, please don't hesitate to contact "Dear Donia"!