Should I unframe my old letter?
Q. Dear Donia,
A letter written in 1806 is sandwiched between two panes of glass and framed. I am afraid that the glass will break and destroy the letter. Should I have the letter removed from the glass frame? I don't know how long ago it was framed.
Will unframing do more harm than good to the old paper?
If removed from the glass, how should I then store the letter? The letter was written by a man in Old Town Baltimore to his brother in central PA.
A. Dear Karen,
You are correct to be concerned about your letter sandwiched between glass. However, breakage is the least of the worries, although it is something to consider. What is more of a problem is the potential for mold that comes with this type of framing.
Unframing the letter is your best course of action. You can carefully do that yourself or have a framer do it for you. Use caution in case the letter has become attached to the glass.
To best store your letter, you can put it in an acid-free, buffered folder and store it in a box to protect it from light and dust. Store it somewhere clean where you can keep temperature and relative humidity (RH) moderate and stable: temperatures below 72°F, relative humidity below 55%. If you want to continue to display the letter, you can have it matted using museum quality matboard and have the frame glazed with UV blocking glass such as TruVue.
If the paper has adhered to the glass, you will need to find a conservator. To find a photo conservator, you can go to the webage of the American Institute for Conservation (www.conservation-us.org/). You will find a button in the upper right corner labeled "Find a Conservator". Click that then click on "Start Search" under Book and Paper. Select "Unbound Documents" in step 2 and "Treatment" in step 4 (you can skip step 3). Fill in your location and expand the search out to 100 miles. This will give you two conservators to contact should you need to.
I hope this helps. If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask "Dear Donia" again.
Preservation Consultant for Cultural Heritage Collections
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