Preserving the Back of a Picture Frame

Dear Donia,
How do I preserve a pencil drawing on the paper back of a picture frame?

Back of picture frame


Q. Dear Donia,

Many years ago, I purchased a painting from an Indian artist. He had taken the time to do a large pencil drawing on the frame paper back. I would like to preserve this pencil drawing and his written thank-you to me. How would you suggest this be done? Thank you for help, Don

A. Dear Don,

It is difficult for me to give you a definitive answer without seeing the piece or the frame. However, there are two possible options that you could explore. The first is to find a framer who has experience with conservation framing. They would be able to put a protective layer over the backing paper with either another piece of paper (not ideal since you couldn't see the drawing) or a piece of inert polyester which would allow you to see the drawing and protect it at the same time from any abrasion. This would not work well if the painting hangs on an exterior wall as condensation could lead to mold.

Conversely, you could contact a paper conservator who could remove the backing from the frame allowing you to have the drawing then framed in its own right.

To find a conservator who can help you, you can consult the American Institute for Conservation's "Find a Conservator" page. Simply put in your zip code and select a specialty (in this instance you would pick "Book and Paper"). When I put Springfield's zip code in, I found 4 conservators who could potentially help.

Good luck with your project.