Please keep me from slowly destroying all my good stuff.
August 17, 2010 5:54 AM   Subscribe

I have a bunch of pieces of art that I'm not displaying, but I'm not sure how I should be storing them. What's the best way to protect and preserve them (preferably without spending a zillion dollars)?

Much of what I'd like to store are posters--either old film or concert posters or art posters on linen backings--plus some prints (woodblock prints by Anthony Burrill, and this mystery etching (bonus points if anyone has an ID), some photos, and a couple of paintings. Plus random ephemera, like a NYC subway sign.

What's the best way to store these pieces? Right now, all of the printed materials are rolled in umpteen cardboard tubes (none of which are archival by any stretch of the imagination), and they're all jumbled together (so a silkscreen is rolled up with a lithograph or offset print, if that matters). I presume I should have some material (but what?) between each piece, but I don't. Paintings might be wrapped in bubble wrap and standing in a closet. Most of the photos are in a pile, though some are in archival envelopes.

Most of the pieces aren't worth a lot, but have sentimental value (signed Old 97s poster from the hitchhike to Rhome tour, I'm looking at you), and I'd like not to ruin them.

What should I be doing with this stuff? I live in Boston--which gives you an idea of the climate and local availability of supplies at Utrecht et al.
posted by Admiral Haddock to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Flat files. I see them come up on Craigslist periodically. We are planning to get some once our home office purge is complete. I would probably layer them between archival paper, and use envelopes where size permits, but maybe an expert will have a better researched solution.
posted by kimdog at 6:11 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Works on paper should be stored flat. You can buy interleaving paper - glassine - at Utrecht. You'll want to put a piece between each print. After that I'd bag the whole bunch in a mylar bag and then store it someplace flat that won't get too hot or too humid - in a box under your bed would be ok once it's flat and sealed.

Light Impressions sells lots of archival storage solutions for photos and prints. You'll find some of this stuff at Utrecht too - depending on the quantity of photos you'll want to either box, album or file them. I'd browse the catalog and then perhaps look locally, perhaps just order depending on your budget.

Paintings need to not be stacked - if they're on canvas it's better if they're not sealed so they can breathe. I wouldn't leave them wrapped in bubble wrap long term - better to have nothing touching surface or glassine rather than plastic - you could put a sheet of glassine under the bubble wrap and wrap it loosely to protect corners and surface while allowing some airflow.
posted by leslies at 6:18 AM on August 17, 2010

Best answer: nthing glassine - get a roll and wrap everything in it, each item seperately - use an acid free tape when you do, and put the wrapped objects in an acid free box with a packet of dessicant in it.

After that, store them somewhere free of temperature/humidity changes and where they aren't in danger if there is flooding or a burst pipe or some other water event.
posted by jardinier at 7:47 AM on August 17, 2010

Best answer: Flat storage is best for flat items. Rolling paper stresses the fibers and inks. But if you don't have the space for flat storage, there are archival boxes for rolled prints or maps. Hollinger Metal Edge is a good source for something like this.

Weather rolling or storing flat, interleave your pieces with Permalife paper or acid free tissue, or Glassine as mentioned previously. You can individually store each piece in a Mylar envelope if you wish, although this would be more expensive.

Bubble wrap isn't a great wrap for paintings, long term. If your paintings need some protection from each other and from being bumped, you can loosely wrap them in Ethafoam, which comes in various sized sheets. If your paintings are leaning up against a wall, always go from biggest at the back to smallest at the front and stack them alternating face-to-face and back-to-back so that the eyehoooks and wires (or whatever hanging mechanisms) don't poke into the surfaces of other pieces.

For photos, get clear Mylar envelopes. Clear storage for photos allows you to look at them without having to remove them from their storage, which prolongs the life of the photo. Avoid scrapbooks or albums if you can.

Regardless of what method you choose, never completely seal the package. Don't close all four edges of a mylar envelope or tape up all the edges of a tube or box. Some air circulation is good and will prevent the creation of a (very)microclimate where humidity can lead to problems or acidic papers can eat themselves and the surrounding pieces.

If possible, keep your items off the floor and away from sources of light, heat, or cold. Temperature and humidity fluctuations are bad for your pieces.
posted by CheeseLouise at 7:55 AM on August 17, 2010

Best answer: If you can afford it (and it is feasible space wise) getting things framed properly goes a long way to keeping them in good condition. It is also a good way of assessing what you really want to keep - if it is not worth framing, or you can't see yourself displaying it in the near future, why are you keeping it? And I say this as someone who has gone through this painful process more than once.

The Glassine suggestion is also a good one.
posted by Megami at 11:20 AM on August 17, 2010

Response by poster: All of this is very helpful--I'll try to get archival boxes this weekend, if I can. Ultimately, it would be great to have a flat file, but I don't anticipate having the space anytime soon.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:09 AM on August 18, 2010

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