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March 30, 2013 5:45 AM   Subscribe

I just scored a nautical chart from the 1930's that I'd like to hang up; should I worry about it being exposed to a couple hours of direct sunlight?

It's on plain paper, a beautiful old nautical chart in great condition (it only has creases from where it was folded). there's a spot I'd like to hang it, but it gets about 2 hours of direct sunlight. I've tried pricing fancy poster framing jobs, and it'd be prohibitively expensive (this is a big sucker); I found an affordable poster hanging alternative, but that doesn't shield from sun exposure. Can I get away without worrying about that?

There is another, much darker spot I could hang it, but it wouldn't be nearly as visible and I'm hoping it can have a more front-and-center display. Thanks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
My experience has been that posters most decidedly do fade in direct sunlight. While expensive, as you note, any framer will have UV protection glass.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:55 AM on March 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Absolutely keep it out of direct sun, I'm sorry.

Even UV blocking glass (quite expensive) will not protect old paper and inks for long.

One possibility is to take it to a professional imaging bureau (not FedEx; some place that e.g. architects use) and have a large format copy made. This should not cost the earth and will actually be more light-proof than the original, which you can keep safely tucked away in the dark.

Then hang up the copy. It will probably be much more light-fast than the original, too!
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:55 AM on March 30, 2013 [12 favorites]

The inks used are not likely to be UV resistant, and two hours of sunshine a day is going to fade it fast. I would hand it in the darker spot.
posted by beagle at 5:59 AM on March 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, this is a great concern. Documents that are precious are kept out of any direct sunlight.
posted by tulip-socks at 6:01 AM on March 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Library of Congress offers a good reference on archival framing and matting, and the NEDCC also has an excellent reference on light damage. There's at least one DIY framing place near me; by doing much of the work yourself, you get a fun experience and the price is reduced. Perhaps there's a place near you that does this?

Framers should have glass that will help protect against UV, as others have noted. If for some reason they don't, though, there are other options. I haven't personally used this UV filter film, but many libraries use University Products as a source for their preservation needs. But it sounds like a single 20"x24" sheet wouldn't be large enough for your print, and it would probably be difficult to align two of them perfectly.

Really, your best bet is probably to keep it out of direct sunlight. Even without the direct light, fading will still happen over time (also worth noting: different colors of ink will probably fade at different rates, depending on their chemical makeup); direct light will just significantly speed up the process.
posted by cellar door at 6:05 AM on March 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Absolutely keep it out of direct sunlight, for any amount of time.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:04 AM on March 30, 2013

I wonder if it would be possible to put UV film on the window where the light comes in? Otherwise, I like the idea of a copy. Though that might also be a bit pricey.
posted by amanda at 7:05 AM on March 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

How big is the poster? If you can find a ready-made frame that's bigger than the poster and has UV glass, any decent frame shop will cut you a custom mat and mount the poster in the frame for you, for far less than the cost of a full custom framing job.

That's how I framed my giant Mucha poster, and it looks a million times nicer and more grown-up than a plain poster frame or tacking it unframed to the wall. Ikea frame was about thirty bucks, the custom mat and mounting were maybe fifty.
posted by nonasuch at 8:08 AM on March 30, 2013

The poster is 35" x 45". The cheapest frame I've seen online was a hundred bucks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:00 AM on March 30, 2013

Hm. Do you have any big Value Village-type thrift stores around? They often have a lot of framed art, some of it pretty giant. If you see something with a frame you like, it might be worth buying just for that-- still less expensive than a new or custom frame, and the frame shop can do the matting and mounting.
posted by nonasuch at 11:02 AM on March 30, 2013

Archival quality matting, UV glass, hang out of sun. Use a light source above/under if you want to make it a focal point on certain occasions.

If you have a local university with an art department, you might be able to find an art student with a working portfolio and access to mat cutters, frame equipment, etc. you might get a bargain on framing if you buy materials. I had three large items framed for cost of materials, and the student used them as a class project for a grade (A.) Of course that's before they gutted the university art department....

Sometimes you can buy a pre-made frame and just pay for the mat cutting.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:26 PM on March 30, 2013

I do live nearby Pratt's Brooklyn campus...maybe I can check with their shop to ask for advice.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:51 PM on March 30, 2013

Definitely no direct sunlight on something that old, if you want it to last. With the poster hanging option, also consider whether your hanging location (whichever you choose) will expose it to other things that might degrade it over time (eg if in the kitchen, accumulated cooking oils etc, smoke, etc). If your investigation of student framing options doesn't work, you could consider getting a big sheet of plastic/acetate to put in front of it in the poster hanger. Won't help you with the sun though. Sun is really, really evil from a document preservation point of view.

If you want more info, here's some basic conservation guides to caring for works on paper and framing artworks. I understand you're not maintaining an archive and expensive archival-quality materials are not necessarily what you're after, but they explain risk factors and basic principles that might be helpful for whatever decisions you make.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:28 PM on March 30, 2013

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