Best way to frame enormous antique map?
July 1, 2016 1:48 PM   Subscribe

I bought a very large (62"x24") map last week, but now I'm at a little bit of a loss for how to actually display it. Help me think of ways to put it on my wall without spending 50x as much on the frame as I did on the map.

So, I went to my public library book sale last week and was intrigued by a map from the 1853 Pacific Railroad Survey. It was only $20 and had some interesting/amusing frontier details so I bought it, figuring I would deal with the issues presented by the map's behemoth size later.

As it turns out, the map is probably worth $150 or so and moreover, when I mentioned the purchase to my father the history buff, he not only knew the map in question but had some funny stories about the original railroad survey as well as some of the pictured locales since he grew up not far from there. (He also noted that at one point he had had a copy of the same map in his office, framed at enormous expense, which he had donated to the local university when he retired and moved due to the size and weight of the picture. I may have been subconsciously remembering this when I bought it).

So. The map has now acquired some sentimental value as well as being slightly more valuable than I originally thought. Plus I have a certain amount of innate respect for an object that has survived over 150 years without substantial damage, so I don't want to ruin it by doing something like dry mounting it to foamcore. It is too thin and fragile to use poster hangers or anything like that.

On the other hand, I paid $20 for it and I don't have SO much love for it that I'm willing to pay $1000 to get it professionally framed in museum-quality materials.

Is there a middle ground where I can spend a few hundred dollars and get something reasonable looking made from materials that won't actively hurt the map? My usual online sources for framing materials max out at sizes of 60" even for oversized mat board and backing board. Where would I even get materials larger than that? (And yes, I do plan to take it by my local frame shop this weekend, but I'd like to have some ideas going in).

i've seen this and this question already, but they were for somewhat smaller pieces that didn't bump up against the limits of available materials.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Both plexiglass and mat board (in any color you want as long as it is white) are available in sizes large enough for this. I doubt you can buy either from an online retailer because those sizes are difficult to ship, so would probably be easier to get them through a local framing supplier or framer. If you actually want a mat opening cut that large, that may be hard to find someone willing to do. I'd expect a frame this size (floated in a basic black moulding with UV-protective acrylic) to run about $600-700 from a professional framer.
posted by jimw at 2:23 PM on July 1, 2016

We got a 50" x 35" map recently and spent some time on the internet looking at how to hang it without spending a mint.

There are a variety of options, but the one we ended up using is the binder clip method. Nails or hooks in the wall hold the binder clips, the binder clips hold the map. We hung ours with three clips across the top, and two at the bottom corners. It looks pretty cool.

If we'd had a bit more money on hand at the time, I'd probably have gone with these customizable poster hangers, which are essentially top and bottom rails that hold the piece flat and open.
posted by not that girl at 2:44 PM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

There are sellers on Etsy who do custom frames. Based on a recent purchase of mine for a large litho I'd guestimate a frame at $200. I didn't get it matted and you might save some that way. Some sellers will charge far more than that - DM if you want the name of the seller I used.
posted by decathexis at 3:10 PM on July 1, 2016

Are you handy at all? If so here is what I would do:

  1. two sheets 4x8 tempered hard board (8.25 each)
  2. acrylic sheet (36x72x.093) ($100)
  3. 16' of picture frame moulding (about $10-30 or more depending on style)
  4. roll of mounting tape ($15)
  5. Glue to assemble the frame and some method of attaching the acrylic and board sandwich in the frame. I'd probably use #4x5/8 wood screws predrilling every hole one could use window points or picture nails.
Decide how much mat you want showing; say about 4"). Cut your three sheets of flat material to the size of your map + 2X the mat size each direction.

Cut a hole in one of the sheets of hard board the size of your map minus about an inch each direction. You'll be able to see this edge so finish by planing or sanding.

Cut and assemble a frame out the moulding. It is already dadoed so you just need to cut the miters and then glue and fasten them together.

Paint and/or stain the mat and the frame. I'd paint the mat white with latex paint and try to match the colour of the map material with the frame via frame.

Wait for everything to dry and then assemble. Use the mounting tape to hang just the top of the map from the back of the mat.

One can step up the material as budget allows. One thing that may be cool with this sort of map depending on your decor is a frame made out of simulated or real barn boards.

This method though more expensive than any of the non framing methods provides the map with protection from tears, dirt and spills. The major expense is in the clear sheet and their isn't any way to avoid that and still actually protect the map in a reversible manner.

Shopping around for the acrylic sheet could reduce the price.
posted by Mitheral at 3:36 PM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have a big-ass topographical map of the Columbia gorge area, and struggled mightily for a hanging-solution. It languished in a storage tube for yeeeeeaaaaars. I figured out what I thought would be a short term solution, but really I like how it turned out so well that I plan on keeping it mounted like it is. It won't protect the map super well, so this might not work for you, but I really dig on how it looks.

I ended up taking some hardwood trim pieces that were about 1" wide from my local awesome lumber store (get the straightest ones you can, sometimes they're notably warped). I ended up cutting them 8" longer than the map (so when the map is centered, there's 4" of overhang on each side), and then backed each side with felt. After that, I drilled some holes into the overhang portion of the frame, and installed some chicago screws. The felt acts as a safe clamp to set the map into, and the chicago screws tighten everything together. I have a top and bottom bracket made, and it hangs like an old school map. Once you have it mounted on the brackets, you can actually hang it on the brackets pretty easy.

You can kind of see what I did here, but if you'd like more detailed photos, hit me up.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:22 PM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

I recently saw an old storm window used as a frame for a map.

Not some aluminum piece of shit. Old, wooden storm window from maybe 100 years ago.

You could probably call up a window company that specializes in the old part of town and ask them to be on the lookout for an odd size that will fit your map.
posted by notsnot at 7:32 PM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

I just clicked through the wizard on and you can get a metal frame and standard acrylic in those dimensions for about $100. (Not including shipping.) The mat and mountings do max out at 60", but you could skip the mat and just use a big piece of cardboard for the backer board. The packaging they'll send the frame and plexi in will probably be big enough.

Sorry if this suggestion is not good from an archival standpoint --- I don't know anything about that.
posted by slenderloris at 3:16 PM on July 6, 2016

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