Stay Home! And organize your print collection.

Do you have a burgeoning collection of works on paper? A flat file full of prints you love but not enough wall space? Looking for another project to fill your quarantine time? If you answered yes to all of those questions, this could be a great opportunity to start organizing your collection and developing a strategy to enjoy an ever changing exhibit in your own home. By matting and framing objects in such a way that they can be rotated in and out of the same frames, you can get more prints on the wall while extending the life of your collection, giving it some much deserved rest from light that can damage paper and inks. 

The first step is to choose prints that can share frames. There are many ways to separate your prints into groups that make sense – artist, theme, genre – but the most important is size. Prints need to be of similar size to be able to fit in the same frame. Then you can work with a framer and/or conservator to properly mat your prints for both storage and display in what are called “presentation mats.” For general information on proper matting and framing of works on paper, see the American Institute for Conservation’s helpful handout on the topic. 

Presentation mats are the same as regular mats with an additional cover attached in such a way that it can be folded to the front for storage and to the back for display. When not in use, the prints can be stored in boxes or flat files and safely stacked on top of one another. Be sure to save labels and any other information important to the provenance of the prints.

Left: Drawing in sealed mat package   Right: Presentation mats and labels

For fragile works on paper that need more protection – drawings, friable media, lightweight papers – a sealed mat package can be a good option. Unlike the presentation mats where the glazing (UV filtering glass or plexiglass) and the extra backing board stay with the frame, a mat package includes the extra backing board and the glazing sealed with an acrylic tape around the edges. This protects the surface of the object and reduces the handling necessary to replace objects in frames.

Two works on paper in sealed mat packages that share the same frame

When it comes time to exchange one print for another, you can have a framer come to your home and do it for you, or with a few simple tools, you can do it yourself. If you have never framed an object on your own, it would be advisable to review the process with a framer or conservator first to become familiar with the process. While it is fairly straightforward, it is helpful to have a full understanding of how your particular frames work before trying it on your own.


Two matted prints that share the same frame

The system can work with metal or wood frames, glass or plexiglass and floating or over-matted prints. Two works that float can share a frame with spacers attached to properly space the object away from the surface of the glazing. When folding the cover over the a floated object, be sure to have a sheet of glassine or acid-free tissue to protect the surface of the print. 

Two floating prints that share the same frame with protective glassine sheet
On the wall!

Rotating your prints is a great opportunity to enjoy more of your collection while helping to preserve your works on paper by periodically taking them off display.

It’s a win-win for everyone!

Jamison Elected AIC Fellow


Jamye was proud to learn that she has recently been elected as a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC). Only conservators who have been Professional Members of AIC for two years, and who have ten years of full-time professional experience in the field, are eligible to apply for Fellow status.

The process to become an AIC Fellow is a rigorous one. The conservator must complete an extensive application, listing all previous education, work and publication/teaching achievement. She must also submit detailed treatment samples and letters of support from other AIC Fellows.

In her accompanying essay, Jamye wrote, “In the broadest of terms, any professional status lends gravity not only to the individual, but to the field as a whole. The designation of Fellow is recognized in many other academic and professional fields as one who is a leader within that profession. If we as conservators would like to hold ourselves to that same standard and be accepted by our academic peers as the dynamic specialty we are, it behooves us to continue the lineage of AIC Fellows who will represent our field into the future.”


Pictures of You: Kenyon College Rehousing Project

04. Box One layout top tray
An array of daguerreotypes from Kenyon College.

In 2018, Kenyon College came to Jamison Art Conservation with an interesting challenge. They hold a study collection of more than forty historic photographic images, mainly daguerreotypes in leather cases with missing or separated covers. The objects were stored in a manner that made them difficult for students to access. The college wanted them made secure but also available for research. Their request was for an archivally appropriate storage system that could be ready for the classroom by the start of the 2019 spring term.

Jamye partnered with Kenyon to submit a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant proposal to underwrite the costs of the rehousing. LSTA annually awards grants to libraries of up to $4,999 for a wide range of conservation and preservation projects. Institutions are given nearly a year to complete their work. They can also reapply in subsequent years and build on their accomplishments.

01. Inventory
Inventory in progress.

We began by carefully examining and condition reporting on each individual cased photograph. This gave us a sense of the overall size needs. We then laid out test trays in order to determine the optimal number of objects per tray, both for weight and spacing considerations. We determined that four archival boxes would provide light and roomy housing for the photos, and began to order supplies for building the customized enclosures.

08. Boxes two thru four laid out
Objects laid out for measurement on paper “trays.”

Kenyon also had a second grouping of tintype photographs from the nineteenth century without any exterior casings. JAC was asked to build individual protective enclosures for each one. For efficiency, we conducted both parts of the project—forty folders and four custom boxes—simultaneously.

A multi-part, hinged folder was built in which each metal photograph would be held in place by tiny magnets. The folder was created in such a way that the board on which the photo was mounted could be removed for student use. It also included a window mat so that the overall package could be framed if Kenyon so desired. Jamye worked with Art Forum Framing in Lakewood, Ohio, to get the hundreds of necessary component pieces cut to size from archival mat board, and we then assembled them by hand in the studio.

15. Taped board strips
Multiple components being assembled into protective enclosures.
22. Lg and sm enclosures
Fully assembled enclosures for the tintypes.

Meanwhile, work progressed on the cased daguerreotype boxes. We created “bumpers” lined with a soft polyethylene foam called Volara, and used the same material as a liner under each object. To secure all the covers of the photographic cases, and secure all the cases within the storage boxes, we tied each one to its tray using narrow, linen twill tape. As a final step, we built handling trays for each of the four boxes, lined with Volara foam and intended to hold a pair of cotton gloves. Each time a professor or student wishes to examine one or more photographs, the objects can be carefully placed on this tray and appropriately supported when they are removed from the box for use.

25. Box 1 done with ties
Completed box for daguerreotypes.

Kenyon was thrilled with the final results of the project. They are looking forward to many more years of studying these collections, now that they are safely and attractively rehoused.

Joan of Arc

Before treatment.

When the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College was preparing to mount “Women Bound and Unbound,” the exhibition curators identified a striking object to include within the museum’s collections. But the piece needed conservation treatment before it could be placed on display.

Haskell Coffin’s vibrant and evocative Joan of Arc Saved France (1918) is immediately recognizable as a World War I bonds poster, encouraging women to support the war effort from home. As is the case with many posters of this era, the large sheet had been folded for storage sometime prior to entering the Allen’s collection. It was weak along the folds, and creases were visible through the subject’s face and body. There were tears and losses along the edges of the thin and fragile paper that extended into the image area.

To prepare the piece for exhibition, it was washed in a carefully regulated series of baths—deionized water conditioned with calcium hydroxide—to draw out the acids that cause paper to discolor and weaken with time. Once the washing process was completed, the sheet was lined overall with a thin but strong Japanese paper to support the fragile edges and consolidate the weak folds, tears and areas of loss.


Finally, the poster was placed in a blotter stack to dry under heavy weights for a period of several weeks. When it was completely dry, the losses were filled and any areas of media loss were retouched with (reversible) colored pencil.

“Women Bound and Unbound,” an interdisciplinary look at artistic representations of women, will run until May 26, 2019. The Allen Memorial Art Museum is free and open to the public.

After treatment.

Rigid Gels for Paper Conservation

A workshop participant in the process of making thin cast rigid gel

Jamye recently attended a workshop at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania to learn more about working with rigid gels. This was the first time such a course was offered for paper conservators, and Jamye received a professional development grant from the Foundation for Advancement in Conservation (FAIC) to support her attendance. While gels have long been used by paintings conservators, they are a relatively new addition to the paper conservator’s toolkit.

A rigid gel is made by mixing a small amount of agarose or gellan gum–an edible, non-toxic product used in food manufacturing–into purified water. Calcium acetate is added in minute quantities to gellan to stabilize the solution. When the components are mixed and heated, the conservator must work quickly to pour/flatten the gel, by pressing it down with a piece of glass or plexiglass for thin cast gels (seen in the image above) or allowing it harden in a tray for thick cast gels (below). Once the gel sets, it is very stable and will last a few weeks in refrigeration.

A sheet of thick cast rigid gel with an object for “washing”

Rigid gels are a controlled method of applying moisture locally or overall to an object for the purposes of “washing” or removing attachments. The conservator can adjust the amount of moisture introduced by altering the proportions of gellan gum to water. The gel can be cut to the exact shape of a discolored area, for example, and its capillary action will work to pull out the discoloration. In the images below, you can see an example of Jamye using a gel to remove the oddly shaped black paper that was adhesed to the back of an object with gel cut to match. While some mechanical (i.e. manual) action is still required to fully remove the black paper remnants and the adhesive, it is dramatically reduced and so causes less wear on the fibers of the object being treated.

The non-toxic gel is safe for both conservators and the environment and furthers the goal of finding more planet- and people-friendly methods of treatment in our field. More testing is needed to understand all of its applications, but it appears to be an extremely promising method of treatment for paper conservators moving forward.