Picture Framing and Art Preservation/reading and preservation



I am trying to find out the best overhead lighting for our public library that would allow patrons to read but also preserve the artwork we have on the walls.  Does such a thing even exist?  We are a smaller library so cost would be an issue.  Right now though I am looking at all our options.


Hi Jacinda,

Iíll admit that lighting is a little bit out of my area of expertise but I am good with the effects of light on artwork and preserving artwork so I will do my best.

First, we need to remember that all light will cause damage to artwork, no matter what measures are taken. The damage is cumulative, meaning that exposure to low levels of light over a long period of time will cause as much harm as bright light in a short amount of time. This is why flash photography is forbidden at museums and why light levels are so low. The problem of course is that people need fairly bright light to read comfortably.

Of all the types of light, ultraviolet is the most damaging, but the good news is that it is also the easiest to protect against. As a framer I always recommend the use of glass or acrylic glazing that filters out at least 97% of the UV light. Now, I need to make it clear that this will slow down fading or other damage but it will not stop it completely. This also does not give us permission to hang artwork in direct sunlight, since it is a matter of intensity and duration.

Iím going to make an educated guess and assume that fluorescent lighting is being used. This is also an issue since fluorescent lamps put out large amounts of UV light as compared to incandescent or LED fixtures. Something that could mitigate the problem is to use filtering sleeves on the lamps such as these:  http://bit.ly/1EYvCv5. Another option would be to convert the fluorescent fixture to LED, as there are some retrofit kits available now that allow the use of LED in existing fixtures without the need for complete replacement, although theyíre still a bit on the pricey side. However LEDs produce virtually no UV, almost no heat, and use very little electricity, so there are great long-term cost savings.

Of course we also need to consider windows. Sunlight, even if it is not direct, is of course a very strong light source. Make sure artwork is not hit by direct sunlight and try to keep it in darker areas as much as possible. Harmful effects could also be reduced by the use of UV filtering film applied to windows.

Finally, task lighting would be a great solution if practical. What I mean is using slightly dim lighting throughout the library with lamps in the reading areas, much like you see in old library reading rooms. This would allow your patrons to read easily without a lot of lighting being wasted and the artwork would be protected from high light levels.

I hope this is a helpful starting point, and I welcome any follow-up questions you might have.  

Picture Framing and Art Preservation

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David Lantrip, MCPF, GCF


I can answer questions about all aspects of framing, with special emphasis on preservation framing. Categories of artwork include works of art on paper, needlework, textiles, paintings on canvas and three-dimensional objects. Components of framing includes frames, glass/glazing, mats, mounting, their features and how to select them.


I have been a professional picture framer and educator in the field since 1994, including framing education for a major franchisor encompassing three brands and the Professional Picture Framers Association, and writing and teaching for DECOR Magazine.

Professional Picture Framers Association (PPFA) > Board member, PPFA > Member, Certification Board > Member, Chapter relations Committee National Society, Sons of the American Revolution (NSSAR)

DECOR Magazine, 2005 - 2010 PPFA For Members Only newsletter Member of the PPFA Guidelines task force, assisted in writing PPFA Guidelines for Framing Works of Art on Paper and PPFA Guidelines for Framing Works of Art on Canvas, and PPFA Guidelines for Framing Textiles and Needlework. Picture Framing Magazine, 2012

Georgia State University, many classes as a student and educator through the Professional Picture Framers Association and DECOR Magazine. Current member of the PPFA guidelines task force and certification board.

Awards and Honors
Earned Certified Picture Framer (CPF) designation in 1996, Master Certified Picture Framer (MCPF) designation in 2004 and Guild Commended Framer (GCF) status in 2008.

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