Picture Framing and Art Preservation/Removing backing paper

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Question
I have several paintings and prints that are over 100 years old.  I would like to remove them from their frames, clean the glass, and examine the paintings and prints.  However, I am hesitant to cut the backing paper, for fear of destroying some intrinsic value the old paper provides.  

What is your opinion on removing the paper?

Answer
Hi Steven,

Go ahead and remove the paper and don't worry about it.

As a bit of background, the dust cover as the paper is termed by framers, does exactly what the name implies: it keeps dust and insects out of the frame. The problem we run into is that over time lower-quality paper becomes very brittle and tears or just falls apart, especially when handled. When that happens it no longer does its job, so removing the old dust cover gives you or your framer an opportunity to install a new dust cover that will do a better job of keeping undesirables out of the frame.

Every once in a while you might find information from an exhibit, auction house or something similar on a dust cover and these may help establish the provenance of the art. In this case you could cut it off the larger piece of paper and keep with the art. Also, as a courtesy some framers will replace the original framer's shop sticker on a new dust cover if they are doing minor repair work such as replacing glass. Otherwise the old paper of the dust cover really doesn't carry any value or affect the value of the framed art.  

Picture Framing and Art Preservation

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David Lantrip, MCPF, GCF

Expertise

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.

Experience

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.

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

Publications
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

Education/Credentials
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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