Looking After Your Collection of Art and Antiques

It is worth following some simple steps and precautions to increase the longevity of your art works and antiques, as well as limit the possibility of any accidental damage.

PROTECTING PAINTINGS, PRINTS AND PHOTOGRAPHY FROM LIGHT DAMAGE

When hanging art works, avoid direct sunlight and try to use UV-absorbent glazing and spotlights with UV filters.

Light, from sunlight or artificial sources, is a common cause of damage to paper and media such as inks, photographic emulsions, dyes, and pigments. Light can cause paper to bleach, yellow, or darken in only a few days. It can cause media and dyes used in documents, photographs, and art works to fade or change colour. Most of us recognise fading as a form of light damage, but this is only a superficial indication of the deterioration that extends to the physical and chemical structure of the artwork. Light damage is cumulative and irreversible.

There are several methods to defend your art works from light damage:

  • Window film is the most difficult and expensive undertaking. Yet films are the best first step in a preservation strategy and they have benefits beyond protecting artwork, such as better heat insulation for your home.
  • The next most protective approach is UV filtering glass. This is a flexible option as every piece framed with UV filtering glass is protected no matter where it hangs.
  • Finally, sleeves for fluorescent bulbs are simple to install and inexpensive: an essential to protect your art collection.

Don't wait for light to damage your artwork. Avoid illuminating pieces whenever possible and do all that you can to reduce UV from the sources that light your artworks.

A note of caution: light-sensitive paintings can be stored in darkness, but make sure it's not less than 5 LUX to avoid the blackening of some ancient types of paint.

HANGING YOUR ART WORKS

  • When hanging works on outside walls or in stairwells, check that the back of the picture is protected against dirt, dust and humidity.
  • When hanging objects inside, avoid spaces behind doors, in busy corridors, or close to furniture and shelves.
  • Art works benefit from moderate conditions without too much humidity, so keep your objects clear of radiators, fireplaces, candles and moisture sources.
  • Never store art works unpacked in acidic papers, cardboard, bubble wrap, foil or impregnated textiles. For a longer period never store near to heaters.

MOUNTING AND STORING WORKS ON PAPER AND PHOTOGRAPHY

  • Backing and mounts should always be composed of high quality, neither acid nor alkaline, pH neutral materials.
  • Make sure there is enough separation between the artwork and both frame and glazing.
  • When cleaning the glass, use a soft cloth and never spray cleaning agent directly on to the glass as it can seep under the frame.
  • Most photography can be stored in paper folders and some can be kept in special kinds of plastic folders.
  • Storage in plastic folders is not suitable for transparencies from the 1950s, film-based negatives, hand-coloured prints, prints with surface damage or glass or metal based photographs.

CLEANING BRONZE SCULPTURES

The most delicate part of bronze is the patina. For regular cleaning you can use a soft dust cloth. For more thorough cleaning, use neutral soap with water. Wipe clean, dry with the cloth then allow the sculpture to air dry. Do not use any cleanser or solvent to clean your sculpture as they will scratch surfaces and damage the patina. If your bronze sculpture is suitable for waxing, you can generally use furniture wax.

LOOKING AFTER ANTIQUE FURNITURE

You should check your furniture regularly for traces of woodworm. Sawdust underneath the furniture can be a sign of active infestation. There are various DIY surface treatments that you can use. However, if you're unsure of taking this job on yourself, the best course of action is to call in a qualified woodworm surveyor to assess the situation for you.

Either use a humidifier or put a glass of water inside or underneath a cabinet or chest to avoid drying, and avoid placing antique furniture on floor heating. Also avoid direct sunlight as it can lead to discolouring, fading and shrinkage.

Dry dust with a soft cloth for routine cleaning, and once a year use a coating of good paste wax to maintain your furniture.

CONCLUSION

Taking some simple steps to protect your collection of art and antiques can minimize the damage caused by exposure to light, accidental damage and aging. Using UV filters, as well as hanging pictures in north light can minimize light damage. Hanging artworks safely using pH neutral materials, and the correct levels of humidity, as well as gently cleaning and waxing sculpture and furniture regularly should minimize the risk of accidental damage, and much of the harm caused by aging.

Coram James Ltd
0207 837 8115
info@coramjames.com