Storing Art

(Excerpt from ART HARDWARE: The Definitive Guide to  Artists’ Materials, by Steven Saitzyk © 1987)

Over the years I have come across a number of  novel, methods of storing artwork. One of the more noteworthy was that of a  collector who stored his art collection in his wine cellar; after all, the  paintings were old and valuable like the wine. Unfortunately, the artwork was  not sealed in bottles like the wine, and was subject to mildew, mold, rot,  insects, and rodents.

Storage of artwork involves protecting it from  excessive humidity and exces­sive dryness, and from insects, rodents, and acids.  In addition to the archival boards and papers, there are materials such as  storage boxes and envelopes for Mylar encapsulation, that are specially designed  for use by museums and conser­vators. Such materials are primarily for the  storage of collections that are not, for whatever reason, to be left on  exhibition. Some of these materials can also be useful to artists who wish to  use such ready-made storage containers rather than make their own. These  products have yet to work their way into the aver-age art supply store, and it  is not within the scope of this book to review these products. However, there  are several mail-order companies that deal in these materials and a catalogue  can be had upon request. The Light Impressions Cor­poration, 439 Monroe Ave.,  P.O. Box 940, Rochester, NY 14603, is among the more commonly known mail-order  houses from which a catalogue can be had.

Below is a list of suggested remedies for the  most common storage situations that the average artist and collector confronts.

1.               Framed artwork and stretched  artwork should be stored in racks that will allow for the circulation of air and  exposure to some light to prevent the growth of fungus.

2.               Unframed paper artwork should  be stored in flat file drawers that are lined with museum board and contain  packets of boric acid. The flat drawers will protect against mechanical damage. The museum board  will protect against any acids present in the drawers, particularly in wooden  drawers. The boric acid will prevent silverfish. (The General Pest Service  Company produces Dekko Silver-fish Paks, which contain boric acid and are easy  to use.)

3.               Paper artworks may be stacked upon  one another if they are separated by pH neutral slip sheets.

4.               Unstretched canvas paintings  may be stored rolled if they are first allowed to dry thoroughly, then rolled  around a thick tube with the painted side out and the surface protected with a  glassinelike paper. The painted side is placed on the outside because any cracks that might  form from this type of storage will be pushed back together when the canvas is  unrolled. If the painted side is rolled inside the tube, the paint film might  cure in this compressed state and larger cracks may result when the painting is  later unrolled.

5.               Metal flat file drawers are best  when insects are of primary concern, and wooden flat file drawers are best when  humidity is the primary concern.