Archival Framing | Part 1 | Replacing Old Mats & Old Frames

A Case Study in Saving Time & Money!

archivalThis matted and framed drawing has tons of sentimental value—and tons of problems!
This blog will show you how to address similar issues you might be facing.

Almost EVERYONE has a matted & framed photograph or artwork that needs renewed attention!

With this blog we’ll show you just how EASY IT IS to replace old non-archival mats, backing boards and frames with acid-free materials that will help preserve whatever YOU have.

And if you go ahead and disassemble any of your framed pieces following the procedures discussed here, you’ll have the chance to:

     •  REPLACE any old non-archival mats and backing boards

     •  SCAN your piece so that you have a digital record of it to send to family or friends (or to insure if it’s valuable)

     •  REPLACE any old, damaged or out-of-date frames that no longer fit your decor with new wood or metal frames
        (and yes, YOU can do it yourself to save both TIME and MONEY!)

These steps will breathe new life into your matted & framed artwork, photographs, collectibles, or family artifacts, and ensure that the proper archival materials are protecting your piece for years & years to come!


The image above is a matted & framed drawing of a friend’s mother & father on their wedding day 60+ years ago.

Needless to say, this particular drawing has absolutely TONS of sentimental value!

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Pix on Left: Strange mottling on the inside of the glass is unattractive, and may in fact be mold growing on the mat board itself.
Pix on Right: If this mottling wasn’t enough, the yellowed core of this mat indicates its high acid content.
Here the old mat (after removal) has been placed on top of a new acid-free mat, which will NEVER yellow or contaminate the piece.
(Please click on either image to see our fully-illustrated blog on Archival Definitions: Acid-Free / Buffered / Unbuffered.)

Similar to what occurs with old yellowed newspapers, the yellowing of the old mat board in the right-hand image above is caused by various acids in the board itself (please click here to see our illustrated blog on Archival Definitions: Acid-Free / Buffered / Unbuffered).

archivalMy friend’s mom wanted to use a NEW wood frame to replace the OLD wood frame, so we’re going with an all-in-one
Gallery 12 Wood Frame. All I need to do is add my matted artwork and EVERYTHING ELSE is included in the kit!
(And all sorts of metal frames are available, too!)

(Please click on the image to see our short video on Gallery 12 Wood Frames.)

Once I had explained what was likely wrong with this framed drawing, my friend asked me to “fix it” by replacing the old mat & frame, and to see if there were any other issues threatening this one-of-a-kind family treasure (there were!).

In the photographs below I’ll show you just how EASY it is to do this, so that EVERYONE will feel comfortable doing it themselves!

archival(Please click on the image to go to the Archival Methods web page on archival backing boards.)

After removing the frame from the wall I quickly discovered another problem.

As you can see in the photograph above, the drawing not only has a NON-ARCHIVAL mat, it also has a NON-ARCHIVAL backing board—essentially just a sheet of corrugated cardboard.


Like many “art store” do-it-yourself frames, this frame has semi-flexible metal “framing points” that hold the glass and mat in place (see the red boxes above).

The repeated bending of the type of framing points used in the frame above can lead to metal fatigue and breakage, which may cause this sort of frame to fail—often involving broken glass, damaged artwork, and even personal injury! 

In addition, the metal “saw-tooth” hanger frequently found on such frames (see the blue box above) is NOT completely trustworthy and shouldn’t be used! As a rule of thumb, always use good quality picture wire.

archivalThere are a number of ways to mount your artwork, photographs and collectibles WITHOUT relying on hinging.
(Please click on the image to see our fully-illustrated blog on Mounting Your Artwork.)

Once I had bent the soft metal framing points out of the way, I carefully removed the glass / mat / & backing board. I then discovered that the drawing had been “hinged” to its mat with regular masking tape (see red box above, and click here to see our fully-illustrated blog on Mounting Your Artwork).

This is a problem, as masking tape is NOT acid-free / the sticky adhesive can leave impossible-to-remove residue / over time masking tape can also “dry out” & crumble, spreading dusty debris throughout the mat and frame.

In order to use a new acid-free mat I’m going to need to remove the drawing from its old mat, but before I do this I want to order a new acid-free archival mat so I want to check measurements and match mat colors while everything is still intact.

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Left-Hand Pix: The Mat Board Sample Kit includes samples of all the different colors & thicknesses of acid-free museum-quality mat board available.
Right-Hand Pix: By placing each color sample next to the drawing I can see the best color match, in this case it’s Polar White Conservation Board (see red X).
(Please click on each image for more information.)

archivalThe easy-to-use Custom Mat Cutting Template makes EVERYTHING simple!
(Please click on the image for more information.)

Using the online Custom Mat Cutting Template on the Archival Methods website DRAMATICALLY SIMPLIFIES the process of ordering perfectly cut precision mats in whatever size & color would best showcase your matted and framed pieces.

There are also a host of different pre-cut mats available, but in this instance I wanted to match the old mat in terms of size & color, so “custom” was the way to go! 

The image above shows the actual Custom Mat Cutting Template I used. You can see where I entered information on what color and thickness I wanted (Steps 1 & 2) / what my outside measurements were & my mat’s window dimensions (Step 3) / if I wanted my mat “weighted” at the bottom, and on which side did I want the window mat hinged to its acid-free backing board (Step 4).

All the math was then done for me by the website! (Please click here to see our series of blogs that explain these steps in greater detail.)

archivalIf you have even the slightest thought that doing something like this might
damage your piece, JUST DON’T DO IT. Contact a conservator instead!

(Please click on the image to see our blog on Conservators: Pros You Should Know.)

After having gleaned all the information I needed from the “old” mat, it was time to remove the drawing.

As mentioned in the picture caption above, though, if you have ANY doubts as to “what to do,” or if this sort of removal seems difficult or appears that it might damage your piece, then STOP IMMEDIATELY and seek professional advice by either contacting a trained conservator or a trusted frame shop.

With that said, as you can see from the photograph above that I’m simply (and SLOWLY!) peeling the old masking tape hinge away. Notice that:

          •  I’m working on a clean, hard surface

            my CLEAN(!) and DRY(!) right hand is providing support by keeping the piece
             and its old mat completely immoveable

            I’m pulling the tape “up” towards the top of the piece and not “out” towards me,
             as this reduces “stress” on the piece


Success! The old tape hinges have been safely & carefully removed from the back of the piece, but…


…the masking tape has left a sticky adhesive residue (see red box above). This is a problem, as any time I turn the drawing over I run the risk of it sticking to whatever surface I place it on / it will attract and hold pet hair & dust / it’s a general nuisance.

archivalAcid-free paper or tissue can help solve this problem!
(Please click on the image for more information on acid-free paper.)

Rather than trying to remove this adhesive residue myself, and since it does not present an immediate threat to the overall survivability of the drawing, a quick & easy solution was to trim small 2 x 2-inch squares of acid-free paper and place them over these sticky spots. This fix addresses the issue / it has a low profile and will not add bulk to the piece when I re-mat it / it is easily removable / it’s extraordinarily inexpensive & easy!

archivalWe have a 2-part blog on the importance & value of scanning
your photos & collections, so take a look at it here.
(Please click on the image for more information.)

As mentioned, now that I have the drawing out of its mat I can carefully(!!!) scan it for posterity, and so that my friend’s mom can email it to other family members.

archivalArchival Mounting Corners come in a variety of sizes and are
PERFECT for mounting all sorts of materials—old & new!

(Please click on the image for more information.)

With my new acid-free mat in hand, I have lifted the outside window mat—that came to me conveniently hinged across the top of the matching backing board—and positioned the drawing in the exact place I wanted it, closing the mat periodically to check my position (please click here for more information on Mounting Your Artwork, and to see just how to do this).

Once the drawing is in the exact place I wanted, I opened the mat and used clear self-adhesive archival Mounting Corners to hold down each corner of the piece (see pix above). By using these corners the piece can be easily removed from the mat if necessary, and NO adhesive ever comes into contact with the piece itself.

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Gallery 12 Wood Frames & ultraviolet light-reducing glazing combine for elegant (and safe!) protection.
(Please click on each image for more information.)

Since my friend’s mom wanted to go with a NEW wood frame to replace the OLD wood frame, and since it is a WEDDING-THEMED drawing, the choice was made to use an all-in-one Gallery 12 Wood Frame in WHITE (it’s also available in Natural Maple and Black).

This frame kit comes with EVERYTHING I need, including the frame itself / a pre-cut archival backing board / a pre-cut sheet of ultraviolet light-reducing glazing (see pix on right above, and pix below) / all the hardware I’ll need to add secure picture wire / even pictures hanging hooks & nails!

archival(Please click on the image for more information on light damage.)

When I took the drawing out of its old mat I noticed that the piece had suffered some “light damage.”

In the red box above you can see the part of the drawing that was visible in its window mat has experienced some fading due to years of exposure to light. (Please click here to see our fully-illustrated blog on Light Damage: Protecting Your Collections from Harm).

The ultraviolet light-reducing qualities of the glazing that comes with the Gallery 12 Wood Frame will help minimize this damage going forward. (Please click here to see our short video on Gallery 12 Wood Frames and how best to use this glazing.)

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With my matted and mounted drawing in hand, and my all-in-one Gallery 12 Wood Frame set to go, assembly was a snap! All I needed was a phillips-head screwdriver and a pair of wire cutters for cutting the correct length of picture wire.


Finished! Now to rehang it using the included (and secure!) picture hangers.


My friend’s mom was THRILLED with the results, and with the peace-of-mind that comes from knowing that everything was done right in terms of archival materials & procedures. 

It’s easy to do all these steps YOURSELF, and it will ensure the long-term archival survival of your matted & framed pieces for generations to come, all while saving you TIME and MONEY!


Contact Us

If you have any additional questions on archival matting and framing, or would you like more information on any of our museum-quality acid-free storage & presentation materials, please contact us here at Archival Methods. We’re always there to help with any archiving, storage, or presentation questions you may have.

We would also like to encourage you to follow us on TwitterFacebookPinterestand our large selection of informative and crisply-illustrated (and often humorous!) blogs for up-to-the-minute information, Archival Solutions of the Week (take a look at this archive for more info!), and stories of interest. Likewise, our exclusive short videos illustrate many of the archival products and procedures that you may wish to “see in action,” so please take a look!