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What Does Archival Mean?

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Many of you have wondered what the word "archival" means when it comes to art. It means "long-lasting", although there is no definite answer about how long "long-lasting" is. In practical terms, it means that the work of art was produced and framed using materials and techniques that minimize degradation. Specifically it means that the piece of art was produced and framed using acid-free methods and materials.

Acid is the enemy of artwork. Acid in any of the materials used to create the work of art, or in any of the framing materials that actually touch the art, will cause premature degradation. Paper will yellow and colors will fade.

A work on paper must be made with acid-free paper made with cotton rags instead of wood fibers. The framing process needs to use acid-free materials. The board on which the paper is mounted needs to be acid-free as well as any adhesive used to fasten the paper to the board. Any mat board that actually touches the work of art also needs to be acid-free. The best materials are what is called "museum grade".

Photographic prints produced by Taborton Mountain Photography are as archival as possible. All prints are ink-jet prints made digitally. The most important factors to consider with ink-jet prints are the paper and the ink.

Most ink-jet printers used dye-based inks. The colors of dye-based inks can start to fade very quickly, sometimes within 5 years and at least by ten. The prints made by Taborton Mountain Photography use the Epson Stylus Photo 2200 printer, Epson Ultrachrome inks and Epson Premium Photographic print paper. This printing system was chosen because prints made with it will last at least 55 years.

Epson Ultrachrome inks are made with pigments, not dyes. Pigments are the material used in old master oil paintings that have lasted for centuries. Epson Premium papers are made to maximize the longevity of prints made with Epson's Ultrachrome inks.

Wilhelm Imaging Research is an organization that performs testing for the graphics community. Their tests indicate that prints made with the printing system we use and Epson Premium Glossy paper will last 55 years. Prints made with Epson Archival Mat paper should last over a century!!

Standard framing techniques used by Taborton Mountain Photography use acid-free materials. The back of the frame has a paper dust cover. These framed prints should last a long time, but we don't consider them to be archival.

We also frame using archival techniques upon request. In this case, we use museum quality mounting and mat boards and acid-free linen tape for mounting the photograph. These archival framed prints are guaranteed for the life of the purchaser. You can pass them to the next generation and they will still be in excellent condition.

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All images on this web site are © Thomas J. Chesnut, 2005. All rights reserved

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