What's the best way to display an old map?


I would like to display an old map. Can you give me advice about how best to hang it and keep it in good condition?


LockshinN's picture

A stable storage environment is better than one which cycles frequently, so the innermost part of a house, located away from exterior walls and direct sources of light or humidity, is best for long-term display of an item. If it is desired to display any object permanently, one consideration that you may give thought to is making facsimiles of the objects for display by using a color copier or scanner or having a professional reprographics specialist image and reprint the items using inks with a known degree of permanence. Light exposure from copiers or scanners is strong, but generally the exposure is brief. A reprographics specialist can image the item through Mylar using a polarizing lens so as to avoid damage through handling. Under no circumstances should the item be fed automatically through a copier or scanner, as damage could occur. If the image is too large for overhead camera (e.g. very large maps or architectural drawings) and must be fed through a flatbed copier, be sure to protect the document in a folder of heavy Mylar which can protect the artifact from scratches.

The original item can be stored in buffered acid-free and lignin-free folders, mounted to an acid-free and lignin-free album page with acid-free and lignin-free photo corners of paper or Mylar. In this way the original is supported, surrounded by good materials, and protected from light. These types of specialty papers and enclosures can be purchased from art or photo supply stores, and the Smithsonian also provides a list of conservation product suppliers.

Alternately, should you choose to display the original only, you would seek out a framer who is experienced in preservation mounting techniques, such as hinging the item with reversible starch adhesives or corners of the type mentioned above, and using only acid-free materials in proximity to the object, and finally glazing the object with ultraviolet (UV)-filtered glass or acrylic. There are specialty boards that can be selected such as buffered or Microchamber boards that can absorb more of the acids given off by groundwood papers, however they may cause interactions with dyes such as are found in color photographs or colored inks. The item should be hung where it is not exposed to daylight or strong fluorescent light both of which emit large amounts of UV. A conservator or conservation center may also help you with display options or recommend you to a trusted framer.

For understanding more about the exhibition or display of original artworks and documents, we point you to the "Caring for Paper Artifacts" document developed at the Smithsonian. This paper includes specific texts and bibliographies on preservation management of paper-based collections, including storage and display. See also, the guidelines for Matting and Framing, developed by the American Institute for Conservation.

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