My Prints on paper, canvas & metal are of Archival Quality for over 100 years, but what does this mean ? What is Archival ? and what is Archival Quality ?

After I did my Bachelors of Visual Arts I did a 2 year Masters in Art conservation, so I’m in a position to answer these questions…

What is Archival ?

The term archival stems from a branch of work which involves caring for artworks called conservation, and every major museum and gallery has it’s own conservation department. Conservators will clean and repair the artworks of the gallery, create management plans, stay up to date on current practices, carry out their own research and keep their gallery/museum up to standard in many things from types of lights used to the temperature of the air. As the study of  ‘conserving an artwork’ becomes a more technical profession so to the amount of knowledge required to do it proficiently increases. Many such roles at State and National Galleries require a Masters and other various internship’s before an applicant will even make it to the interview stage.

So it is with many centuries of an understanding of how an artwork’s materials react with other materials and it’s natural environment that we began to develop a set of rules to care for an artwork OR archiving it. Knowing things such as storing works of art in paper that had a high acid content might turn the artwork a brownish colour or learning from studies that it is the ultraviolet component of light that damages paints and inks.

 

What are Archival materials ?

Archival materials aren’t immune to all these possible damages, such as light and moisture, but instead they have been tested under laboratory conditions and have stood up to the very stringent requirements that State/National Museums and Galleries set. So paints and inks used to retouch photographs and paintings have all been tested under Laboratory conditions .They would make sure to store documents in mylar sleeves rather than other untested plastic sleeves. Everything that comes in contact with an artwork and how it will react with it needs to be understood because their role is to protect it rather than destroy it.

What does it mean when I say “my prints archival up to 100 years”

Under the advised circumstances the artwork will last a minimum 100 years (circumstances listed below). So, it simply means that the Lab who print out my photograph’s, canvas and prints on metal are using Archival inks and materials that have been  tested under Laboratory conditions and have also met the standard required of the label “archival”. So, they may have lasted X amount of time when exposed to 10,000 years of light OR certain temperatures. The fact that they may not contain certain elements known to break down or react with other materials might be something else ruled out. Their are many reasons certain standards are set of materials and these are very important for your artwork to last the length of time.

In the gallery there’s not much point in repairing a Van Gogh or Rembrandt with paint you know nothing about and what’s going to happen to it, so it’s important for a whole manner of tests to run on them and they are actually able to replicate timed applications on the materials.

So my Laboratory is able to select from a list of trusted materials which have passed the archival level tests, and I’m even talking about the paper my photographs are printed on… the wood and canvas used in the canvas and the metal in the metal prints. All have undergone strict testing so they know what they can withstand.

What if you don’t use archival quality prints

If you are buying inferior quality prints or art materials they might look fine now but you are most likely not going to have them around for more than a few years to a decade. Not only are the elements, as in temperature changes and light, going to attack the materials and make your artwork fade but the materials themselves will break down and fade all on their own. For example, the reds might begin to go a weird brown colour or the greens will start to go black. You don’t want to purchase a print only for it to be all faded in 5 years time. An art purchase should be for a life time of enjoyment and generations to come.

So you have purchased an archival print of mine but don’t know the best way to take care of them so they will last as long as possible ? (I will refer to photographs/canvas/and prints on metal all as “the artwork”)

– Don’t display the artwork in direct sunlight (It is known that the ultraviolet light component of sunlight will break down the inks faster than if you don’t display it in direct sunlight)

– Don’t display it in the kitchen (all the oils and steam which come with cooking will interact with the surface of the artwork over time)

– Don’t display in a bathroom (the extreme temperature changes in a bathroom will contract and expand an artwork and if this is happening all the time, eventually it could develop cracks)

– Don’t display in rooms with large temperature changes, e.g. attic or outside

– Don’t display over fireplace or in a smoking room (The smoke will change the colour of the surface over time)

– House your prints (Housing is a term used in the conservation industry which refers to frames etc. A good housing will be air tight creating a small bio-environment with a special glaze. Glazes made for artworks [glass in front of frame] are specially designed to block out ultraviolet light and are therefore a little more expensive but worth it)

– When mounting a photograph use archival card and adhesive tape (acids and other materials can leech into the paper and spread)

 

I know this must seem a bit dreary having so many rules but at the end of the day it’s up to you what you do with it, it’s yours to enjoy ! If you want it in the Kitchen, do it ! Just be warned that eventually it’s going to be affected by all the changing elements in there 🙂 Art is meant to be enjoyed so try and find a compromise maybe !

Click the image below to be forwarded to all my archival quality prints for sale 🙂

The best thing you can do for an artwork is to display it in a place where there isn’t a whole lot of sunlight on it, the temperature is fairly even and it doesn’t get too moist…. and then it should last for a long long time ! 🙂

The whole reason I made sure that my materials are archival is so that they will last, and I hate to sell something that is inferior. I personally think it’s worth paying more for something you are happy with then something you wish was better in some way. My prints come out stunning ! and I know it 🙂

Luke Zeme Photography Zenfolio-Shop What is an Archival Artwork and how to care for it

So thanks, I hope you learnt a little more about ‘archival materials’

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Please use this contact form for any enquiries and we will get back to you asap. Thanks, Luke