Transporting Photos & Art

1. A photograph or work of art’s housing in an original frame or album is its best protection. It is best to let a trained professional make the judgment as to the correct method of removal. Best practice is to leave curled or rolled prints in their original tubes or state until a professional is able to relax the artwork. Mishandling by removing art from frames, albums, stretchers and tubes can cause costly, even irreversible damage. Gently wrap the frame in a pillowcase and then thick towel or blanket for travel. If the weather is precipitous, use a plastic bag on the outer layer, or reschedule for a dry day.

2. Place loose images and albums in a slightly oversize box/container. Take care to prevent the images from sliding back and forth across each other.

3. Soiled photographs and artwork can and should be cleaned by professionals. DO NOT try to clean a photo that has dirt, fingerprints or spots on it.  Many people do not know what specific emulsion they have. Trying to clean the photo yourself can inadvertently destroy it. A crazed emulsion – the surface of a crayon portrait or a hand oiled print – can be wiped away by many household cleaners and water.

4. If a photo is stuck to glass, leave it – even if the glass is broken. Trying to remove it will compromise the emulsion and create a costly situation. Professionals can remove the glass from the emulsion.

5. Fractured photographs, particularly crayon portraits are delicate. Bring in all of the pieces and try to keep the pieces from touching each other. If you try to re-assemble it, edge damage may occur.  A trained conservator can reassemble the image without compromising the integrity. Many of these images were designed as convex prints, and should be handled by professionals.

6. Do not leave the photographs of any genre in a hot or cold car. This shocks the emulsion and will cause crazing.  Celluloid images are most vulnerable.

7. Keep unframed artwork and photographs as flat as possible. Carefully move fragile, flaking or torn photos onto stiff board and cover with as much airspace as possible. This is only a temporary remedy until the conservator can obtain the correct setting for the artwork.

8. Framed art, photographs and convex prints (typically ovals, hexagons and octagons) should be left in their original frames and transferred face down in a thick pad of bubble wrap or a pillow. This will keep the weight of the glass on the rabbet of the frame and off the print and its brittle backing. The original glass in the artwork can cause pressure points at the glazing points in the rear of the frame and thereby fracture the brittle original prints. Face down is the best practice.