There is always a danger in framing and displaying autographs. Light, heat cold and poor materials can cause irreparable damage. The Library of Congress recommends that documents should be stored at temperatures below 72 degrees and 35% humidity, which basically means keeping them away from Direct Light, heaters and radiators and damp rooms. High humidity is a real problem where paper is concerned as it causes “foxing” (brown mottling) and cockling (where paper rolls up and will not stay flat. This is the sort of thing that you often see in second hand books.

What do I do?

You can avoid these problems simply by not framing your autographs at all. But then what is the point owning something special if you cannot share it with the world? The solution is to choose where you display your autographs carefully. Hallways and above stairs are good places since they are usually out of direct sunlight and nowhere near radiators NEVER hang or store autographs in the bathroom, garage or attic, they are just too damp. If you choose to display your autographs yourself then here are a few guidelines.

The best way to frame autographs is to have them “mated” (backed) with acid free board. This will stop any bleaching of the autograph over time. Paper is porous and anything it comes into contact with can damage it and that included the frame itself so autographs should be backed with “archive quality” acid free board. You will also need a “window mat” (mount)  between an autographed photo and the glass. This is because glass and acrylic sheeting condense moisture from the air. If print emulsion from a photograph or an autograph comes into contact with moist glass it can lift autographs off the print and can make the photo stick to it. NEVER use click frames as your autographs will be in direct contact with the plastic and back board and damage is guaranteed.

Securing your photo

Your photo will need to be secured to the mount with corner supports, filmoplast or a hinge made from acid free linen tape. Never use ordinary sticky tape as it will eventually stain the photo. When attaching your photo to your mount, only ever do the one side for a hinge or two top corners for supports. This will stop your photo from creasing and waving (bobbling) in the frame. For total protection use a glass or plexiglass with UV protection. This is often called museum glass or denglass. It is quite expensive and a good alternative is to use ordinary glass and change the items on display at regular intervals to prevent them from fading.

The price that you pay for a framed autograph is far more than just the signature, it is also the presentation. A scrappy piece of paper with a scrawl at the bottom is not going to impress but the same item framed with a glossy photograph in an attractive mount can look special. As a general rule, the bigger the frame the more “precious” the framed item seems to be. A frame twice the size of the actual autographed photograph is about right but this only really feasible for sizes up to A4. The choice of mount is important as well. Unless you are confident, stick to complementary colours and leave 1½” to 2 “ of mount around the image. You may also wish to add a caption to give the display a little more interest.