Mounting gives photo and paper prints a solid base for display by fixing them to a firm backing. It prevents warping and buckling, and provides less risk of damaging the print when matting and framing. It also protects prints from acidic conditions in the air and from the wall.
• Dry Mounting
Dry Mounting is a procedure that affixes a print to a rigid or semi-rigid backing using heat, vacuum, or pressure. A common method for this technique is using heat press. A thin sheet of heat-sensitive adhesive is attached to the back of the print. The print is then placed on the substrate and then heat is applied to activate the bond. Vacuum press is another method which goes through the same steps but without the utilization of heat.
It results in a flat, sleek surface which makes it popular among professionals. It can remove small creases and wrinkles as well as the effects of cockling. Framing may be optional depending on your preference.
The irreversible process is the biggest drawback for dry mounting. Behind the sturdy bond are adverse effects waiting in the long run. If not stored or displayed in an optimal environment, it would take 10 years or so before the print begins to delaminate. But if the print is stored in a humid environment with fluctuating temperatures, then the negative effects will surface sooner. Furthermore, during the stage where your print is damaged and requires restoration, it has to be taken off the backing. The irreversibility of the dry mount process makes it difficult for conservators to carry out their work. It’s also the same reason why it is not considered an archival technique. Despite using acid-free prints and boards, the archival standard requires that any mounted print can be easily removed from the mount.
• Pressure-sensitive Mounting
May also be considered as dry mounting, pressure-sensitive mounting makes use of adhesives and applied pressure to attach the print to the mount. There are boards pre-coated with pressure –sensitive adhesives with no need for special equipment and temperature. Adhesion will not start until pressure is applied so the print can still be repositioned. Once positioned, a release paper is placed over the print for protection then pressure is applied using a squeegee or burnishing tool. During the process, make sure to remove any air under the print. Similar to dry mounting, this technique is non-archival. In addition, it might not be the best option for thick heavy papers.
• Wet Mounting
Wet mounting is the oldest method of adhering paper to a substrate permanently. Wet paste is used in a similar fashion to wallpapering which expands the paper to its maximum size keeping it smooth and flat. Apply the paste or glue to the mount board. Position your print then cover it with a flat heavy surface such as a sheet of glass to apply steady even pressure while the glue dries. Let it dry for four to 24 hours. Be careful not to get glue or paste on the print. Since this technique is a permanent process, it’s non-archival.
• Conservation Mounting
Conservation Mounting uses materials and techniques to provide protection to framed prints and preserve them from aging. Its main focus is to avoid acid contamination; Hence, the use of acid-free paper, mount boards, adhesives, and working space.
Conservation mount boards are readily available today. The difference lies in the component of the board. Standard mounts are made from unpurified pulp that browns over time and becomes acidic. On the other hand, conservation boards are produced from alkaline buffered and purified wood pulp. The core and facings of these boards have to meet certain criteria such as pH range and light-fastness. There are also museum level mount boards made from 100% cotton fiber and are assured to last for decades.
When it comes to adhesives, pH neutral tapes are the best choice. They come in different varieties such as self-adhesive paper, gummed paper, and gummed cotton rag. These tapes are used in hinging. Instead of taping down the entire sides of the print to the back mount, conservation mounting creates hinges to secure the print in place. The hinge points should only be applied to the top edge of the print. Only a small amount of tape should be attached to the print. Just enough that it can hang safely, allowing the print to hold its place as it is sandwiched between the front and back mount boards. By doing so, the print can freely expand and contract in relation to the surrounding (heat, humidity, age); Thus, minimizing warping.
Overall, the print can be easily removed whenever necessary. The frame can be replaced as well without changing the mounting system. It is quite a time-consuming process. Some of the materials tend to be more expensive. Plus, proficiency in archival mounting requires knowledge and practice. However, everything is well worth it in preserving masterpieces.