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Preserving Vintage Posters
by Bob Brooke


Vintage art, music and political posters can be fun to collect, but the fun quickly disappears if you fail to preserve a poster by not taking care of it properly. It’s quite easy to do this and doesn’t cost a whole lot to preserve a poster properly.

The first thing to be aware of is that movie studios created posters to be disposable when the film’s promotional campaign finished. And because posters were disposable, printers often used the cheapest quality ink and paper With paper goods, the poorer the quality of the paper, the easier it gets damaged. Vintage posters are highly collectible and their value will continue to rise if you protect your poster from the elements that can destroy it.

Some of the things that are harmful to any type of paper collectible include moisture—both humidity and water damage—heat, which makes paper brittle and brown, light, which fades colors, acidity, which disintegrates paper, and insects which can eat through it. You must protect your posters from all of them. Any weakness in any of these areas will affect the value and longevity of your collection.

First, you need to decide if you intend to frame it for display or just store it safely.

Preserving a Poster by Storing It
If you just want to safely store your vintage posters, it's good to keep them flat, in acid-free sleeves. Acid-free sleeves preserve your posters from dust, moisture and critters. Storing them rolled up is another option, particularly if you don’t have the space to store your posters flat. Be sure to use acid-free tubes to preserve the rolled-up posters.

Don’t store your posters stacked deep unless you seal them together with plastic like shrink-wrap. Remember posters left open will accumulate dust and moisture which will damage them.

Preserving a Poster by Framing It
Light is one of paper's worst enemies. So to preserve your poster in frames, use UV-resistant glass or Plexiglas to eliminate most of the damage sunlight and florescent lights will cause.

Always use acid-free matting and backing when preserving a poster in a frame. Regular matting and backing with acid will actually eat away at your poster.

To preserve a poster in a frame without matting, use a molding to allow room for a “spacer” to keep the glass or Plexiglas off the poster. If a framed poster touches glass or Plexiglas, humidity can become trapped causing the poster to eventually adhere to the glass.

Preserving a Rare Vintage Poster
To preserve a rare poster, you can have it backed with linen by a professional conservator. You can also use this method to repair or restore a valuable poster.

Preserving a poster with linen backing can be expensive. However, if a poster has good linen backing it could increase the value significantly even if it was in poor condition before being backed.

A linen-backed poster is one that’s archivally mounted to acid free paper and canvas where it can be restored if needed. Fold lines and other defects become less noticeable, sometimes even invisible. It can be rolled for shipping and is ready for framing.

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