ArtCare Matboard and Storage Materials Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main difference between ArtCare™ materials and other 100% acid-free materials and why are they superior?

The standard 100% acid-free museum and conservation boards play a passive role in the protection of artwork, since they are meant only to not harm the artwork. They do not protect against the pre-acidic gases and other deteriorative compounds that are always present in the environment. ArtCare™ products ACTIVELY protect artwork against these pollutants. ArtCare™ MicroChamber technology takes conservation matting to a new level, by actively protecting framed art from air pollutants, paper degradation and the by-products of the art’s own aging–something no other preservation board can do!

How does MicroChamber Technology Work?

By combining molecular traps with specific paper formation and dual buffers, the technology holds pollution gases away from the artwork and more effectively neutralizes acids generated within and outside the framed artwork. The elements of this technology, and their roles, are:

Specific Paper Formation, which creates highly twisted paths through paper fibers to effectively slow the movement of pollution gases and force them into contact with molecular traps.
Molecular Traps, which hold pollution gases indefinitely, preventing them from passing through the board to the artwork.
Dual Buffers, which provide optimal neutralization of acids generated by paper aging and from outside the artwork.
All this is in addition to traditional conservation papermaking criteria to create the only products that play an active role in protecting artwork.

How much longer does ArtCare™ last than 100% rag?

The life of the mat board is not the issue — the life of the ARTWORK is. Other preservation boards do not protect the artwork at all. ArtCare™ boards, in addition to not damaging the artwork, actively protect it against damaging elements. Even in accelerated lab tests, ArtCare™ was still protecting artwork long after other preservation boards were full of un-neutralized acids and had begun to harm the artwork.

Does the technology pull in acids that normally wouldn’t have come near artwork?

No. There is no “vacuuming” effect with the molecular traps. Once gases have been guided into the traps by the twisted paper formation, the molecular traps hold the gases by physical attraction. Without ArtCare™, these gases would pass through the mat onto the artwork, where in combination with the paper’s natural moisture content of 5-6%, the pollution gases would form acids and damage the artwork.

Don’t buffers neutralize air pollution?

No. For many years, it was believed by the conservation community that buffers did indeed neutralize air pollution gases. However, in 1991, a study commissioned by the National Archives proved that buffers cannot react with gases. Pollution gases pass right through a buffered board or storage box onto art and artifacts. Once in the art, they can combine with moisture, form an acid and begin to damage the art. It is necessary to stop gases from reaching the art/artifact through the use of molecular traps, which are only available with ArtCare™.

Does ArtCare™ replace UV glass?

No. The color loss seen in ArtCare™ tests is due to chemical changes in the presence of acids and pollution gases. UV glazing protects colorants from light-induced damage. All ArtCare™ testing is performed in a darkened environment to eliminate the chance of photo-chemical color loss. For conservation treatment, ArtCare™ products should be used in conjunction with UV filtering glazing to protect against both acid-induced and light-induced color damage.

What is MicroChamber?

MicroChamber is the name of the technology featured in ArtCare™ products. When the National Archives discovered that 100% rag boards were not able to protect art and artifacts against pollutant gases, the patented MicroChamber technology was developed for museum storage boxes, mounting materials, and negative envelopes.

What is a molecular trap?

A molecular trap is an inert aluminosilicate “cage” that can be engineered to trap specific gases. Activated charcoal is a molecular trap that has long been used in filtration systems. Molecular traps are also used in odor absorbing items, water filters, air filters, pollution control devices and in purifying medical oxygen. They are present in many everyday items, but have only recently, with the advent of MicroChamber, been used in fine papers.

Do ArtCare™ materials meet industry standards?

Yes. ArtCare™ products meet all established industry standards, including FACTS Guide for Permanence in Mat & Mounting Boards and ANSI/NISO Standard for Permanence of Paper for Publications and Documents in Libraries and Archives.

Why would we want pollution to be held in the mat, right next to the art?

If the pollution were not held in the mat, it would travel through the mat and affect the artwork, where, in combination with paper’s natural moisture content of 5-6%, the pollution gases would form acids that would then damage the artwork.

Will the traps fill up, and if so, what happens then?

Even in accelerated laboratory tests, the molecular traps featured in ArtCare™ products did not fill up. In a single sheet of ArtCare™ matboard, the surface area afforded by molecular traps is equal to the surface area of 16 football fields! If, however, the traps did ever fill up, you would be left with traditional alpha cellulose, buffered, museum quality board.

Does ArtCare™ protect against high humidity?

No more than traditional preservation matboard. The molecular traps in ArtCare™ products are “hydrophobic,” or “water hating,” so they do not attract or hold water. But they do not inhibit high humidity or its negative effect on paper.

Isn’t 100% rag better and stronger than alpha cellulose?

Cotton rag and purified wood papers are both made from alpha cellulose fibers, which are the longest and strongest fibers used in paper making. The paper industry standards for permanence require the use of alpha cellulose fiber, and conservation scientists have determined that papers made from cotton rag and wood alpha cellulose are equal in strength and longevity.

Rag is time-tested — I don’t believe in laboratory tests.

Since wood alpha cellulose papers have only been used since the late 1950’s and don’t have the long history of rag, we have to rely on experts at labs to predict the future for us. If your preference is rag, use Alpharag ArtCare™, which is 100% cotton rag and has the proven protection benefits of ArtCare™ MicroChamber technology.

The test results look rigged — I don’t believe these samples were aged at the same rate.

Tests are performed at independent laboratories where results are certified. Comparative samples are tested side by side in a single chamber for the same length of time. Tests simulate long-term exposure to high levels of common pollutant gases and illustrate the effectiveness of ArtCare™ technology in protecting artwork from the damaging effects of these gases.

It sounds like there are a lot of additives — it doesn’t seem as pure as rag.

The only “additive” in ArtCare™ products is the molecular traps. And the molecular traps are harmless, helpful additions that are already present in trusted everyday items like water filters, antioxidant cosmetics, air filters, etc. Remember, many leading museums have already adopted this technology for storage of valuable materials, because traditional 100% rag did not provide adequate protection.

Are all so-called “Rag Mat” products 100% cotton rag?

No, some “Rag Mat” products feature surface paper of purified wood or pulp paper. Alpharag ArtCare™ Museum boards are 100% cotton rag.

Because of its time-tested story, isn’t 100% rag the only choice of museum matting?

Independent tests prove that ArtCare™ products go beyond the time-tested qualities of traditional rag products by actively protecting artwork against external contaminants. ArtCare™ materials are the new conservation choice of museums and archives as more and more museums are using them.