Materials used for digital printmaking and traditional (silver) photography are independently tested by Wilhelm Imaging Research, Inc., considered the authority on testing image permanence. The approximate life expectancy of photographs, assuming conditions are controlled (see below), is as follows: giclée prints, 100-190 years; silver prints, 100 years. For a detailed explanation of image permanence, test conditions employed, and test results, see www.wilhelm-research.com.
Transit and the Environment
Transit and the environment remain the two biggest risks to works of art. Carefully consider how to ship artwork and where to display it. Hanging art in direct sunlight will fade artwork quicker then if it is hung out of direct light. Shut the shades on your windows when you are away. When possible keep the temperature at 68 to 72 degrees, and the humidity at 50 percent. Excessive dampness, dryness, or heat, and fluctuations in relative humidity and temperature will shorten the life of artwork. Don't skimp when packing and shipping a work—and expect and insist that the same standards be maintained wherever you are shipping your art.
For unframed photographs support the long sides of the sheet with both hands and, if possible, protect the area to be touched with cloth gloves or folded tissue paper. Ink jet prints are water miscible from both sides so do not apply materials containing water to either side of the print. Large photographs are stored in heavy tubes. If you don’t know how to remove and handle the prints you should leave this to a professional framer.
When framing only rag matboard and other high quality acid free materials should come in contact with a photograph. Glass or acrylic sheeting with an 99% ultraviolet filter will protect the photo against photochemical or light damage. Never put labels directly on the back of artwork as some glues will eat away at the surface over time. Photographs improperly framed will not last, therefor no guarantees will be honored.
Don't wait for something to happen before updating and organizing records on artwork for insurance purposes. If you hang a painting in direct sunlight and it fades, most insurance policies won't cover it.
Art evokes tremendous emotion in the people who own it, sell it, and protect it. These are important, valuable parts of our history, and should be treated as such.