Diploma Framing 101

I can't speak for you, but MY college diploma was very expensive.  I won't tell you where I went to school until the end of this article so that the Griz fans will keep reading.  Oh wait....... aww never mind!

Like many of you, I worked pretty hard my first two years at school and really hard the last two years.  My education and resulting diploma helped me land my first real job doing exactly what they prepared me to do; construction management.  Needless to say, I was pretty proud that my hard-earned sheepskin did it's job and landed me gainful employment.  (Actually if it were really sheepskin we wouldn't need to have this discussion.) 

It dawned on me the other day that the only things I left college with in 1984 were a noggin full of information, a diploma and a bit of a beer belly.  As much as I'd like to talk about how to achieve a quality beer belly, I need to stay focused and talk about the diploma.  Sorry, we'll do the beer thing later.  The takeaway point here is that my diploma was the only tangible proof of where the money went. Here's a shocker:  according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of a 4-year college education in the United States for the 2007-2008 school year looked like this: (after any financial aid)

  • Public 4-year school:  $72,000    ($40,000)
  • Private 4-year for-profit:  $112,000    ($64,000)
  • Private 4-year non-profit:  $140,000    ($68,000)

Using skills derived from Math 101 (no calculus or trigonometry required), we can use the above figures to quickly figure that a college diploma now costs an arm and a leg!  If you do just a bit more math, you can calculate that an 8 1/2 x 11 diploma from a 4-year public university in 2008 cost the graduate approximately $1,198 per square inch.  I'm going out on a limb here and saying that your diploma is probably the most expensive document you own, including the fine art on your walls.  So, where is your diploma right now?

I know where mine is...at the time of this writing it's being professionally framed at Rimrock Art & Frame.  I've had this on my list of things-to-do for several years.  Previously, my diploma lived in a two-bit frame from a craft store.  When I got it years ago, I was young and adventurous and willing to live on the edge a little.  Heck, we used to drive into Mexico for long weekends without a passport!  Whoooaaaa! Why would I worry about the condition of a piece of paper? 

Now I'm older, bigger and much wiser!  I understand the value of preserving and protecting what's important to me.   On a fairly regular basis, we get to frame old documents that have been discovered in an attic or shoe box.  Almost without exception, they are creased, torn, faded and most certainly yellowed.  In all fairness, conservation and preservation framing practices are relatively new technologies, so we can't fault our ancestors for the decisions they made about their important documents.  We can, however harass you about it.

Did you know that putting a piece of artwork or document in a craft store frame will actually CAUSE DAMAGE?  Most of them come with a cardboard backer and clear glass.  The cardboard alone will destroy the document or art due to the acid content.  Combine this with the ultraviolet damage from light and you've sealed the doom of what was framed.  Remember I said my diploma was in a craft store frame?  We'll, it now has a very distinct "burn" line around the outside edges where the paper mat laid against the document as well as signs of accelerated yellowing and ultraviolet fading.

I wonder if the craft store will stand behind their product with a $120,000 document in it?

Unfortunately, most paper today contains a variety of additives, impurities and other less stable plant products which cause acid deterioration of paper. Ever wondered why newspaper yellows so quickly?  Because they WANT it to degrade quickly; the quality of the paper fiber is so poor the process begins and ends much sooner.  Other culprits which also have a deleterious effect on paper are environmental and atmospheric acids, pollutants and light.  In layman's terms, today's paper is basically made to self destruct.  So what can we do about it? 

While not yet scientifically perfect, properly performed custom framing can dramatically extend the life of a document or piece of art.  Think of it like dental work.  You and your dentist do the very best you can with the technology available and you'll most certainly increase the useful life of your teeth.  When new technology comes along, you embrace it and again delay the need for falsies. 

By using truly acid-free or alpha-cellulose framing materials, we can significantly slow the destruction of the covalent bonds holding the paper fibers together. Any time you have a cardboard backer in your frame environment, you've exponentially increased the rate of degradation of the framed item.  I wonder if the craft store will stand behind their product with a $120,000 document in it? 

Ok, so let's assume that Rimrock Art & Frame did their job and lined the frame to stop acid migration from the wood, and balanced the pH of the environment by using alpha-cellulose and/or buffered framing materials.  What about glass?  Ah, great question; you must have a college degree?  Glass too has come a long way in recent years.  We can now block up to 99% of ultraviolet (or "ultraviolent" due to the damage it causes) light while reducing reflected glare!  How, you ask?  Museum Glass® anti-reflection picture framing glass with Conservation Grade UV Protection is the best glazing option available for art, photographs and other important personal keepsakes like diplomas.Along with its nearly invisible finish, it effectively blocks up to 99% of harmful indoor and outdoor UV light rays so framed pieces remain clearer and brighter for longer.  By reducing glare 85% and still allowing 97% light transmission, this glass is the finest the industry has to offer and is now very affordable.  Museum Glass® is the perfect application for a valuable document or brightly colored artwork.  Our sample in the shop has finger prints all over it from clients poking at it because it looks like there's no glass at all.

One of the major on-line document framers advertise that they only use "museum quality" mats and yet they only offer clear glass.  Why in the world would you spend the money to frame your document with quality matting only to invite ultraviolet damage to both the mats and the document?

Everything we've talked about to this point also applies to other documents such as high school diplomas.  A great gift idea for your grad is to frame their diploma along with the tassel and a small senior picture.  We have every school color available in matting and frames and can incorporate their favorite sport with basketball, golf and football textured mats.

So there you have it.  Not only do you have a college education in your field, but you've been educated about caring for your valuable documents.  Obviously, we highly recommend professionally framing your diploma and would love to be your framer of choice.  Please email, call or stop by if we can answer questions or help you design the perfect frame for your diploma.  I'm framing mine!  Let's do yours too!

Go Bobcats!

8 comments (Add your own)

1. Afton Rodriguez wrote:

I run the campus store at SCUHS in California. I was curious if you offered wholesale or resale prices for student stores as we would want to turn around and sell them to our students. We have a re-sellers licence and we are just looking for the right vendor to partner with as this will be something we order in bulk year after year.

Thank you,
Afton Rodriguez

Tue, March 21, 2017 @ 5:08 PM

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