At the present time, most paper artifacts
are being matted in buffered board, either
100% rag or high alpha cellulose wood
pulp4. The buffering agent, calcium carbonate,
will not harm paper, and provides
protection against acid migration. However,
there are some types of photographic
artifacts that can be harmed by an alkaline
environment, and unbuffered neutral
pH board was manufactured in response
to this problem5. Use the available
buffered board for prints and drawings,
and the unbuffered board for photos. If in
doubt consult a photographic conservator
for any photographs you have.
There are many different mat styles in use
today, and probably many more are being
devised to suit particular problems. We
will briefly discuss the standard types,
and see some adaptations as well. As
mentioned earlier, the LC manual is an
excellent resource on the mechanics of
matting, and delves into greater depth on
the standard mat configurations.
V-Hinge: See figure 2.
This is used if an artifact needs to be
"floated" in the mat because it cannot
have its edges overmatted. An example of
this might be a borderless photograph, or
a watercolor that has been painted to the
edges. It is an "invisible" hinge, made by
folding over the extended portion of the
bottom hinge and then reinforcing it with
another cross piece, hidden from sight.
One drawback to the V-hinge is that it is
much weaker than the T-hinge, and may
release quite easily if jarred.
Paper artifacts come in all sizes. The
problems associated with providing a custom
sized mat for each piece arise when
the matted articles need to be stored. Very
few museums (or private collectors) have
enough space to allow for individualized
storage. Standard mat sizes, on the other
hand, allow for the use of standardized
print boxes, (available from conservation
suppliers), and allow a collection to be
stacked for maximum storage efficiency.
The sizes generally used today for mats
are: 11 x 14, 14 x 18, 16 x 20, 20 x 24,
24 x 28, and 24 x 30. Catalogs from the
conservation suppliers will list the size of
the print boxes, and the mats are usually
cut to correspond to these sizes. Oversized
prints require custom storage, and
mat size may be geared to available storage
housing. Smaller sizes than 11 x 14
are not generally used as the protection
offered is minimal, and the logistics of
space preclude extra storage for these
really small items, which can just as
easily be stored in the 11 x 14 mats. An
exception to this is photographs, which
regularly come in smaller sizes such as
5 x 7 and 3 1/2 x 5. The 8 x 10 mat size is
a standard here, and some manufacturers
provide boxes to house these smaller
It is useful to mention here that mat board
can easily be obtained in precut standard
sizes (i.e. as 16 x 20 boards), which
eliminates the need to have a guillotine or
board cutter available to cut down the
larger board, and saves much time in the
Standard Mat: See figure 3.
This is constructed with two pieces of
matboard hinged with gummed linen tape
along the long axis; horizontal mats are
hinged along the top edge, while vertical
mats are hinged along the left edge and
open like books.
Sink Mat: See figure 4.
This type of mat is used if an artifact is
mounted on heavy board, and is too thick
for a standard mat, or is warped in some
manner that increases its apparent thickness.
What we mean by apparent thickness
is this: imagine two playing cards
lying side by side on a table. Both have
the same actual thickness, let us say 1/16
HERITAGE * Fall 1985
Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 2, Number 4, Fall 1985. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45445/. Accessed July 5, 2015.