Linen Backing: A Method of Poster Conservationadmin
Linen backing can dramatically improve the overall appearance of a poster and it can substantially increase its value. It is an archival poster conservation method where the poster is de-acidified and museum mounted with wheat paste onto acid free Japanese rice paper and adhered to canvas. This process provides stability and prevents possible deterioration. It smoothes and flattens out waves and wrinkles and makes creases and folds much less noticeable (sometimes invisible). If needed, restoration can then be done. Stains can be removed, tears can be repaired, paper can be replaced, and fold lines can be touched up. Almost any flaw can be fixed so you would never know it was there. Once linen backed, a poster is easier to handle, is ready for framing, or it may be rolled for shipping. If not framing a linen backed poster, we recommend storing it flat and not rolled. Should a linen backed poster sustain physical damage in the future, removal of the poster is possible. This cannot be said for most other preservation methods. Framing a poster that has already been linen backed is cheaper than framing one that hasn’t been.
When a poster has been linen backed and/or restored, grading the item can be difficult. A poster that was in poor condition could have extensive restoration and appear to be in near mint condition. Only an expert would be able to tell how much restoration was done. IF A POSTER WE HAVE HAS HAD ANY RESTORATION, WE DESCRIBE ITS CONDITION BEFORE AND AFTER WHENEVER POSSIBLE.
The value of an expertly restored linen backed poster is enhanced because the poster looks better, will age far less, and is much EASIER TO FRAME. If a poster is linen backed by a less talented restorer, the poster’s value is often lessened. The restoration is often noticeable, it often ages poorly, and can be very expensive to reverse.
Buying linen backed posters is a double-edged sword. The plus side is that the poster almost surely looks great (because the restorer almost surely corrected the poster’s flaws during the linen backing process) and the poster is now far easier (and far less expensive) to frame, but the down side is that some restorers are so talented that it can be extremely difficult to tell how much restoration a poster has had.
Linen backing is not absolutely necessary for most posters, but for a valuable one it is a good idea because it helps to preserve it.
Mounting a poster to foam core is not the same as linen backing. It is next to impossible to reverse the process and most experts consider the poster “damaged”.
For posters on cardboard stock like U.S. inserts, lobby cards, and half sheets, PAPER BACKING (see below) is the method of conservation preferred by most professionals BUT ONLY IF THE POSTER IS IN VERY BAD CONDITION. Some poster collectors would never mount a cardboard stock poster to anything at all under any condition.
We have our posters linen backed (and restored if needed) by paper conservation professionals. The people we use are world renowned and considered to be the best in the business. If any restoration is done it is usually very minor and involves touching up the fold lines to make them less noticeable. This can actually increase the value.
WHAT IS PAPER BACKING?
When a poster has been “paperbacked” it means it has been professionally mounted onto a piece of high quality Japanese rice paper, and then onto a piece of acid-free backing board. During this process, almost all of the posters defects have been corrected (or greatly minimized), and if the backing was done by a talented professional, the poster looks great (some say “mint”). THIS IS A PROCESS SIMILAR TO “LINEN BACKING”, but some collectors choose paper backing instead, usually for those size posters (inserts, half-sheets, and window cards) where the poster remains in a form similar to how it was when it was unbacked (this is personal choice and not a matter of right or wrong).
For more information, please see our linen backing page.