Dry mounting photographs: fibre-based prints on museum board

How to dry mount fibre based prints onto 100% cotton "rag" museum board for exhibition.

Dry mounting fiber-based photographic prints for framing and exhibiting

Dry mounting photographs, especially my fibre-based baryta prints, is a method I use for my exhibition prints. Dry mounting is a procedure that has been around for many years and is a method used by many well-known photographers worldwide, including Ansel Adams. It involves sticking the entire back of the photographic print down onto a surface, usually 100% cotton rag museum board. Once stuck down, consider it pretty much permanent.

Hinge Mounting vs Dry Mounting

Dry mounting photographs is a permanent bonding, between the print and board. It is now considered a problem by print conservators. Today, they favour the hinge mounting method. Hinge mounting holds the print from several points by taping the print’s borders. This means the print can be removed easily by cutting the tapes as the print back is not stuck to the museum board.

Dry mounting photographs as a personal preference

I personally dislike the uneven surface of larger hinge mounted fibre based prints. Their surfaces catch and reflect light, interfering with my viewing of an image.

Why bother obtaining nuances of tone in high and low print values if viewing a print unmounted prevents you from obtaining a clear and unhindered view? I want to view a print in its entirety. Dry mounting creates a smooth surface and avoids the potential problem of unwanted reflections off the print.

Archival Quality

As far as archival qualities are concerned this method is still used by some of the best and most collected photographers around the world. I have seen reports of archival tests comparing print degradation over time of dry-mounted prints versus unmounted photographic prints.

Unmounted photographs are susceptible to chemical attacks from both the front and rear of the print. There is evidence that dry mounting can be beneficial. It can act as a protective barrier to chemical reactions on the rear of the print.

Importance of print washing

Needless to say, mounted prints must be washed properly including the use of hypo clearing agent and partial toning in selenium, or another print toner, to maximise print archival quality.

Use acid-free materials

Mount boards should be 100% cotton rag avoiding all wood pulp. Wood pulp contains tannins which are acidic and therefore harmful to silver metal.

Sometimes I get asked about the procedure for dry mounting baryta fibre-based prints so here are some sequenced images. Click on the images for step-by-step descriptions.

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Since 1989, Alex Bond has published cards, calendars, books, and posters under his imprint Stormlight Publishing. His images showcase the West Australian environment. Bond's handcrafted, silver-gelatin, fibre-based prints are personally made by the author in his darkroom.

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