Most diplomas and certification documents today are printed on archival paper produced from treated pulp or rag (cotton). If you have a diploma that is fairly old, it could be made with sheepskin or parchment. Therefore, you must learn about preserving and framing a sheepskin diploma for long-term care.
What Is Sheepskin?
Parchment is a thin material that’s made from sheepskin, calfskin, or goatskin. It’s stretched, scraped, and dried under tension to create a stiff white, yellowish, or translucent animal skin. The finest and highest-quality parchments are called vellum.
A sheepskin document has a sheen that’s greater than the polish on typical print and frame matte document paper. Sheepskin tends to be more translucent, so it’s prone to slight buckling. It also has more noticeable waves than what is seen with paper documents. Buckling may occur in sheepskin diplomas and is considered normal when exposed to changes in humidity.
How to Care for Sheepskin Documents
- Store in a cool, dry place before framing: Sheepskin documents are sensitive to temperature and humidity. Store them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, moisture, and heat sources.
- Handle with care: When handling sheepskin papers, be gentle and use clean hands. Avoid touching the surface of the paper as much as possible, as the oils from your fingers can leave stains.
- Clean with a soft brush: To remove dust or debris, use a soft-bristled brush or a clean, dry cloth to gently brush the surface of the paper.
- Avoid water and chemicals: Do not use water or any cleaning chemicals on sheepskin papers, as they can damage the surface and cause discoloration.
- Frame for protection: If you want to display your sheepskin paper, frame it using acid-free, archival-quality materials. This will protect the paper from damage and prevent it from fading over time.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your sheepskin papers remain in good condition for years to come.
Frame Mounting Methods
When it comes to framing, it’s essential to use archival mounting materials recommended for sheepskin. Mounting a document to keep it permanently flat by using heat or adhesive methods is not recommended.
Many mounting procedures are irreversible, non-archival, and can cause discoloration or damage over time. In the case of sheepskin or parchment, do not try to iron it flat. The sheepskin can curl, melt, and be easily be destroyed by heat.
Documents, certificates, and diplomas made from sheepskin should be treated delicately. They require conservation-quality backing board and mounting materials that are acid-free, lignin-free, and reversible. Two museum mounting methods exist for sheepskin diplomas. One includes professional hinging with wheat starch. And the other is traditional Japanese paper on lignin-free 4-ply board with application of archival corner pockets and/or mounting strips.
The document should be given room for natural expansion in response to humidity and natural temperature changes. Slight buckling of the skin from natural atmospheric and humidity changes is considered normal for valuable documents.
If the sheepskin has been rolled and stored in a small tube, an experienced framing professional may use heat mounting. It’s done on a lower temperature setting with archival tissue that is reversible with heat. But this should only be done by a professional conservation specialist to avoid damage.
In framing a sheepskin document, it’s important that a conservation-quality window mat be used to keep the edges of the skin from curling up and touching the glass. If the document is allowed to be in direct contact with the picture frame’s glass, humidity can cause it to stick to the glass and create irreparable damage. That’s why it’s essential to use a high-quality frame to safeguard your document.
If in doubt about framing a sheepskin or parchment diploma, seek the advice of a Certified Picture Framer with the CPF designation through the Professional Picture Framers Association (PPFA). Visit PPFA’s website for more information or locate a qualified framer for any questions you may have. If you have a sheepskin document that needs to be repaired or cleaned, consult a conservator who specializes in this field. To locate a conservator in your area, call the AIC (American Institute for Conservation) in Washington, DC at 202-452-9545.
Find the Right Diploma Frame
To avoid irreversible damage to your sheepskin or parchment diploma, frame the diploma with museum-quality materials. Church Hill Classics (CHC) offers professional-quality custom frames to showcase your achievement. CHC frames meet the Library of Congress standards for document preservation. Search for your school to view full product selection or design your frame to create your perfect frame.