top of page

Displaying Your Antiques

While many people collect items for the sake of collecting them, others collect items they want to display. You can display your heirlooms and antiques, but you should be sure to take measures to protect them while on display.


Paintings: Paintings as discussed in this section are those on canvas. Hang artwork in a location where it won’t be bumped or exposed to physical damage easily. Don’t, for example, hang your paintings in a busy hallway, an area where food or drinks may splash the walls, etc. Avoid hanging valuable artwork in areas where the temperature and humidity may change rapidly, such as near windows or doorways, in the path of airflow from heaters or air conditioners, or over a fireplace that is used. Only hang paintings on outside walls that are properly insulated and have good vapour barriers. Be sure to avoid hanging art in areas where they will receive direct sunlight – direct light (of any kind, including artificial, for a long period of time) is one of the biggest threats to the integrity of your artwork, and light damage cannot be reversed. Be sure to hang frames using hooks suitable for the size and weight of the artwork. Hooks are generally a better option than nails, and two hooks can assist in keeping artwork level, and gives some extra support for very large or heavy works.

Paper Documents and Newspaper: Important documents for display are generally best photocopied and the replications displayed instead of the original. Old documents can be framed and matted, though you should request the framer to use acid free mats and starch paste hinges. Be sure that the document does not touch the frame, and UV filtering glass is a good idea if it fits in your budget. Follow the general rules for paintings (above), when hanging.

Photographs: Photo albums are one of the most popular ways of keeping photos available for easy viewing. Be sure to avoid photo albums with sticky pages, which can stain photos, and over time make removing photos increasingly difficult. Albums with clear plastic sleeves are a better option, and acid-free paper albums with photos secured with photo corners are suitable for all but large and fragile photos. Consider making good quality copies of important photos you want to display, to keep the original safe. Many decorative frames do not have archival quality mats or backings. Be sure the glass does not touch the surface of the photo, and follow the general rules for paintings (above), when hanging.

Wooden Furniture: With proper care, wooden furniture can last generations in good condition. Keep furniture out of direct sunlight as much as possible, as light woods can be darkened and dark woods bleached over time. Light can also affect the finish, stain, or paint. Water spills can leave cloudy white patches on wood finish, so use coasters for drinks and potted plants. Also avoid placing wooden furniture next to fireplaces, over heat vents, or next to base board heaters.

Glass and Ceramics: Glass and ceramics are less sensitive to light, humidity, and temperature than most other materials, but do not store or display these items where there are extreme temperature or humidity changes, which will cause cracks and breakage. Ceramic items can be displayed on wood or plastic plate stands; spring-type metal plate hangers can exert too much pressure on items. Be sure to display any breakable items on sturdy shelves or furniture, away from the edges.

Photo: Steven Dubas

Silver: Silver can be displayed, but one of the biggest threats to silver is sulphur-containing contaminants in the air, which causes tarnish. Keep silver objects clean of grime and dust by wiping with a dry cloth, but polish only when necessary; frequent polishing can result in damage by removing detail and wearing off silver plating.


Coins and Medals: Coins and medals can be damaged by pollution in the air; different types of acids in the air affect certain types of metals in different ways. With medals, be sure to display them out of direct sunlight, as the attached ribbons are prone to fading. Albums are often used to view and store coins, but are not recommended since it can be awkward to remove coins from the holders, and the opening at the top can increase the chances of coins slipping out when the album is open.

bottom of page