The term 'Archival' may be one of the most misunderstood and misused terms in the Fine-Art Printing & Framing world. Widely used to signify the preservation of artwork or original documents and the permanence, longevity or chemical stability of a particular process or media type, this non-technical term is being fazed out of the International vocabulary due to the fact that no quantifiable standards for this term were ever established.
Instead, in accordance with 'ISO18920 & ISO18902-2013 - Storage Practices', the term 'Archival' is now being replaced with either 'Extended Term' conditions (those that last up to 500yrs.), 'Long-Term' (which are defined as between 10-500yrs.), or 'Medium-Term' (which last up to 10yrs). The layman use of the word 'Archival' is most often used when describing a project which will endure between 50-200yrs, which falls into the category of 'Long-Term' preservation. If you see the term 'Archival' used on our site, this is what we are referring to.
In regards to Printing, 'Archival' is most often associated with the chemical stability and light & water-fastness of the inks applied, as well as with the chemical stability, PH & composition of the substrate being printed upon.
The word 'Archival' is also used when speaking about Mounting & Framing methods and refers to the techniques and materials used in the project, as well as the conditions under which a work of art is displayed. Traditional preservation mounting and framing techniques, which utilize cotton "rag" backboards and matboards, in conjunction with acid & lignin free mounting adhesives, and then packaged behind UV protective glazing, is still considered the most 'Archival' method of displaying artwork and should be used for most original art, documents or limited series prints.
Alternatively to traditional framing and mounting techniques, large format photography or prints are often mounted directly to a flat substrate (such as Foamcore or DiBond) utilizing either a Dry-Mounting, Cold-mounting or Wet-mounting techniques. Although artists' work is often seen displayed at galleries or other shows in this manner, these mounting methods are generally NOT considered 'Archival' or 'Long Term' practices. For these methods to qualify as 'Long-term', the original artwork being mounted must be able to be separated from the substrate and be returned to it's original state. Although there are many Acid-Free and "Removable" Dry-mounting tissues available, these are not considered archival because even though they are "Removable", the adhesives still saturate the back of the substrate leaving them altered from their original state. There is one exception to the rule, and that is ArtCare Restore board, a Heat Activated (HA) Dry-mounting Board which is 100% "Reversible", making it is the only mounting method, other than traditional preservation framing, to possibly qualify as a 'Long-Term' or 'Archival' mounting method.