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I was wondering if anyone uses a labeling system like one of those hand held 'Brother' labelers and if they have an acid free option for sticking labels to media...?

This maybe better asked on an art forum, but in cataloging artwork of different media I can pretty much use anything to stick labels on the sides of canvas, or the back. But for drawings, prints and painting on board it is another matter. Ideally I could find a label as small as 1/8" wide to label some of the smaller paintings on board and be able to view the label from the side. There will be some media though like drawings that I'd want to label on the front, off to the edge of course and covered by a matte, but still on the paper itself, so acid free and a temporary stick would be ideal. Even if we decide to label on the back acid free would be ideal. Another option is to put every single drawing in a sleeve, or keep a referral list with each portfolio. We just have so many of them it's easy to lose track.

In a related comment: With taking pictures of hundreds of artworks I've been thinking about how to catalog and keep everything organized. I used to name images by their title, like: "Winter Trees - 22x30 - Oil on Canvas.jpg". But there is more information I need to add and instead I've decided to go with a catalog number for every item. My plan is to then create a database with with everything; catalog number, horizontal size, vertical size, title, medium, subject, year, even down to most used colors. Among other things a website will be created and all users will be able to search galleries for specific sizes, subjects, colors, etc... That is the plan, but I thought I'd float it out there in case anyone has comments or ideas.

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You may already know this, but I found these comments on "buffered" papers helpful: theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2011/… –  mattdm Mar 15 '11 at 15:41

3 Answers 3

Yes, Brother actually makes a line of acid-free label tape.

Also, if you are planning on doing this on a large scale, you might be interested in a PC-connected label maker.

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If you're working with original art, always take the most conservative approach. Right now, that means no pressure-sensitive adhesives -- there are none that have been demonstrated to be conservationally safe and reversible over time. The standard is still rag paper and wheat-starch paste. Stamp hinges are probably the best low-moisture method for affixing paper labels to works on paper (although simply using a graphite pencil either in the undermatte area or on the back would probably be easier).

If you are affixing the labels to canvas stretchers or mounting boards well clear of the actual artwork, then you can get away with just about anything.

If you are going to build a comprehensive database, then all of the information you're talking about is going to be valuable over time -- particularly the list of materials used. It will make a conservator's job a lot easier if the work ever needs to be cleaned or restored. If you can include a list of pigments, that's great -- it can help in reducing chemical damage. More important, though, is the varnish (on oils and often on acrylics) if you know what was used.

Added: The best reference to consult is probably still Ralph Mayers' The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques (always the latest edition, since new materials are assessed as they become available). Yes, he's opinionated and conservative, but that's mostly in reaction to the short-lived disposable (but not inexpensive) art that was being produced when he wrote the book in the first place.

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there are a few databases you might want to look into like a company artsystems or artbase. they do labels, barcoding, everything you are looking for and FAR more plus website management, clients, sales and more!

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