Materials housed within the Division of Archives and Special Collections require special handling and care due to their rarity, fragility, and historical value. Our materials vary in condition, format, and scale, which can determine best practices for handling. The information in this guide is not meant to deter you from using our materials but rather is intended to show you how to handle these materials to ensure they are preserved for future generations.
Our hands produce sweat and oil that can be harmful to our materials. In addition, the various products we use in our daily care routines can also damage materials. Thus, it’s important to:
General handling rules for all materials include:
White cotton gloves are often associated with archives, but these are no longer recommended for handling archival materials. Cotton gloves are often thick making our hands more clumsy and less dexterous. Cotton gloves can also pick up dirt and debris that can be transferred to materials. Thus, clean hands are often the best option for handling archival materials. However, there are some exceptions. Nitrile gloves are recommended for handling the following materials: parchment, photographs, negatives, glass plate negatives, slides, delicate fabrics (e.g., silks), and artifacts.
When transporting materials, keep the following in mind:
Some materials require the use of special tools when handling, such as:
The most important rule of archival preservation is do no harm. If any handling of an items seems to be causing harm, stop the action immediately and ask for help from a staff member. While there are basic handling principles, materials often require different treatment depending on format. Please consider the following: