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Handling Guide

  • Wash and dry hands often and always before handling books and papers, or photographic materials. Oils from your skin, hair, and especially forehead, create non-removeable stains. Be aware of not touching your forehead with your hands, as this amount of oil will absolutely cause disfiguring fingerprints, permanently fixing any loose dirt.

  • Keep food and drink away from all objects you value. In addition to causing permanent stains, food residues attract insects to eat books, photos, textiles, and documents. After a meal or snack, always wash and dry your hands before resuming work with these objects.

  • Wearing gloves when handling valuable materials protects the objects or documents from the dirt and oils on your skin. Gloves are available in a variety of sizes from many suppliers. They come in single-use nitrile or latex, or in reusable cotton. Wash used cotton gloves and rinse thoroughly. Always wear gloves when working with photographs and negatives. However, if you carefully wash your hands then gloves do not always need to be worn when handling books and paper.

  • Move items safely. Get a rigid paper or board for support to move fragile papers without causing damage. If something is big, ask a friend to help move it.

  • Never apply tape or sticky notes to books, photographs or any other object you value. Learn More: Common Conservation Problems - Tape.

  • Never remove books from a shelf by pulling on the top of a book. Push the neighboring books toward the back of the shelf, and then pull out the book you want by the center of its spine. Store oversized books flat or spine down, never spine up.

  • If an item is crispy, brittle or cracked as you unfold or unroll it, STOP and consult a conservator. For information on finding a conservator from the American Institute for Conservation (AIC).

  • The National Archives offers advice on maintaining your family's collections at home.

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© Copyright March 26, 2019 Maryland State Archives