Handling Materials


Careful handling of Special Collections materials is a critical element in the long term maintenance and preservation of the Collections. If items are not handled properly, they may become damaged, broken, and/or deteriorate, and their value as documents of the past diminishes. Furthermore, many items in the HSL Special Collections are unique and non-replaceable; once damaged or destroyed, the original artifact is gone forever. The HSL is committed to maintaining items in its Special Collections in a condition as close to their original state as possible, insuring that future generations, as well as modern day researchers may enjoy and benefit from the Collections. To this end we ask our researchers to follow a few simple guidelines when handling Special Collections materials.


  • At all times, please be gentle.
  • Pens are prohibited. Use only pencils. A pencil sharpener is available.
  • Do not use yellow “sticky notes”. They leave an adhesive residue which can damage items.
  • Do not place any items (e.g., a laptop) on top of materials.
  • Never place items on the floor.
  • Do not pull items from the middle or bottom of a stack. Always remove the items on top and set them aside to reach items underneath.
  • Hands must be clean in order to work with Special Collections materials. Avoid any hand creams or lotions before using materials as the oils and other chemicals can stain and damage the materials.
  • Wear gloves when handling materials as requested by staff.*
  • No food, gum, tobacco, pets or animals are permitted in the Reading Room.
  • Bring condition problems or concerns to the attention of Special Collections staff.

Books and other bound volumes

  • Use the provided felt pads, book supports, covered weights, acid free bookmarks.
  • Turn pages slowly.
  • Do not use an eraser or wet finger to turn pages.
  • Unfold drawings and charts carefully.
  • Do not open uncut leaves.

Archives, manuscripts and other loose, unbound papers or photographs

Rusty Paper Clip
  • Keep the documents flat on the table.
  • Do not remove metal fasteners (e.g., staples, paper clips, pins).
  • Remove only one folder at a time from a box and use a place holder supplied by the Special Collections staff.
  • Keep materials in original filing order. Do not re-organize materials.
  • If photographs are in an album, do not remove them from the album.

Cultural objects, realia and artifacts

Broken Plate
  • Assume all objects are fragile and precious.
  • Age can change the stability of materials, making once sturdy objects extremely delicate.
  • Examine the object before you pick it up.
  • Consider weight, broken elements, center of gravity, loose parts.
  • Always handle object using both hands.
  • Never hand an object to another person, set the object down first for the other person to pick up.

*The HSL does not routinely require researchers to wear gloves when handling most materials in the Special Collections. Gloves can reduce dexterity when handling thin paper or glass, and cotton can snag some surfaces and leave fibers behind. However, in certain circumstances, Special Collections staff may, at their discretion, request a researcher wear provided gloves while handling materials from the collections.


Last modified: 03/06/17
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