Handling Materials

Why is safely handling collection material important?

The materials made available to you in the Reading Room are often fragile, rare or valuable and both researchers and staff have a duty to protect and preserve them for future use. On your first visit, you will be given training in the safe handling of these materials. In addition, we have prepared some guides with instructions on safely accessing and handling material. Reading Room staff are also happy to assist and provide further guidance when you visit.Help us ensure that these important records of our past will be preserved for future use.

Handling Tips:

Ensure your hands are clean and free from lotions and moisturisers.

To avoid any ink accidents please only use pencil for note taking.

When handling volumes, use a pillow to support the spine.

View one file at a time to keep files and their contents in order.

  • Safe Handling Procedures

    Clean hands:

    Ensure your hands are clean and free from lotions and moisturisers.  Dirt and oils are easily transferable and have the potential to stain paper and accelerate the deterioration process.  Gloves can be provided if you need them. Saliva has the potential to stain paper, so please don't lick your fingers to turn pages.

    Give your material space:

    Help care for the collection material and avoid folding and tearing by ensuring an adequate flat surface and ample area is available to place the items securely on the table.  Never place items on the floor or attempt to flatten out pages for viewing or photography. If you need help to photograph or access difficult to read information, or need more room for viewing, please ask our friendly staff for assistance.

    Taking notes:

    Please do not underline, highlight or mark collection material in any way. Pencils may be used to take note, or you are welcome to use a laptop or tablet. Do not lean on, trace from, or use collection material as a writing support.  This places unnecessary stress on the items and has the potential to cause irreversible damage.

    If you need to flag a page, please use a clean piece of paper. Coloured paper slips can be provided by Reading Room staff.  Do not use post-it notes, fold page corners or use bulky objects as place markers, as these place unnecessary stress on items and have the potential to cause damage.

    Please do not attempt to release material from an item’s fastening.  This has the potential to cause irreversible damage and loss of material or information. If you are having trouble accessing information, please see our staff for assistance.

    You can help us care for the collections. If you come across an item in poor condition, or with possible mould or insect damage, please bring it to the attention of Reading Room staff so it can be referred for preservation treatment.

  • Handling Volumes

    Fragile items:

    You may come across items in our collections that are stored in bags or plastic sleeves. Many items are bagged because they are in fragile condition, so be careful when removing them from their bag. Remember, our staff are always on hand to assist you.

    Support volumes:

    Pillows are provided in the Reading Room to help support the fragile spines and covers of volumes in the collection. Avoid opening volumes beyond their natural limit, as this can break a volumes spine. Weights are provided in the Reading Room to safely keep pages open.

    Volumes should not be piled on top of one another, as this can cause damage if they fall. If you require more space for viewing volumes, our staff will be happy to help.

    Turning pages:

    Handling fragile volumes can be tricky. We recommend taking the following steps to avoid damaging collection material.

    1. Open the cover first and look for any fragile areas or existing damage.
    2. Taking account of existing damage, turn the pages in small groups to ensure no further stress is placed on the material. Do not open pages by pushing the page - instead, hold the pages by the outer edge or corners.
    3. Ensure any loose pages or items remain in the same place found within the volume.
    4. Close only a safe number of pages at a time and always close the cover on its own to prevent creasing of the first or last pages.
  • Handling Files

    Keep files in order:

    Often archival records have been collected in the order maintained by the archive's originator. The order in which the originator kept their files, or lack thereof, is essential for research purposes and should be maintained. When accessing files, it is important to maintain the original order of the files and their contents.

    Files can be fragile:

    Much of the material in our collections was not designed to last. This is particularly relevant to archival documents and files.

    Please take account of the fragility and any existing damage before attempting to handle files or remove material from tightly packed boxes. Folding and unfolding pages can cause cracking and tearing. When accessing files, do not unfold pages that are tightly folded, cracking or crumbling, or fold pages that have been stored flat. If clips it is necessary to remove clips to view a record safely, or if you are unsure of how to handle fragile material, please seek assistance from Reading Room staff

Safe Handling of Collection Material

We have prepared a handy video guide to help you access and handle collection material safely in the Reading Room.

For more instructional videos, visit our video guides page.

Video Guides