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Special Collections for the Student Worker

Handling Special Collections Materials

All the parts of a book—the binding, paper, and text—afford evidence of its past. Your cooperation and care in handling ensure the preservation of their physical as well as textual integrity. Please note that many items may require advance notice and additional staff time in order to be prepared for safe use in the Reading Room.

  • Special Collections staff will present books in varying supports, including cardboard cradles, Plexiglas, and pillows. These supports are designed to prevent stress to all parts of the book. Please keep books in the support, which should stay squarely on table and not be lifted.
  • Do not rest anything on top of books. Special weights are available at the Reading Room desk to hold books and pamphlets open safely and securely.
  • Never put anything inside of a book, even if for a short time; acid-free markers will be provided when needed. Books should be closed if left for any period of time.
  • Please be aware and notify a member of the Reading Room staff if you or a patron finds damage to paper or bindings which prevents safe handling. All pieces of bindings or paper that break off should be kept with the original material and shown to a staff member.
  • Illustrations and other sheets that fold out or are tipped into books may require special handling procedures or materials; please consult a staff member before attempting to manipulate these pages.

As stated before, archival materials can range from letters, manuscripts, paper records, scrapbooks, artifacts, photographs, and books etc. These are stored generally in document boxes, and are arranged by box and folder number.

  • Materials housed in boxes or cartons should be kept in the exact order/placement received; please remove folders or items one at a time, using an acid-free place marker provided by a staff member if needed - no other material should come in contact with archival materials. 
  • When folders are present, no more than one folder should be removed from a box at a time. Folders must remain flat on the table at all times. Contents should remain flat in their opened folder while being read. It is imperative that the order of the folder be maintained - so no item should be removed from the folder for any reason. 
  • Patrons should not rest anything on top of manuscript material. Be watchful that a patron does not place their paper/notebook or other personal items (or elbows) on top of archival material.
  • Paper documents should be handled as little as possible and turned gently one at a time, with fingers in non-text areas of the sheet whenever possible. Patrons should be instructed to alert the Reading Room proctor if they come across:
    • folded paper
    • staples
    • envelopes with paper inside
  • Gloves may be provided with material that is especially sensitive to damage from direct handling such as textiles, photographs, negatives, and objects with metal.
  • If markings are found on any materials, they should never be erased from Special Collections material, nor should anything ever be added / written on our materials.
  • Staff may present books, manuscripts, or folded paper on Plexiglas supports, or use cardboard supports, with or without cloth liners. Supports are designed to prevent stress to all parts of the bound item.
  • Staff members can provide magnifying glasses to help with other special handling as requested.

If you have any further questions or would like to know more about handling, ask Anne.