Handling Collections Guidelines

Find our guidance for handling collections within our Cottonian Research Room

Please use these handling guidelines alongside the conditions of use. Nothing in these guidelines may be taken to supersede or override the conditions of use.

Thank you for your interest in visiting our Cottonian Research Room.
Please help us to preserve our collections by following these guidelines during your visit.

  1. Please ensure your hands are clean and dry when handling collections. Where our collections require gloves to protect them, we will supply them to you to wear.
  2. Only pencils should be used to make notes – pencils should be 2B and without an eraser. Staff can supply these if required.
  3. Be mindful of clothing (long sleeves, loose scarves, neckties) that may brush against collections while in use. Jewellery and watches can catch objects and scratch them. Please remove dangerous items if necessary and place them safely in your locker before entering the Cottonian Research Room.
  4. Handle the item as little as possible. When handling is necessary, using both hands provides better stability and safety for the object or archive.
  5. Always keep items on the table and away from the edges.
  6. Please use caution if photographing an item and both hands when holding the camera. This prevents accidental slips and drops.
  7. Our team may provide further handling instructions in person, and please do not hesitate to ask for advice if unsure about anything.

Depending on the type of item you are looking at, here are some more detailed pointers:

For paper-based or parchment archival material

  • Please handle gently, by the edges only.
  • Please turn pages individually, one at a time.
  • Please keep a group of items in the order it was given to you – do not shuffle or mix up papers.
  • Please do not lean on an archive or group of archives to keep them flat. Please do not allow rolled documents to drape over the edges of the table. If you need to flatten the archive to read it, then please only use the weights provided.
  • Please ensure you turn individual pages over carefully without tearing them.
  • Please use the white gloves provided for handling photographs, negatives and microfiche/film.

Book and manuscript volume handling

  • Most books can be handled with clean dry hands.
  • Avoid pushing pages to turn them as this weakens the page. Please do not lick your finger to turn the page.
  • Please use the book rests provided to support the spine of the book.
  • Please note that we will not permit photocopying of any books and photography will only be permitted where it is safe to do so.
  • Please do not attempt to force the binding open if a book is tightly bound.

For artworks on paper:

  • Please handle gently using the support of the work of art
  • Never touch the surface of a work of art. Pastel, charcoal, and even watercolour surfaces are easily damaged and altered by surface friction.
  • If you need to see the reverse of the artwork and it is mounted, gently support the work as you turn it or please ask for assistance. If possible, please view the reverse without laying the artwork face-down on the table.

For three dimensional objects:

  • Please assess the object visually for any delicate or weak areas before handling (you may be given guidance by the collections team)
  • Always use both hands. One hand should support the base if lifting.
  • Handles and knobs on historic objects can be weak and should not be used for handling
  • If you need to rest the object on its side for study, supports and cushions will be provided.