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Care & Handling of Special Collections Materials: Photographic Materials

This guide offers best practices for handling and using special collections materials in the Library's reading rooms. The guide is intended for those staff who work with readers, provide instruction using special collections, and security staff who monit

Photographs on Paper

TIPS FOR HANDLING

• Always handle with nitrile gloves (if photograph is not in Mylar sleeve)

• Never touch the surface of a photograph: handle the item by its edges

• Always lift item with two hands, holding its opposite edges

• Photographs should not be removed from Mylar sleeves

• When carrying large photographic prints, make sure the print is fully supported by carrying

it on a board, folder, or inside a box

POINTS OF VULNERABILITY

• Brittle mounts or paper, especially on corners

• Photo surface is prone to abrasion

• Do not bend or fold — paper/board may be more brittle than image surface or vice versa

• Photographs can crack if folded or tightly rolled — this is because they are made up of

multiple layers of different types of material

Glass Negatives

TIPS FOR HANDLING

• Wear nitrile gloves when handling

• Always handle glass on or directly over a soft surface

• Handle one plate at a time

• Do not stack plates on top of one another

• Handle plates by two opposite edges; never hold them

by one edge, or by the corners

• Place glass plates emulsion side up when you lay them

flat on a surface

• Check for glass reflectance to find

the non-emulsion side of the plate

• Do not press, lean, or write on top of the glass plate

POINTS OF VULNERABILITY

• Flaking or lifted emulsion layer (the dull, top layer that holds the image)

• Glass may be chipped, cracked, or broken

Cased Photographs

TIPS FOR HANDLING

• Handle cases with each hand supporting each half

of the case

• Avoid placing weight directly on the hinge

• Do not close clasp or fastener when returning case

to its housing container

• Handle on or directly over a soft surface

• Do not remove glass photograph package from case

• Glass photograph package removal requires

curatorial permission and conservation

intervention for removal and documentation

POINTS OF VULNERABILITY

• Cover glass is fragile — it may be cracked or broken

• Hinge may be fragile or broken

• Clasp or fastener may be fragile or loose

• Deteriorating, flaking leather or cracked plastic case

Lantern Slides

TIPS FOR HANDLING

• Wear nitrile gloves when handling

• Always handle glass on or directly over a soft surface

• Handle one plate at a time

• Do not stack plates on top of one another

• Handle plates by two opposite edges; never hold them by one edge, or by the corners

POINTS OF VULNERABILITY

• Black tape along edges may be peeling, cracked, or missing

• Glass may be chipped, cracked, or broken