GlovesToday’s Tuesday’s Tip can help preserve your paper family records and photographs and it doesn’t even cost much.

Wear gloves when handling family records, especially photographs and negatives.

Those latent (invisible) fingerprints that CSIs on TV are always dusting for? They’re created by moisture and oils naturally present in your fingertips – and you leave them on your family records every time you touch them.

A few years ago, Eastman’s newsletter quoted an article, “Misperceptions about White Gloves,” by Cathleen A. Baker and Randy Silverman, saying gloves were unnecessary and even damaging. All I can say, after decades in the archival trenches, is that’s nuts. Yes, you can touch paper without gloves and not see immediate damage. And yes, gloves can get dirty themselves and need to be laundered. But the benefits outweigh the potential drawback in dexterity.

Policies vary between archives, so please be prepared to do as the staff asks. We required researchers to wear gloves while handling photographs, negatives, fragile or acidic paper, leather, metallic objects, textiles, glass, and leather books that are starting to deteriorate. (The latter is more about protecting you from “redrot” or the binding deterioration that can cause stains.) We did not require gloves for most published books, including yearbooks.


We also required staff who worked processing collections to wear gloves and soon it was second nature to wear gloves while entering data on a keyboard and handle vintage materials. So, if you intend to work with your family papers for more than a few minutes, at the very least make sure your hands are clean and dry. If gloves aren’t available, handle photos and negatives by their edges.