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Handling newspapers

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    • #135621
      David C


      During several workshops I’ve attended we were always instructed to wear nitrile gloves when handling newspapers. Some places I’ve read recently mention only clean hands, low light (lux), no food or drinks, and do not fold the pages back on themselves. There was no mention of wearing nitrile gloves. Is it still a normal practice to wear nitrile gloves when handling newspapers?

      I have a concern because I’ve been told we will be displaying a few local newspapers from our collection. The newspapers will be laid on a table for visitors to thumb through. The newspapers were printed in the 1970’s. We have no means to photocopy the newspapers.

      David Cranston, Curator
      Hadley-Lake Luzerne Historical Society
      52 Main St – PO Box 275
      Lake Luzerne, NY 12846-0275

    • #135622
      Rachel Lapkin

      Hi David,

      Your instincts and past practices are correct- clean hands, no food or beverages- and of course focused attention on the task at hand (handling fragile materials) is the best approach for handling paper based materials like newspapers. Oftentimes, gloves are used for show to make a point that materials are special/rare/fragile, but they are only essential for metals, photographs, and other materials that will react with oils and sweat coming from the surface of bare skin. Gloves often interfere with dexterity, even with the most experienced handler, when it comes to fragile paper materials.

      If this event is set, with no possibility of changing the activities or access to the materials, I would recommend having at least one member of staff staged to monitor handling of the newspapers; if they are available to offer help (sometimes people are afraid to touch fragile looking things) that might make a big difference. Or, if you can have two staff members, identify an issue that is particularly fragile so that one person can be dedicated to handling that item. I find this is the most effective way to impart best practices, along with fragility and value to the collection without making special visitors feel less special.

      Do you know if other copies of these papers exist in your region? Or online somewhere? It doesn’t make losing information to damage any less problematic for your collection, but it is helpful to be able to communicate how much surrogate replacements will cost your institution (if they are available at all) to help you evaluate events like this for the future.

      I hope that is helpful! -Rachel

    • #135623
      David C

      Thanks Rachel,

      If I recall, the presenter at one of the workshop mentioned using nitrile gloves for paper documents because oils (and hand lotions) on our skin could leave a stain on the paper. The other reason was the ink might now be a known hazard (but this can be true for many articles in a Museum too). For china and glass objects, gloves do not give a tactile feel and dropping an object is a possibility.

      Most people who attend our events are local people in a small community. Most would not hesitate to pick up an object (like a newspaper), turn it over, or fold it back. Even with a gentle reminder to handle things delicately, I’ve seen some people get upset and purposefully rough-house a few objects.

      I doubt other copies of some of our newspapers exist. It was a small 8 page weekly community newspaper that lasted for about 5 years. I dare say no more than 250 copies were printed each week. It would be nice to scan them someday and have them online.


    • #135774
      David C

      The presentation and display of our old newspapers went well. The person who spoke about our collection of old newspapers wore gloves just to be safe (She wears many large rings that could snag the newspapers). Everything went great until I saw her hold a newspaper up and she started to bellow the newspaper out like she was going to fold it back onto itself. I let out a gasp and she caught herself just in time. The only real problem I encountered was, a few days after the presentation I discovered the newspapers were not returned to their proper order in the archival boxes.

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