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Primary Source Research in Special Collections and Archives

General Guidelines

Because of the rare, unique, and often fragile nature of special collections and archival collections, materials must be handled with special care. If you have any questions on how to handle specific items, do not hesitate to ask a Special Collections staff member for assistance.

Handling Guidelines

Books in Special Collections sometimes require support if they have weak or deteriorating bindings. Generally the staff member delivering the materials to you will set-up a book cradle for you if your item needs additional support. 

Sometimes, pages in books do not remain open without weight. In the case you need book weights to prop a book open, please refer to the video below. 

Comic books often have brittle pages and sensitive inks. When handling comics turn pages gently and abstain as much as possible from touching the printed areas of the page. Try using flat palms and fingers to turn pages rather than grabbing edges between fingers. Avoid pushing down on the spine (center line where all the pages meet) and use a cradle if neccessary. 

When handling archival collections, remove one folder from a box at a time and use an "out" card to mark where the folder came from. When you're finished with a folder, return it to it's proper place in the box before removing another folder.  Keep all items in archival collections in the order you found them.

Because of the reactive nature of photograph coatings and inks, please wear gloves while handling photographic materials. The desk staff can provide you with gloves if you are researching photographs. Be cautious while handling photos as gloves can reduce the sensitivity in our hands and fingers.