Handling and transport of archival materials

Handling criteria for archival documents, prints, photographs, books and museum objects

Repeated and incorrect handling is one of the main causes of damage to archival records, books and objects. Rare books, documents, prints and photographs must therefore be handled carefully in order to minimise that risk. It is important that readers understand that they have a responsibility for the care of the collection which they use. What follows are some basic handling principles for archive materials: 

  • No eating or drinking is permitted in archive consultation areas.
  • It is important to have clean hands before handling any historical items. Please avoid touching photographic prints with bare hands. Please wear the vinyl gloves provided when handling photographic material or particularly fragile original objects and documents. 
  • Please do not use ink of any kind. Please use soft graphite pencils provided.
  • Please maintain the order of loose documents you are consulting.
  • Please do not lean on the documents. Please make notes without leaning on a document as this can leave permanent marks.
  • Avoid putting strain on the spine of an open book – please do not try to force a volume to lie flat and do not leave it lying open face down. Foam book supports must be used at all times.
  • Please do not fold pages, tear or cut documents. Use of paper clips, fasteners, tape, post-it notes or elastic bands must be avoided. We will supply snake weights to keep pages of a volume open.
  • Where the folds of pages have not been cut and prevent turning of pages, readers are advised to seek guidance from the Librarian on duty.
  • Please do not flat photocopy old and fragile materials. Ask a member of staff for advice and permission on reproduction of original and fragile records.
  • If a book, a document or a folder has been secured with cotton conservation tape please tie tape back after use.
  • Please avoid leaving books, documents or prints in direct sunlight. Light damage is cumulative and will cause irreversible damage.

Download rules for handling archive and case notes. Agreement form

The transit of historical material outside their normal storage areas or reading rooms - for conservation work, reprographics, loan exhibitions, group activities and/or seminars etc is governed by strict UCL procedures and policies:

  1. All material must be protected and carefully handled at all times. See above and please sign agreement form.
  2. All material must be appropriately packed with ownership documentation and receipts prepared for signing and dating.
  3. When moving material outside their normal storage areas to an external destination e.g. Audiovisual, they must be escorted by a member of Library staff.

It should also be recognised that reprographic processes, including microfilming, digitisation, photography and photocopying, pose a potential risk of damage to our collection, therefore every precaution is taken to avoid damage and interference to an item's physical integrity and historical authenticity; this may mean that we will refuse a request to copy an item.

Download Loans procedures . Download Loans form

Library, museum and archive refurbishment generously supported by the Brain Research Trust and the National Brain Appeal.

Page last modified on 06 jun 13 12:26


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Queen Square Library, incorporating the Queen Square Archive and Museum.
UCL Institute of Neurology & The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery
1st Floor, 23 Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK | Tel: 020 3448 4709 x84144 | neurolibrary@ucl.ac.uk
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