Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pencils and White Gloves and Standards, Oh My!


I'm waving the white gloves. It seems I may only be an eighth correct, a quarter correct, a half correct, not correct at all - who knows - when it comes to wearing gloves while handling historic documents. I only have my own experiences to guide me and it was wrong of me to think my experiences with archivists and archives were correct without further research.

Archivists the world over, it seems, have no standardized method for handling historic documents. The lovely Lisa Rex commented on my WDYTYA article saying:
For what it's worth, I've handled over a hundred original documents when I was genealogist in England and it's very rare to be wearing gloves. And pencils are allowed in the document rooms. They just ask you to be careful.
Karen Packard Rhodes said...
You are correct in saying that the pencil in such close proximity to the document was a "gasp!" moment. However, gloves are a debatable subject in the archival community.
So I did a little digging. Archives and their archivists appear to fall into two camps. Those saying that when handling historic documents gloves will be provided; and those that say clean hands will be all that is required to handle documents.

So with abject apologies to the experts of WDYTYA; the best practice when handling historic documents in an archive would seem to be:

Do as you are instructed!
You can't go wrong following instructions.

Bill West of West In New England has very kindly provided the link to the History Detectives discussion "Why Don't The History Detectives Wear Gloves When Handling Documents?" in his post "What I Think About Who Do You Think You Are." Thank you, Bill.

On Facebook, Terri Kallio commented that:
I thought that NBC and ancestry.com did a fabulous job tonight. You can pick over the small stuff if you want too (like the gloves and the pencil) but, I thought they did a great job. . .
I loved the show and I believe it did what it was meant to do - foster interest in family history and discussion about the show and its many facets.

Is it Friday yet?


Caution, wear those white gloves, baby, when you handle photographs. Here there is no debate.

6 Comments:

Blogger Joan said...

fm, 1st -- Congratulations on being featured on the 90th COG. Well deserved! HooRah!

2nd, This post brought to mind one of my first experiences with real, hands-on handling of historic documents. I was in the County Clerks office of a small rural community. I presented my list of documents. The clerks hemmed and hawed, and finally moved the election ballots out of the Iron Barred Vault. Then they turned me loose to "browse" thru handwrittten documents going back to at least 1850. I was permitted to take my own copies and put things back as I might. They were really fortunate that I was in total awe by my surroundings ---and o, so careful.

I still have heart palpitations when I think about the experience.

And I will be much more careful --- with white gloves -- in handling my very old photos. Thanks

March 7, 2010 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger Chery Kinnick said...

Howdy fM: Here at UW Special Collections/Arhives, gloves are routinely required when handling photographs, but for documents, they are not. The reason? Paper edges are fragile, and it has often been proven that a person wearing gloves, without the dexterity of their naked fingers, can do much more damage to a document with gloves than without. It is the lesser of two evils, if you will.

March 8, 2010 at 4:21 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Joan - Thank you! I get to wear my beautiful clothes for a whole month.

That's probably why all those records we're looking for go missing.

Mountain Girl - If you say it, then I am certain it is correct.

But stay tuned for something that will rock the Maven's world later this week.

-fM

March 8, 2010 at 8:02 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Yep, I have to second Chery's comment. I never wear gloves except when working with photographs, because they cause such a loss in dexterity when handling paper documents. It is a lot easier to rip a page if you're wearing gloves (not that I would know this from experience...)

March 9, 2010 at 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Lisa Rex said...

The Somerset Archives (England) asks you to wear non-latex gloves. Then you get to feel all CSI...

March 11, 2010 at 4:55 AM  
Blogger reh ncw said...

the thin pages of my grandmothers Bible are showing wear no matter how careful I am ---- when I went to see the Sea Scrolls at the museum, they talked about degradiation and cautions --- such as no scotch tape. I have personally worked with military drawing for years, humidity, bugs in corrigrated card boxes, dust and yes oils from clean hands have made their marks. pencils??? blue pencils to not show in copies were always perferred.

March 13, 2010 at 5:22 PM  

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