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Archives at Bentley: Caring for Archival Material
Learn more about archives and special collections, including how to find historic material at the Bentley Library. Also learn about primary source research and preservation.
Here are some quick guidelines on how you'll be asked to handle materials in the archives. More information will be provided for you at your appointment.
Only pencils (or a computer!) can be used for note-taking in the archives. No pens, markers, etc.
No food or drink in the general vicinity of archives material.
Please wash your hands before handling materials, and avoid applying any lotion or moisturizer right before your appointment, if possible.
Only use one box and one folder at a time, to avoid getting materials mixed up!
Handle all items gently and use any supports given to you by the Archivist.
You may be asked to wear gloves when using material that is susceptible to damage.
Avoid "flipping" through books or pages - old paper can be very brittle & will break if handled roughly.
Rules of Thumb for Care
Avoid adhesives and fasteners! Tape and glue can degrade paper and photographs and cause damage when removed. Fasteners like staples and paper clips also cause damage, and can create rust and corrosion on your items.
Select appropriate storage. For long-term storage, try to find paper or plastic enclosures that are designated "acid-free". Do not expose items to unecessary light. Also try to keep items in places that do not experience temperature or humidity extremes.
Consider professional services for complicated formatting conversions or significant repairs to damage. Other tasks, like scanning, creating records, and repairing minor damage can be done at home if you find good resources to help you learn.
Demonstration of Handling Practices
This video from the Folger Library introduces you to the proper handling of material commonly found in archives. It also shows off some of the equipment archivists use to help keep material safe like book supports, weights, plastic sleeves, and the ubiquitous white gloves!
Caring for your Personal or Family Archives
There are some amazing free resources on the web dedicated to helping you preserve your personal collections or family archives. Here are just a few, with a description of their focus. If you have additional preservation questions, contact the Archives and we will try to answer them as we are able.
The Northeastern Document Conservation Center has a wealth of free resources, but this guide to caring for personal and family collections is a particularly good primer. It focuses on the appropriate environment (temperature, humidity) and the enclosures and fasteners that are best for older items.
The brilliant staff at the Smithsonian answer some basic FAQs about things like scanning photographs, converting old film and audio formats, and even basic web archiving tasks like preserving social media profiles.
The Library of Congress provides interactive modules, videos and more to help you understand digital archiving. Has a helpful discussion of the differences between converting a physical item and preserving a "born-digital" item.