Proper Handling of Objects and Textiles

General preservation guidelines outlined in this video

Proper handling of objects and textiles is an essential part of preservation.

  1. Handle objects and textiles as little as possible. This includes reducing or discontinuing the use of objects with moving parts, e.g. clocks. The more items are handled, the greater the likelihood of damage. 
  2. Do not hurry.
  3. Keep pens and sharp items away from objects and textiles.
  4. Use pencils for note taking as the ink from pens may cause permanent damage.
  5. Do not eat or drink around the objects and textiles.
  6. Before touching an object:
    1. Determine whether your hands are properly protected. Gloves must be worn when handling metals and bone or ivory. It is usually best to handle other items with clean bare hands.
    2. When using gloves, be sure they are clean and change them as often as necessary.
    3. When not using gloves, hands should be clean and washed regularly, about every hour. Hand lotion should not be used.
    4. Don’t touch eyes, nose, hair, etc. with hands, including gloved hands.
    5. Remove jewelry, name badges, buckles or loose clothing that may scratch objects or snag and tear textiles.
    6. Examine the item carefully and learn its strengths and weaknesses. Be wary as there may be internal weakness or weak repairs that are not obvious to the naked eye.
    7. Get help if an item is too large, heavy, or awkward to handle on your own.
    8. Discuss each person’s role before handling the item.
    9. If you will be moving an item from one place to another, plan where the item will be placed. Prepare the place ahead of time to receive the item. Ensure that this place is clean.
    10. Plan the route. Ensure the pathway is clear of debris; be sure all doors/elevators will be open, etc. Move as slowly as necessary to keep the object stable.
  7. When lifting an item:
    1. Use both hands if necessary.
    2. As a general rule, handle only one item at a time, even if the item is small. If more items can be handled, carry only the number of items that can be comfortably held in both hands.
    3. Pick up objects up by their most solid component:
      1. Avoid the handle on objects such as vases, baskets, suitcases, etc. as these can be weak and unable to support the weight of the object.
      2. Furniture should be moved by their most stable component. For example, chairs should be lifted by holding the seat rather than the arms or back.
    4. Pick up textiles carefully by sliding your hands underneath, being sure the most fragile areas are supported, and lifting the textile as a whole (this may require multiple people).
  8. When moving or working with items:
    1. Support all items while in transit by making use of a carrying tray (for small items), rigid supports (for flat textiles), or a cart/dolly (for heavy or large items or for multiple items).
    2. No part of the item should protrude beyond the edges of the container or cart. 
    3. Be careful when carrying dissimilar items together that the items do not touch as this could potentially cause damage.
    4. Place objects on their most stable side. 
    5. Items should never be placed directly on the floor. If necessary, ethafoam blocks or other inert risers may be used to raise items from the floor. 
    6. Never drag an item on the floor, slide it across a table, or move an object across any surface that might abrade the item. 
    7. To avoid abrasion; use tissue paper, polyethylene padding, or clean cotton flannel to pad an item. 
    8. Avoid walking backwards. Make sure you can see clearly in front of you at all times.
    9. A few notes on specific object types are listed below:
      1. Musical Instrumentsshould not be played without careful consideration by museum professionals. 
        1. The decision whether to let collected musical instruments be played should be made by balancing the following two ideas:
          1. The production of music is an intrinsic purpose of musical instruments. The instruments should therefore be played.
          2. Restoration of musical instruments always results in a change of the instrument, and in loss of original materials. Will a restored instrument, therefore, actually sound as it did originally?
        2. These ideas should be discussed on a case-by-case basis to determine whether an instrument:
          1. Should be played.
          2. Should be restored to a playable state.
          3. Should be left in its collected state.
        3. A fourth option may be to build a replica to the specifications of the original.
        4. Keyboard instruments may be especially susceptible to damage. (They are complicated, frail, multi-medium mechanisms. They are usually large and hard to move. Unseen components often deteriorate while the outer case of the instrument remains stable). For this reason historic keyboard instruments should never be played unless a careful inspection has revealed that it is safe to do so.A few notes on specific object types are listed below:
        5. When it is decided that musical instruments will be played, they should be played on a limited, scheduled basis by practiced musicians.
      2. Weapons: Do not ever aim guns or pull the trigger!

For more videos like this, go to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ Church History page.

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