Object Handling & Labeling

This section offers general tips for handling and moving objects in your collections. Have a more specific question? Be sure to check out our Collections Care page, which offers tips relevant to specific kinds of objects, like textiles or hazardous materials. After you’re comfortable with the methods of handling, create your Object Handling Kit using the instructions at the bottom of the page.

Basic Handling Guidelines

Many museums have their object handling guidelines posted online. Use them as examples to consider how you might create and edit your own guidelines for staff, volunteers, and researchers. The Museums and Galleries of New South Wales created this two-page guide to object handling. This is a good, simple guide for volunteers and staff who could use a quick refresher. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan provides this short document to anyone working with their collections. The New Bedford Whaling Museum has twelve tips for care and handling of objects, presented in a PDF. 

To Glove or Not to Glove? Find out with the National Park Service Conserve O Gram

Searching for something a little more detailed? This guide from the National Park Service provides great resources on handling, moving, and shipping all kinds of objects. Want something more interactive? This e-learning tool from the Museum of London provides an interactive way to learn about handling museum objects! 

The Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library’s Care in Handling videos provide good general information on handling and moving different kinds of objects. Show them to your volunteers and staff as part of their training! 

Creating an Object Handling Kit

To create an object handling kit you should gather the following items:

  • Acetone for removing and cleaning marks
  • Soluvar for marking objects
  • Orvus Water Paste for cleaning
  • Hide glue for temporary furniture repairs
  • Tape measure
  • Flashlight
  • Permanent marker
  • Pencil
  • Calcium Carbonate for cleaning objects
  • Denatured Alcohol for cleaning objects
  • Mineral spirits for removing and cleaning marks
  • Eraser
  • Cotton gloves
  • Nitril gloves
  • Fabric tape measure
  • Brushes for cleaning
  • Bone folder for turning pages and making creases
  • Archival spatula for lifting small or fragile objects
  • Tweezers for picking up objects

You may also wish to include cheese cloth for vacuuming, needles and thread, twill tape, archival pens, small plastic bags for storing loose parts, sharp scissors, brass safety pins, a PH testing pen, B-72, and acid free tags for objects identification.

Download this list as a pdf

To glove or not to glove?

Labeling Objects

Giving artifacts unique catalogue numbers and marking them is an important part of collection management. This two-minute techniques video will show you three different marking techniques.

Supply list for labeling objects