Handling & Storage

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.

Please see the bottom of this page for a few handy videos!

Archives

Archival documents require housing (storage) in acid-free folders and boxes, like those for purchase here from Gaylord, in order to prevent their deterioration. 

A four flap (or book house) can protect a book in storage. This video from the Sustainable Heritage Network shows to make one.

Environmental control helps you preserve your items. This guide from the Northeast Document Conservation Center outlines basic prevention and environment control for an archive. It covers temperature, relative humidity, light, and air quality. 

If you are creating or adapting a space to house an archive, planning is essential. This resource from Libraries Now! outlines recommended practices and provides resources for planning archival storage.

If you have large items, like maps, in your collection, they’ll need separate storage. This storage guide from GIS Lounge outlines how they can be safety stored.

Collections

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