What do you think of when you hear the word "archive"?
- Old manuscripts
- Picturesque reading rooms
- Bound volumes filled with crabbed hand writing
- Wearing white gloves
However, when you work with manuscript collections and books that we have, you will find before the end of your first day that those gloves are more trouble than they are worth. For years I had felt some level of guilt for this, because those gloves! It's just part of the reality of the profession, right? Well, no. That's not necessarily the case.
The current modern argument is in favor of keeping your hands freshly washed. This will be healthier for the papers in the long run. A little skin oil isn't nearly as harmful as tearing pages because you can't feel how fragile they are. If you would like to learn more about the whys and wherefores of the glove myth, I recommend reading Cathleen Baker and Randy Silverman's essay on the topic.
Thanks to Claudette for pointing me to this article.
image courtesy of the US Army Sergeants Major Academy website