Archive and Special Collections

The books bite back

Looking after book collections seems such a benign activity. I had been aware of the issues involved in dust, dirt and other pollutants and the need to protect collections. My main concerns were in protecting the rare books especially in our ‘Z’ Cabinets.

Working along the shelves producing an electronic listing and performing an audit of our holdings, I was aware of the accumulated dust and carefully cleaned the material as I went. The cotton gloves I initially wore were quickly dirty and manual dexterity was reduced, I didn’t want to damage the pages so I abandoned the gloves and began washing my hands more frequently as I worked.

But this was not enough, last week my chin was infected. An unfortunate habit of stroking my chin while working, transferred a cocktail of dirt, pollutants, skin oils etc. Orders from my doctor to take the anti-biotics and don’t shave and the infection has almost cleared up.

I now have finger grip gloves and a bottle of hand sanitzer and a newly aquired respect for keeping archives and special collections environments as clean as possible.

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By Dr Keith Rowntree
16 Nov 2017
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