Tips on collections care during digitisation from @MarchesNetwork

Becky Harvey, Flying Collections Assistant, for the Marches Network, recently led a workshop for volunteers about collections care during digitisation. The workshop marked the launch of the Pen Museum’s archive digitisation project and looked specifically at ways of protecting 2D archival items to support this project.

You can read the full blog here. Below are some of the main tips that came out of the day.

Although the session was concerned with archives, much of the advice given is relevant for 3D objects too. Here are some of the tips from the day

  • Archives should be stored in a cool, dark environment with a stable relative humidity. To help achieve this keep them in acid-free storage enclosures away from windows, doors and radiators. Avoid storing boxes on the floor.
  • Keep similar materials together and try to match documents to the size of the box to avoid movement. Don’t try to fit too many items in one box.
  • Museum objects and archives are most likely to be damaged by inappropriate handling techniques.
  • Gloves can reduce your dexterity meaning it’s more likely you will damage paper items. The National Archives’ policy is that gloves are not required for safe handling unless easily damaged material, such as photographs, are being handled.
  • It is important to ensure your hands are clean by washing and drying before handling and refrain from applying hand cream. Don’t lick your fingers to turn pages.
  • How to care for... documents and archivesRemove any jewellery that might catch or scratch the materials you are working with and any nail polish that could discolour it.
  • Prepare your working area and the route you will take before moving boxes or documents. Ensure these areas are free from food and drink and that they are clean, clear and tidy. Prop open any doors or ask someone to guide you.
  • Don’t struggle: if an item is heavy or large ask for help or use a tray or trolley to move it.
  • We handle museum objects very differently to the way we would use them at home. Try to forget about the object’s function. When working with books never remove from a shelf by pulling on the head-cap and ensure the angle of opening does not strain the binding structure.
  • Keep documents flat and fully supported, ideally lift on a piece of acid free card to avoid touching the actual document. If you have to touch it, try to only handle blank parts of the page.
  • Don’t assume that modern documents will be more robust than older ones. In the 19th century mechanised papermaking and printing used cheap wood pulp which is inherently acidic and more likely to deteriorate. Furthermore resins used in production create sulphuric acid which attacks paper turning it yellow and brittle.
  • Look out for signs of pest infestation and learn to recognise common insect pests such as silverfish and booklice, which eat or graze on paper. You can find out more here.
  • Take notes in pencil rather than pen and keep potentially damaging stationery products away from your work area.

Click on ICON leaflet above for more information or for a copy of the handout from the session please contact Becky Harvey at


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