Handling Museum Objects

There are several important aspects to consider when handling museum objects:

About you:

• Ensure you have clean dry hands or the appropriate gloves when handling objects. Always wear gloves when handling metals and delicate surfaces such as gilding

• Remove any jewellery, keys, name badges or anything else that could scratch or get caught on the object when handling

• Ensure clothing is clean with no loose sleeves or scarfs and beware of catching objects on zips

• Tie back long hair so you can see where you are going and to ensure it will not get tangled with the object. Remove any nail varnish which may accidentally get transferred onto the surface of the object

• Use 2 hands to pick an object up and keep it comfortably close to your body. Do not pick an object up by its handle

• Move only one object at a time and do not stack boxes on top of each other to carry from room to room

• Consider the conditions of where you are taking the object to. Will the new environmental conditions cause stress on the objects? Is there appropriate protection from additional light?

• Do not have food or drink around objects or storerooms

• Do not use pens around objects


About the object:

• Does it need to be moved? Do not move objects more than necessary. If a researcher is coming to look at an object, can you take the researcher to the object?

• Consider the shape of the object – never pick anything up by its handle as this is an area of inherent weakness

• Consider how many people it would take to move the object and ensure you have enough help. Even lighter objects can be awkward to carry on your own

• Consider using equipment to help transport objects, such as carrying in a tray or using a trolley. Ensure that all equipment is in good working order and that personnel are properly trained where needed

• Plan your route – take an additional person if necessary to open doors etc

• Do you have enough time to move it safely? Do not rush when handling and moving objects around so plan your time carefully

• If the object is stored in a box, check carefully how it is packed before removing it so it can be put back in the same way

• Make a note of where the object is permanently displayed or stored so it can go back in the correct place. Document the movement of the object to monitor its use and to ensure its locations is known at all times

A great introduction for new staff and volunteers on object handling can also be found on the Museum of London’s e-learning site for objects handling

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