Conservation guidance for handling objects without damage

Conservators advocate for clean gloves, or thoroughly cleaned hands when handling objects. Most hand sanitisers have an alcohol base which evaporates quickly off the hands to leave them dry within a minute. Begin to handle once hands are dry; transference of liquid may damage objects.

  • These materials should be unaffected by use of hand sanitiser prior to handling: waxed and bare wood, glazed ceramics, glass.
  • These materials could be affected, if the sanitiser is not dry: textiles, metal work, paper, painted surfaces and artworks, taxidermy (e.g. anything that would be damaged by amino acids in our sweat, moisturisers, medication creams, etc.).

Avoid using anti-bacterial wipes on objects, as we don’t know how that could damage or affect the surface of the objects without testing. Objects sealed in Secol™ sleeves or acrylic boxes could be wiped. Consider staff PPE for cleaning products used.

Case studies

Leeds Museums and Galleries manage a primary schools membership scheme, including loans boxes containing only accessioned museum objects. These can be made Covid Secure using the 72-hour rule and robust handling practices in school. During lockdown they produced Museum at Home films for schools and families based on the boxes, which have longevity beyond Covid.