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Archives and Special Collections

General Handling Procedures

Ryerson Archives & Special Collections has established handling procedures in order to protect the condition of our material and ensure our collections remain accessible for future use.

  • Ensure your hands are clean and without lotion when arriving at our reading room.
  • To avoid transferring ink on the materials, please use pencils of electronic devices for note taking.
  • Cardboard markers are available if you want to identify material to review or copy.
  • Be mindful when handling fragile items and do not place anything on top of our material such as laptops or notebooks
  • Photographs for personal research purposes may be taken of our collections. Depending on the condition of the item, you may photograph (without flash) or use our scanner to digitize material.


Please note that our material does not circulate and must be viewed inside our reading room.


Watch this video on Safe Handling of Collection Material created by the University of Melbourne to know what to expect when visiting an archival repository.

Handling Archival Documents

In addition to our general handling procedures, keep in mind the following considerations when working with archival documents such as correspondence, notes and manuscripts.

  • We will provide one box at a time, the other boxes should remain on the cart.
    • Please remove one folder from the box at once.
  • Keep the folder flat on the table and carefully review items one by one.
    • Keep items in their original order and do not remove items from their folder.
    • Do not remove fasteners or paper clips. 

Handling Books

We have a wide variety of unique, rare and valuable books in our collections. Regardless of their age or condition they should all be handled with care.

  • Gloves should not be worn when handling books.
    • Torn or delicate pages can easily catch on cotton gloves and can cause damage to paper-based materials.
    • Books with delicate bindings should be kept in cradles or other supports to protect the spine. 
    • Do not put pressure on spines or folds to make pages lie flat.
    • If a book is prone to closing, snake weights maybe be provided to hold pages in place.


To following video by the University of Texas at San Antonio outlines tools and techniques for handling rare books.

Handling Photographs

Photographic material, including prints, negatives and slides, require additional precautions since they may be vulnerable to natural oils or other elements transmitted when handling.


  • We ask that you wear gloves when handling photographic material
    • We have cotton and latex-free nitrile gloves available for researchers.
  • Handle photographs by the edges, and avoid touching the surface of the image.
  • If you come across photographs in a box of textual records which are not in plastic sleeves, please request gloves to handle the material.


Review this video by the University of Glasgow Archives and Special Collections for "do's" and "don'ts" for handling photographic prints.