Clean Hands

  1. Do not eat or drink while handling photographic materials [prints, negatives, slides, etc]. Food attracts bugs.
  2. Wash your hands before working with collections. Oils from your hands can transfer to the photographic materials and cause permanent damage.


  1. Make sure you have sufficient workspace to accommodate the items with which you intend to work in order to prevent damage to the materials.
  2. Use number 2 pencils when you are working with or near collections, not pens or markers. Ink marks are irreversible. Pencil is erasable. Number 2 pencils are soft and don’t leave pressure marks unlike harder leads or mechanical pencils.
  3. Always check the condition of items before moving them. If they are damaged seek advice before proceeding and use care.

Handle with Care

  1. Do not lean on or set heavy objects on top of photographic items, even if they are covered or in a folder. The pressure can break older photographs if they are not perfectly flat or fully supported underneath.
  2. Do not write on paper, folders or envelopes while they contain photographic materials. Pressure marks can go through to the photographs and cause damage.
  3. To prevent scratches, avoid touching the surface of images or dragging anything across the face of an image. Also be careful not to drag negatives or slides across any surfaces.
  4. Always keep photographic materials completely flat on a level, well supported surface. Do not place photographs on your lap, under a stack of books, or let part of the photograph hang unsupported over an edge. Accidental application of pressure can cause breaks.
  5. Support items carefully when moving them. Use both hands to hold parallel sides of a photograph or place one underneath and hold an edge with the other to prevent bending, tearing or breaking.

Based on: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, "Safe Handling Tips for Pictorial Collections," (accessed Nov 19, 2005).