I was recently asked to rehouse a new accession to the CRC special collections; a beautiful belt previously belonging to a Scottish Suffragette made from a strip of ribbon, embroidered with enamelled motifs, with a metal buckle. You can find out more about this belt in this blog post.
Due to the huge amount of attention this item received on social media, I knew that it would be very popular, and likely to be requested multiple times for seminars, tours and researchers. As such, I wanted to create a housing solution that would reduce the handling of this item, as well as protect it whilst in storage.
Repeated handling can be very damaging to objects as the bending and flexing causes mechanical stress, which can lead to fractures at stress points. It is often assumed that white cotton gloves are worn when moving all archival collections. But that is not the case. Cotton gloves tend to reduce manual dexterity, and can get caught on tears on paper. Here is an excellent article on the misperceptions of wearing white gloves.
Handling certain objects, such as gilt frames, photographs and bronze sculptures without gloves, however, can be detrimental as the salts and oils on our fingertips can cause metals in corrode and leave marks on photographs. Normally nitrile gloves are worn when touching these items. Clean, dry hands that are free of creams and lotions are usually the best for most other objects, but ideally they should be handled as little as possible.
To reduce handling of the belt, I made a box with from unbuffered card and two rigid base boards that were padded with domett wadding and calico cotton. One base board can be used to lift out the belt from the box. The other can be placed on top and used to flip the belt over, so that the reverse can be viewed without touching it at all.
The slide show below shows the stages of taking the belt out of the box.
This new storage will allow the Suffragette belt to be safely consulted for years to come.
Special Collections Conservator