Gloves or No Gloves?

March 14 2023 | Castle

Gloves or no gloves? Hever Castle & Gardens is home to many precious objects including Tudor portraits and two of Anne Boleyn’s prayer books, known as Books of Hours. Castle staff are often pictured in the media or on social media holding the Book of Hours without gloves on.

The question is asked as to why we do not wear gloves when handling the precious items. We explain why.

Assistant Curator Dr Owen Emmerson said: “Gloves haven’t been used to handle precious items, such as 16th century books, for many years now. The reason for this is because they deaden the sensitivity of touch that is vital to ensuring we don’t tear their precious pages. Bare hands provide us with a much better understanding of how fragile the paper, or the parchment of the document we are handling is.

“Gloves can be clumsy, can catch unnecessarily on items, and they are much harder to keep clean than bare skin. Thoroughly cleaned and dry hands are now best practice, and glove usage has long been discouraged in the majority of the UK’s archives.”

Assistant Curator Kate McCaffrey added: “We would wear gloves when handling certain items, it all depends on what material you’re handling. For the Books of Hours it has long been best practice to use clean, dry hands to handle historic books”.

Owen explained the times when you might wear gloves: “For example, if you were handling materials such as photographs, photo film, certain metal objects and ivory. Certain historic material should also be handled wearing gloves.”

For more information on the best practice we follow you can read this blog from the National Archives.