National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Handling Guidelines for Readers

Handling Guidelines for Readers

The collections in our care contain a wide range of organic materials such as paper, animal skins and wax. They undergo a continual and natural ageing process. Handling directly affects the life expectancy of the collections and accelerates this ageing process.

Vulnerable, rare or fragile items can be transferred onto more resilient and accessible media. In the interests of preservation, therefore, we shall sometimes ask you to use a surrogate copy (for example a digital image or microfilm) of the documents that you request, rather than the originals. Subject to the condition of the originals, we are normally happy to supply copies of documents. Where there are problems about providing copies, we shall discuss these with you.

You are also asked to inform search room staff of any damage you notice when consulting the records and to ask staff for assistance when handling physically awkward records. A variety of different items are available to help with accessing the collections, including book cushions, book 'snakes', and weights. Please ask staff if you require any of these.

Please handle all records as carefully as possible so that they are preserved for future generations:

  • do not eat (including gum and sweets) or drink in the Historical Search Room
  • your hands should be clean when handling original documents
  • you should take care to avoid touching the text of documents; acid-free book marks are provided for your use
  • the amount of original material that you may receive at any one time is limited for security and preservation reasons. If these limitations cause you inconvenience, speak to the staff
  • you should take care to keep records securely and safely on the desks
  • bound material can present problems and you are asked to make use of the book cushions, supports and book 'snakes' available. These help to avoid causing strain to bindings.
  • it may be possible to make tracings of plans, subject to their condition. Please ask search room staff about this. Where this is permitted, they will advise on procedures to follow.
  • you will need to wear cotton gloves when consulting photographic material or rare and fragile documents.

We ask you to be careful when making notes. In particular, we advise the following:

  • use only a computer or a pencil; a sharpener is provided for your use
  • take care not to mark the documents in any way
  • take care not to lean on the documents when making notes
  • only use an eraser for your notes; never use correction fluid
  • please use the acid-free bookmarks provided to mark your place

Thank you for your help and co-operation in preserving the archives.