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Rare Books & Manuscripts

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Manuscripts & Archives: Care & Handling Guidelines

Manuscripts and archival materials are unique, irreplaceable, and often fragile. We welcome your request to consult primary source material. In order to ensure that these documents will be available for future students and scholars, we ask that you read these guidelines and agree to follow the instructions before beginning your research.

  • Make sure your hands are clean.
  • Handle materials carefully, touching just the margins if possible.
  • Use pencils only.
  • Do not add or remove marks from the material.
  • Place document boxes on a black cart next to your chair; do not put boxes on the Reading Room table.
  • Keep all documents and folders flat on the Reading Room table during use.
  • Do not lay papers, notecards, books, or other objects on top of manuscript material or write on paper resting on top of manuscript material.
  • Use white cotton gloves (available at the Monitor’s Desk) while examining photographs and negatives.
  • Use one folder (or document) at a time. Return the folder to its correct location in the document box before removing another folder.
  • Stack loose leaves carefully before returning them to their folder, leaving no projecting edges to crease or tear.
  • Maintain the order and arrangement of archival collections—this includes the order of documents within a folder as well as the order of folders within a box.
  • Do not separate documents or items from folders. (Please report any irregularities regarding arrangement to the Reading Room monitor.)


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   Last updated:  October 27, 2008 | Send comments & questions to | © 2001 University of Southern California