Archives Outside

For people who love, use and manage archives

Archives Outside - For people who love, use and manage archives

Quick poll: do your readers use gloves when accessing archives

In our reading room at the Western Sydney Records Centre, where the original archives can be viewed, we have a large supply of both cotton and nitrile gloves for readers to use.

On the whole the preferred choice of glove is nitrile. I’m curious to know whether your readers have a ‘glove preference’ when accessing your archives? Or if readers are required to wear them?

I’m told by some of the archivists in Public Access that most researchers don’t like the cotton gloves as they tend to stretch and there is no friction when trying to turn pages. In fact, it appears these gloves may be doing more harm than good. This is lucky for us as our Conservation team encourages the use of nitrile over cotton and I think we may, in fact, slowly phase out our cotton gloves all together.


The Nitrile Examination Gloves we use are latex free and powder free; suitable for people with sensitive skin.

Plus, with cotton, someone has to take them home to wash them. With latex, one reader told me they take them home and do the dishes wearing them!

Category: Digital 2.0
  • Anna Blackman says:

    I work at the Hocken Collections in Dunedin, NZ. We have been having major problems with our cotton gloves shrinking when laundered by a commercial laundry (staff got totally sick of doing them at home). I’ll suggest we trial Nitrile gloves as the first choice, with the cotton available for any who don’t like nitrile.

    November 21, 2009 at 7:13 am
  • Anthea Brown says:

    Thanks for your comment, Anna; it seems those cotton gloves don’t fair well when washed. We’d love to know how your Nitrile glove trial goes and if your researchers prefer them.

    November 23, 2009 at 8:43 am
  • Kimberly O'Sullivan says:

    I am so unhappy with cotton gloves I have become the hand washing Nazi i.e. sending researchers accessing original material to the bathroom to thoroughly scrub their hands. They have all complied (surprisingly!) without a murmur. I so dislike cotton gloves, they never fit the user, they make fingers therefore ‘clumsy’ and when users access paper records seems to be more likely to cause paper tears as they cannot grip the pages properly to turn them. Yes, then there is the laundry problem! Do I take them home and wash them all? I currently have a huge pile of dirty gloves. Sorry to say I didn’t know about Nitrile gloves, will follow this up. Thanks for the information.

    December 6, 2009 at 12:12 am
  • Anthea Brown says:

    Hi Kimberly,
    I think you’ll notice a difference with the nitrile gloves – and they also come in different sizes. No more hand washing Nazi…and no more stress!

    December 7, 2009 at 9:32 pm
  • Jon Reast says:

    Thanks for an interesting article. There is certianly a strong case for using nitrile gloves rather than cotton, though I think it will take some time for many people to come around to the idea that they are actually a better option. Kimberly makes a vary valid point about the sizing. For some bizarre reason cotton gloves are sized differently and tend to be much longer in the finger than comparable nitrile gloves.

    March 30, 2010 at 11:57 pm
  • Anthea Brown says:

    The various size options in the Nitrile gloves is a real bonus for our readers. I also imagine there might be many ‘mismatched’ pairs of cotton gloves being distributed in reading rooms after being sent to the laundry for washing! Thanks for your comment, Jon.

    March 31, 2010 at 10:28 am