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Gloves: to use or not to use?

Is wearing gloves in conservation a sacred commandment?

Not always...

The first question we must answer is: Why should I wear gloves?

The skin secretes oils and metabolic wastes, including various salts and urea, and these react aggressively with some materials causing irreversible damage. For example, fingerprints can cause metal corrosion.

@Canadian Conservation Institute

To protect objects from these secretions, gloves should be worn when handling most objects. A variety of gloves are available, and the type of gloves chosen will depend on the type of object being handled (and personal preference).

Disposable vinyl, nitrile, or latex gloves are non-absorbent, making them suitable for objects that are dusty or dirty, have a rough surface (which can snag on cotton fibers), or have a very smooth surface (which can be slippery).

Some organizations don't use latex gloves because some people are allergic to them.

Cotton gloves are good for clean, dry objects that aren't too rough or too slick. However, many conservators do not recommend its use – as they feel that its thickness and seams can restrict the feel. Also, cotton gloves don't completely protect against sweat, so some moisture can still be transferred to the object.

Wear impervious gloves if there is reason to suspect a health risk (e.g. mold).

While clean gloves prevent the transfer of natural skin oils to the paper, they reduce tactile sensitivity and increase clumsiness. Studies have shown that skin oils can affect the aging of paper, but some preservation experts prioritize reducing the physical risk from reduced tactility.

And there are times when the conservator needs to "feel" the object so that he can manipulate it with greater security. So, don't be scared or point the finger when you see an image of a person working without wearing gloves!

You don't know if the professional washed his hands very well BEFORE touching the object.

As always, it's good to remember... each case is different!

And to add more fire to the fire, we leave you with a very interesting video about "why we are not wearing gloves!" from the British Museum!

And you? What do you think of this controversy? Comment in the comments! =)

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1 Comment

Hi! First of all, yes very good point, we don't have gloves all the time. People tend to point the finger to us we are not. But the reasons we use or not are very incomplete in the blog, and i do think this topic is too controversial for it not to be completed. Starting with the fact that we don't only use gloves to protect the artwork , we use it to protect ourselves ! These paintings can sometimes have centuries old, full of bacteria, mold or sometimes we are using toxic solvents, glues etc. They are, first of all , EPI! Not for the artwork but for us. We tend to put these artworks ahead of health …

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