In his latest newsletter, Dick Eastman directs our attention to a righteous smackdown of the cherished notion that white cotton gloves are de rigueur when handling old books and documents. Said smackdown (available in .pdf form at the link) actually dates back to 2005, demonstrating that this skepticism about gloved fingers has been around a while.
While I’ve heard the naysaying about white gloves, I admit I hadn’t read this exhaustive examination of the topic. And it is exhaustive! Fortunately for the time-pressed, the end of the article includes a tight summary of the key points:
• Routine handling does not seem to cause chemical damage to paper, even in heavily used books and documents.
• Cotton gloves do not present a foolproof guarantee against dirt and perspiration.
• They may, indeed, increase the chance of physical damage to the materials.
• It might make more sense to just ask everyone to wash their hands thoroughly before researching.
• All of the above does NOT apply to negatives or photographs, which carry their own special requirements.
So there’s the technical take on things. But what about the real-world etiquette for non-conservator types (like yours truly) who just want to make sure they don’t get their special-collections room access revoked?
Obviously you have to play by the rules you find on the playing field. If the staff insists upon the gloves, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to get into a fight with them about it, and that goes double if you’ve driven or flown to the archive from far away, and your time is limited.
That being said, if I get into one of those situations where using the gloves makes it difficult to turn a page without tearing it, I guess I feel pretty good now about slipping them off on the sly. Just for a couple of seconds. Don’t tell on me, OK?
The 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire passed today, marked by ceremonies in front of the building where 146 workers died. And for the first time all the names of the victims were read. The final few unidentified dead have now been accounted for, thanks to the work of a dogged researcher who dug into genealogical sources and previously untapped accounts in the the immigrant press. For most of the dead were young immigrant women in their teens and early 20s, although strollerderby’s Sunny Chanel notes that the youngest worker killed was only 11 — reflecting the fact that tough laws against child labor would not be enacted until 1916. [Edited to note: Most historical accounts I have seen list the youngest victims as 14, a bit older, but the point still stands.]
The fire was a landmark not only in New York City history, but in the fight for workers’ rights in general. Sadly, the lure of cheap clothes continues to fuel new Triangle-style garment factories across the globe, as Kevin Clarke reports in in America magazine. And a survivor’s granddaughter writes about the legacy of outrage and activism the fire cast over her own family, as well as the progress yet to be made.
Seems like a good time for a listen to a quintessential anthem for women workers:
Elizabeth Taylor, who was probably the reason the word “fabulous” was invented, and who died on Wednesday at age 79, had family roots in Springfield, Ill., reports the State-Journal Register.
“Taylor’s father, art dealer Francis Lenn Taylor, was born in Springfield on Dec. 28, 1897. His parents, Francis Marion Taylor and Elizabeth Mary Rosemond, were married in Sangamon County Feb. 27, 1890.”
Now that isn’t as fabulous as being 15 minutes late (intentionally) to your own funeral, but it’s still pretty darn fabulous if you’re from Springfield, as is Mr. Archaelogist (a k a the guy at Actuarial Opinions), to whom I owe this important genealogical tidbit.
And let us also not forget that Springfield is hosting the 2011 Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in September.
This concludes today’s news update regarding Springfield fabulousness. You’re welcome, Springfield.
I realized I’d reached some sort of watershed the day I noticed that anytime I fed my surnames into genealogy meta-search engines, they’d just spit all my own posts and queries right back at me.
“I checked it very thoroughly,” said the computer, “and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.”
From (where else?) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams …
(… who could have been thinking about genealogy, not just The Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe and Everything.)