By Carol Quinn – Archivist at the Archive in Midleton Distillery

Irish Distillers is rightly proud of its history and I often film interesting snippets from the Archive to share online with the wider community. Often, I’ll highlight a particular item, a document or photograph that illustrates the story I’m telling, and the feedback is always positive.

I have noticed in the comments that some people ask why I don’t wear white gloves when I’m handling such precious material. It’s a very good question, so I thought I’d take a bit of space here to explain why!

The idea behind wearing white gloves when handling archives is that you don’t damage or pass dirt to the item being handled. However, over the years archivists realised that the gloves, by reducing the natural dexterity of your fingers, can, in fact, increase the possibility of damaging fragile paper. That is why I rarely wear them and rely instead on having clean, dry hands, free of any lotion or moisturising agent. Gloves really should be restricted to use for artworks, where even the slightest touch of a finger can leave a trace, or photographs, where the chemicals in our skin could interact with the chemical composition of the image.

I do find them very useful though if I am displaying an item outside a display case and I don’t want people casually handling it. I’ll lay a pair of white gloves beside the item and that signals it’s not safe to touch. It works a treat! I’ll also occasionally wear them in a photo, again as a signal that what I’m holding is rare and precious.

For anyone who’s interested, read more about the great white gloves debate here