If you saw the recent episode of Who Do You Think You Are? featuring Rachel and Kayleen McAdams, you might have noticed them wearing some special accessories. When they visited the Archives of Ontario, they had to don purple gloves when handling a map of land grants in Ontario. So, what’s up with the those?
The purple gloves weren’t intended as a fashion statement. Some archives use nitrile gloves instead of white cotton gloves for handling materials that could be harmed by the oil on your fingers. Nitrile gloves allow for better feeling and often fit better than cotton gloves. This helps reduce the chance of inadvertently tearing or creasing the document when you’re handling it. Nitrile gloves are also disposable, which means that they aren’t holding the dirt and grime from previous research sessions.
You might be wondering about latex gloves. Some people have allergic reactions to latex. Nitrile gloves have gained popularity over latex for that reason.
White gloves, nitrile gloves, bare hands – which is it?! As researchers, it comes down to this: Always have clean hands (even with gloves), use common sense, and follow the rules of whatever archive you are in.