How to handle archives

Watch our video on the best ways to handle our archives.

There are a number of techniques and tools you should use when handling our archive material. Watch our video guide above to find out more.

Archives can be very varied. Their format will depend on their age, what they're made from, and how they've been stored and used.

When you use our recommended handling methods you are helping us preserve our archives.

Key points

When handling our archive material, please make sure you:

  • pay attention to the format and condition of archives
  • lift and turn unbound items individually
  • work neatly and keep documents in order
  • use book supports when using bound archives
  • are aware that fasteners can restrict how well the documents open.

Watch our video

Watch the video above to find out the best way to handle:

  • unbound documents
  • treasury tags
  • paper clips
  • post binders
  • bound documents.

Collection guides

Stowe manuscripts

Manuscripts collected by the 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos at Stowe House

Literary archives and manuscripts 1600 to present

Archives of poets, playwrights, novelists and literary organisations

Theatrical archives and manuscripts 1900 to present

Archives of playwrights, actors, directors, critics, theatre companies and theatrical agents

Ted Hughes Collection

The special collection of Ted Hughes and Leonard Baskin books and manuscripts

Zweig manuscripts

Musical scores, fragments, and literary and historical items collected by Stefan Zweig (1881–1942).

Lady Eccles Oscar Wilde Collection

Printed items, manuscripts, letters, works of art and memorabilia relating to Oscar Wilde

Music manuscripts and archives

Sources for vocal and instrumental works from the Middle Ages to the present

Royal manuscripts

Manuscripts collected by English sovereigns from Edward IV onwards


A wide-ranging collection of fine and historic bindings

Medieval and early modern British literary manuscripts

Sources for British literature before 1600

King’s manuscripts

Medieval and post-medieval manuscripts and topographical material

Medieval and early modern British historical manuscripts

Sources for British history before 1600

Children's literature

Manuscripts and books by children's authors

Lord Chamberlain's Plays

Scripts of British plays first performed between 1824 and 1968

Modern playscripts

Scripts of new British plays since 1968