How to handle prints, drawings and photographs

Keep photographs in their protective sleeves and avoid touching their surface.

Prints, drawings and photographs are vulnerable to damage through handling and use. Watch our video to see the tools and techniques you should use to keep them in good condition.

Key points

When handling prints, drawings and photographs, make sure you:

  • handle them as little as possible
  • avoid touching their surface
  • have enough space to work in and any tools to hand
  • replace mount covers and protective interleaving
  • don’t remove items from protective sleeves.

Watch our video

Our video guide shows the best ways to handle:

  • prints photos
  • loose prints and drawings
  • mounted prints and drawings
  • photographs in protective sleeves
  • unprotected photographs
  • photograph albums.

Collection guides

Cartographical collections

Travel collections and an extensive series of views by Wilhelm Berger.

King George III Topographical and Maritime collections

30–40,000 maps, plans and views, both printed and hand-drawn, of all parts of the world

Western illuminated manuscripts

Approximately 9,000 manuscripts with decoration or illumination

Sale catalogues

An essential resource for provenance research


Terrestrial and celestial globes dating back to 1600 and gores dating to 1544

Ordnance survey mapping

The most comprehensive, publicly accessible collection of Ordnance Survey maps in the world

Fire insurance and shopping centre plans

Fire insurance plans of Great Briatin and other countries dating back to 1885

Photographically illustrated books

Our collection of books illustrated with original photographs is among the largest collections in the world

Talbot Collection

A major archive of correspondence, notebooks, photographs and other material

The Kodak historical collection

A major resource for the study of the development of photography

Topographical views

Our collections date from around the 14th century and the coverage is worldwide

Western drawings

The British Library has a vast number of drawings in Rare Books, Manuscripts and Maps

Western prints

We have a vast number of prints in Rare Books, Manuscripts and Maps

War Office Archive maps

Military intelligence maps and associated documents relating to East Africa

India Office Company paintings

Collections of drawings made for East India Company officials, chiefly by Indian artists.