Gloves are Off - Meeting the Standard
Preservation for the Next
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Gloves are Off -
Meeting the Standard
In cities across the United States, the PBS Antiques Roadshow appraisers comment on
various objects and other antiques topics while simultaneously ignoring a standard museum practice. Whenever the
object-driven PBS show broadcasts, I pose the same question to the Antiques Roadshow appraisers Ö why donít they wear protective gloves when handling objects? Iím sure Iím not the first to pose this question yet the absence of gloves remains my fundamental criticism of the show.
In museums, gloves are standard issue. The practice of wearing gloves is arguably the most common, widely accepted, and standard policy in object preservation.
When it comes to handling any object, be it a 1960s autographed baseball or an 17th Century work of fine art, trained experts wear gloves to protect the object from the oils from our hands. The oils on our hands attract dirt that can deteriorate an object over time. Thus, handling objects can degrade an objectís condition impacting the life of the object and its monetary value.
In museums, if you are installing an exhibition, unloading an art shipment, examining an object, then you are wearing gloves. Many people who regularly handle objects--curators, registrars, special collections librarians--wear gloves, so why not Roadshow appraisers?
for the Next Generation
Iíve watched sports collectibles appraisers handle signed baseballs without wearing gloves! A risk most little leaguers wonít take with a beloved baseball keepsake.
As the appraisers say that some of the baseball memorabilia including a Babe Ruth autographed baseball
has an auction estimate of nearly $50,000, why are they not wearing
gloves? I guess smudging Babe Ruthís autograph with an oily finger wonít impact value too much, right?
The absence of gloves is a gross oversight. It may pose questions about the level of expertise of the appraisers. Some people without museum training have told me that they think the practice of wearing gloves is unnecessary since these antique objects have lasted this long already. This ďoh, it canít hurtĒ mentality is careless and disrespectful. It may show a lack of expertise for the care of historic objects and a disregard for their long-term didactic importance. In my opinion, objects are important despite their monetary value. They are worthy of handlers wearing protective gloves. If these objects are worth discussing in an historical or cultural context on TV and worth so much money, then they are also worth protecting.
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