Danger, Will Robinson

Now, you might think that working in the archives is danger-free…it’s a library right? It’s not like working retail during the holidays or at a coffee shop in the morning or postal service in the rain. But there is more here than meets the eye. Much more. Today, as my new sweater was rapidly covered in a layer decomposing leather, I began to consider the uncounted perils of the archives.

Here are my top 5 archival hazards:

  1. Red Rot: The degradation of leather due to exposure to high humidity. The leather (on books, belts, trunks, shoes) become structurally weak and sheds a powdery substance. Red powder. On my face. On your khaki pants. All over my sweater.
  2. Metal Edged Boxes: Maybe it’s just me, but I manage to scrape my forearm on the corner of a metal edged, archival box at least once a week. They provide great storage, but are clearly danger in disguise for those of us prone to injury.
  3. Oversize Boxes: And I don’t mean the heavy ones. Those are bad, but you just need to build up your archival muscle. No, no, I mean the big, flat ones. The ones that are always on top of the shelves. Always. The ones that are wider than the aisle you’re standing in. The ones that, when you finally retrieve them, leave you looking like you just wrestled a bear in a match to the death.
  4. Cart Accidents: I suppose this is somewhat self-explanatory. Particularly full carts can be dangerous. I mean a cart with 300lbs. of boxes on it. They are hard to maneuver. I have rolled over my own feet. I have rolled over other people’s feet. I have nicked the wall. It can be embarrassing.
  5. Paper Cuts: Maybe you think it’s just one, but oh no, it’s not. Paper cuts under your finger nails. Paper cuts under your cuticles. As if that wasn’t bad enough, try cuts from folders. Terrible slicing pain! Or cardboard - the worst of all. The horrible stinging on your fingers, hands, and arms, and all you can think is “Don’t bleed on the papers! Don’t bleed on the papers!”