Libraries and museums donate PPE to frontline workers

Conservator holding and examining paper document

The Bodleian Libraries, Ashmolean Museum, History of Science Museum and Museum of Natural History all answered a call to donate their Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to key workers and frontline healthcare professionals.

The PPE will be used in the Council’s new Locality Response Centres, which will help support the most vulnerable in the city throughout the coronavirus outbreak. These centres will provide support for issues such as isolation, as well as routine pharmacy and food services, while also co-ordinating council and voluntary sector services. PPE was also donated to the London Ambulance Service.

At the Bodleian Libraries the Conservation and Collection Care team was able to offer boxes of nitrile gloves, disposable aprons, sleeve protectors, protective masks, and antibacterial wipes. These were topped up with supplies held by the Departmental Safety Officer.

The Bodleian holds this PPE as conservators often work with chemicals and hazardous substances, such as dyes used to tone fabrics for book repair, solvents for conservation treatments, and materials in the library collections themselves such as lead, poisonous pigments, or pesticides. Conservators also wear PPE such as nitrile gloves, protective masks, and disposable aprons, to work with the collections or respond to emergencies.

PPE Donations from GLAM

At the Ashmolean Museum Morwenna Blewett, Paintings Conservator and Junior Research Fellow, noticed that there was a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for medical professionals and that other museums had donated PPE directly to the London Ambulance Service. She started to collect PPE from the Ashmolean’s Conservation Department who use medical grade PPE for handling objects from collections to protect the objects themselves, but also during conservation and analytical procedures to protect themselves.

Meanwhile Head of Conservation, Daniel Bone, also suggested other departments within the Ashmolean Museum could be asked. PPE is also used in museum study rooms and storage areas for various purposes including handling and examination. The Antiquities Department and Eastern Art Department also donated gloves.

A call out to other GLAM sites yielded further supplies from the History of Science Museum and the Museum of Natural History, who were able to offer full body hazmat suits left over from a project. Some museums wanted to provide PPE but were unable to as they were already locked down.

These items were donated to the London Ambulance Service, hand delivered by staff to the Service’s COVID-19 logistics warehouse in Deptford.