Someone in scrobs, wearing a surgical mask


The Bodleian Libraries and other museums across the University have answered a call to donate their Personal Protection Equipment to key workers and frontline healthcare professionals

Published: 14 April 2020


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A call from Oxford City Council to cultural sites for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) has been answered by the Bodleian Libraries, with other museums across the University also making donations.

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.

The Conservation and Collection Care team at the Bodleian Libraries 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.

Alex Walker, Preventive Conservator with the Conservation and Collection Care team, said: “The team hold this PPE as conservators often work with chemicals and hazardous substances, which might include 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 work with materials which could be easily damaged by the natural oils and acids on their fingers such as photographs, metals, gilt frames, and film; so gloves are required for handling.

“The Weston Library has a Quarantine Room for working with collections which need treating for insect damage, mould outbreaks, dusty or dirty items, or donations which have not yet been assessed by a conservator. Conservators will wear PPE such as nitrile gloves, protective masks, and disposable aprons, to work with these collections or respond to emergencies.”

Supporting healthcare professionals

Other Gardens, Libraries and Museums sites across the University have also donated PPE equipment to the London Ambulance Service.

The Ashmolean Museum, History of Science Museum, and Museum of Natural History were able to deliver nitrile and latex gloves, disposable face masks and aprons, and even full body hazmat suits to the COVID-19 logistics warehouse in Deptford.

A spokesperson for the Oxford University Museum of Natural History said: “Hazmat suits are not something you often find hanging out in museum stores. It just so happened we had them left over after a project.

“The museum obviously felt that it was something we could and should support wholeheartedly and we were more than prepared to make a donation to help out those healthcare professionals working on the front line during this crisis.”