When two hydrogen-passivated silicon surfaces are placed in contact under cleanroom conditions, a weak bond is formed. Cleaving this bond under ultrahigh vacuum (UHV) conditions, and observing the surfaces with low energy electron diffraction and scanning tunneling microscopy, we find that the ordered atomic structure of the surfaces is protected from oxidation, even after the bonded samples have been in air for weeks. Further, we show that silicon surfaces that have been cleaned and hydrogen-passivated in UHV can be contacted in UHV in a similarly hermetic fashion, protecting the surface reconstruction from oxidation in air. Contact bonding opens the way to novel applications of reconstructed semiconductor surfaces, by preserving their atomic structure intact outside of a UHV chamber. © 1997 American Institute of Physics.