[Taxacom] Managing vials

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Wed Jul 12 03:39:31 CDT 2006

For many years our museum stored its stoppered or cotton-plugged glass vials
in alcohol, in wide-mouthed glass jars of the sort used for preserving food.
These jars have untapered sides, glass tops held in place with a wire clamp,
and rubber rim seals. Preserving jars are cheap, readily available in
various sizes and ideal for the purpose. Over time, however, there is slow
evaporative leakage of alcohol, and the rubber seals deteriorate and have to
be replaced.

We now use a range of sizes of wide-mouthed glass jars with screw-on plastic
lids. These are also made for storing food, but unlike the preserving jars
these taper in slightly at the base and neck. To reduce evaporation of the
alcohol surrounding the vials we use plastic neck inserts. These fit the
neck tightly and have a narrow flange which covers the rim of the jar. When
the plastic cap is screwed down hard on this flange the seal is excellent.
The neck inserts are available in large quantities from a specialist
manufacturer at a reasonable price. I think they're polyethylene.

We find the new-style storage much easier to use and maintain. Much of our
insect storage is in 15x45mm vials, like yours. A 500ml jar, which is 145mm
high, 75 mm in diameter and with a ca. 52 mm neck opening, neatly holds 38
such vials.

Our biggest problem with these vials isn't storing them, but holding them
securely for study purposes. Some people use Styrofoam blocks with 15mm+
holes drilled in, but a better vial holder can be made for
nothing from a discarded cardboard carton.

Cut the carton's base off to a height of 40mm. Cut the rest of the cardboard
into strips 30mm wide. Make one set of strips the length of the carton's
inside length, and the other set the length of the carton's inside width.
Mark off the strips every 20mm of length, and cut a slot at each point which
goes halfway through the width of the strip. Finally, "interdigitate" the
strips by fitting them together notch to notch, long strip to short strip.
You now have a near-rigid grid with 20mm square holes which just fits inside
the carton base. It sounds tedious, but an hour's work with a 340x460mm
carton, say, gives you a sturdy, compact vial-holder with a capacity of 336
15x45mm vials.
Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate, Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
and School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
(03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195

Tasmanian Multipedes
Spatial data basics for Tasmania

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