OPAL re-housing project starts …

The 20 NHM drawers
The 20 NHM drawers

The funding hasn’t come through yet but I always planned to make a contribution myself so last Friday I bought the first 20 drawers from Max Barclay at the Natural History Museum in London! I didn’t have to buy them so quickly but I wanted to make a tangible start to the project and it coincided very nicely with my girlfriend wanting a trip up to London so … I am now the proud owner of 20 hardwood drawers – glass-topped and unlined.

Max (curator of beetles and one of the new faces of the Darwin Center) also kindly agreed to provide me with as many secondhand large unit-trays as I needed – they are slightly short but in all other respects fit the drawers perfectly. I also have an option to buy new unit-trays through the museum – they’re not cheap though so I am counting my pennies and trying to use secondhand as much as possible.

Unit trays are quite a problem because, although you might think that a ‘unit’ implies a standard size, there are multiple sizes. Oxford University Museum and Edinburgh have standardized on a wide ‘accession-type’ drawer; while the Natural History Museum & Cardiff Museum have standardized on a narrower, squarer design of drawer. There are other sizes too and the whole thing screams out for a revision but these massive museums have so many drawers already that it would cost a fortune to rehouse them, not to mention the years of work to transfer specimens into new drawers … sadly it will never happen.

A close-up of a drawer with unit-trays
A close-up of a drawer with unit-trays


3 Replies to “OPAL re-housing project starts …”

  1. I’ve had a go at making some unit trays but only prototypes with normal card. These were 100×50 and 100x100mm. I can imagin something like mounting card from art shops would be a better bet as it’s a decent thickness. It’s just finding some self-adhesive paper to completely fold around the back and into the inside of the box rather than just taping the corners which looks a bit tacky.

  2. The main problem is being able to mass-produce them to a high-enough quantity & quality. It’s all a bit fiddly for me though – I’d rather be working on flies than making-up boxes so it probably works out better to just buy them. At 10-pounds per drawer it isn’t cheap but most of the boxes are small sizes and I’d need to make about 1000 unit trays in all to fill 40 drawers 🙂

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