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Subject: Herpetological collection

Herpetological collection

From: Kathy Hall <kathyh>
Date: Saturday, January 23, 1999
Roberta Salmaso <rsalmaso [at] comune__verona__it> writes

>In our museum there is an old Herpetological collection (1850-1900)
>preserved in formalin. For health safety we would like to substitute
>formalin with 70% alcohol. Anyone knows if this change could damage
>the specimens?

I looked into these questions a few years ago for a natural history
curator colleague.

On the formalin question:

    Jonathan Bayliss
    "Removing Wet Specimens from Long Term Storage in Formalin"
    Conserve O Gram 11/1, 1993.
    Published by the National Park Service

    **** Moderator's comments: See:

Of course, given that formaldehyde (formalin = 10% formaldehyde in
water) is a known carcinogen, safety precautions and disposal are
extremely important.

There is also a great introduction by John Simmons to fluid
collections: "Storage in Fluid Preservatives" in the book Storage of
Natural History Collections, Volume 1, published by the Society for
the Preservation of Natural History Collections. (Sorry, I don't
have the full reference here).

He recommends using 70% ethanol over isopropanol, which may
dehydrate specimens severely, even at 50%. It is also more toxic
than ethanol.

On the rehydrating question, I think that this is the latest:

    Vogt, K.D. 1991.
    "Reconstituting Dehydrated Museum Specimens"
    Curator 34(2):125:131

Although I talked to several people working in natural history
collections who cautioned that it may be best to leave the specimens
in dehydrated condition. Apparently tissues undergo a great deal of
damage when they dehydrate, which will not be reversed when they are

Hope this is of some help,

Kathy Hall
Institute of Nautical Archaeology
Bodrum, Turkey.

                  Conservation DistList Instance 12:61
                Distributed: Wednesday, January 27, 1999
                       Message Id: cdl-12-61-003
Received on Saturday, 23 January, 1999

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