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Color-coded Specimen Storage Bags


In some institutions that have taxonomic paleontology type and non-type (general) collections, specimens are stored together in open cardboard specimen trays. Type specimens can be stored in reclosable bags with a red stripe (standard supply) fused on one of the flaps of the bag, whereas, non-type specimens can be stored in reclosable bags without a red stripe. This system allows type and non-type specimens to be easily distinguished when stored in the same drawers (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Specimens enclosed in color-coded polyethylene zip closure bags.

Figure 2. Various sizes and shapes of polyethylene bags with zippered closure.



Julia Golden
Department of Geology
University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA 52242 USA
Tel (319) 335-1822
Fax (319) 335-1821

Photographs: Stephen Shank

Publication: 1992


Polyethylene reclosable (zipper) storage bags are safe and useful for storing specimens (Fig. 2). If the air is lightly expelled before closing, the specimen will be held gently and securely without the need for cotton, polyester fiber, paper or other stabilizing material that is often used with bottles, vials, or boxes.

The bag lies flat in the specimen tray and prevents the specimen from rolling around. As long as each specimen is placed in a separate bag, multiple specimens in a lot also are protected from bumping against one another.

In addition, the specimen can be seen through the clear plastic bag, thus protecting it from excessive handling.

Specimens without catalog numbers written on them may be isolated in reclosable bags together with the catalog number written on a small piece of pH neutral paper.

In the case of multiple, durable specimens that are stored together (a specimen lot), placing them in a bag and expelling the air before closing the bag, will form a secure wrapping that keeps the specimens from shifting.

Materials Tools Supplies

  • Polyethylene bags with zippered closures are available in a range of sizes from 11/2in x 2in through 13in x 15in.
    The least expensive bags are 2mil thick with a single zipper. Double zipper and thicker polyethylene (4mil and 6mil) 
    are available in more limited sizes.
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