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Container and Support System for Large, Relatively Flat Objects


Many natural history collections have large specimens, and housing for these objects requires special consideration. This system is designed to provide adequate storage for large flat items such as buckskin dresses, Japanese kimonos and study skins that are too heavy and bulky or too fragile to be hung. Because the cost of custom-made cabinets is too great for most museums, this economic solution provides adequate housing for these large pieces and the boxes can be stacked on open metal shelving.


Mei Wan Campbell
Museum of Texas Tech Univ.
4th and Indiana Ave.
Lubbock, TX 79409 USA
Tel (806) 742-2479
Fax (806) 742-1136

Figures 1 and 2: Karen Ackoff
after Mei Wan Campbell
Figure 3: Karen Ackoff

Publication: 1992



Each housing unit (Fig. 1) is individually designed and made with stable materials.

Figure 1. Container and support systems, including (a) the support board, (b) the
               specimen with paper covering, (c) the box, and (d) the lid.

It consists of two parts: a padded support board on which the specimen is placed (Fig. 2); and a drop-side, lidded box on which the support board holding the specimen is placed.

Figure 2. Cross section of a support board for a specimen, including 
               (a) pH neutral paper board, (b) microfoam sheeting, 
               and (c) pH neutral paper.

One side of the box can be opened flat and is held closed with hook and loop fasteners. This allows the specimen resting on the support board to be slid out of the box easily. The lid of the box is the same height as the bottom of the box and is secured to the bottom with hook and loop strips. The specimen can be stuffed with tissue paper (pH neutral or alkaline reserve as appropriate). The maximum size for this housing system is dependent on the size of available pH neutral paper board.

Materials Tools Supplies

  • Binder clips
  • Double-coated tape
  • Glue gun and hot melt adhesive
  • Hook and loop strips
  • Metal straightedge
  • pH neutral paper or polyethylene foam sheeting or polypropylene foam sheeting
  • pH neutral paper board, 4ply or pH neutral paper board double-wall, cross-directional or polypropylene/polyethylene 
    fluted/corrugated board
  • Scissors
  • Utility knife


Support Board

  1. Place the specimen on a clean table and record its dimensions.
  2. Measure and cut the support board with a utility knife, using a straightedge as a guide. The support board should be at least 5cm larger than the object on each side.
  3. Cut a piece of polyethylene or polypropylene microfoam sheeting the same size of the support board and fasten it to the board with double-sided pH neutral tape.
  4. Cut a piece of the lightweight pH neutral paper 5cm larger than the support board on all sides.
  5. Wrap the paper over the foam and board and around the edges; and adhere it to the back of the support board with double-sided tape (Fig. 2).
  6. If additional support is needed, lightly stuff the specimen with crumpled tissue paper, place it on the support board, and cover it with tissue paper.


  1. Calculate the box measurements by adding .5-1cm to the length and width of the support board and at least 5cm to the measured height of the specimen on the support board.
  2. Draw the measurements of the sides and bottom of the box on the board and cut the board to these dimensions using a utility knife and a straightedge (Fig. 3).

    Figure 3. Template for a custom-made box, showing the cut lines, scored lines,
                    and the placement of the hook and loop strips.

  3. Score the fold lines about half way through with a utility knife and cut completely through the board at each corner (Fig. 3).
  4. Bend along the scored lines and adhere one of the longer sides to its corresponding two shorter sides with a hot glue gun. Large binder clips can be used to hold the two sides together while the adhesive is setting.
  5. Cut two strips of hook and loop fasteners about 15cm long.
  6. Adhere the loop portions (smoother side) to the outside of the box ends and the hook portions (rougher side) to the inside of the remaining two corners (Fig. 3).
  7. Measure carefully the outer edges of the box bottom when making the lid. Take into account the thickness of the hook and loop strips.
  8. Cut the lid in the same manner as the box.
  9. Adhere all corners of the lid shut with hot melt adhesive.
  10. To ensure a tight fit, strips of hook and loop tape fasteners can be adhered to the inside of the lid (hook portions) and the outside of the bottom (loop portions) on the two longer sides.


For extremely heavy specimens, the support board of the bottom box can be reinforced with several 15cm wide strips of paper board adhered across the width. Another alternative is to use double-wall, cross-directional corrugated paper board, or fluted, corrugated polypropylene/ polyethylene board for the support board. The corrugated polypropylene/polyethylene is more expensive than paper board, but will take more weight without sagging.

These housing units can be stored on open shelving and/or stacked, provided the weight won’t cause sagging and exert excessive pressure on the bottom boxes and specimens.

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