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Storage System for Microscopical Preparations


Recommendations are made for the storage of microscopical preparations on standard 1in x 3in glass microscope slides.


Martha Goodway
Conservation Analytical Lab.
Museum Support Center
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC 20560 USA
Tel (301) 238-3733
Fax (301) 238-3709

Publication: 1992


The storage of microscopical preparations mounted on glass slides demands care to avoid breaking the glass or cracking the glass cover slip, and environmental control to maintain the integrity of the mounted samples.

Materials Tools Supplies

  • Glass microscope slides
  • Storage boxes with horizontal trays, aluminum or plastic



  1. Store slides in a flat position. There are several reasons for this. The resins used as mounting media are somewhat unstable; even those that are meant for permanent mounts can become brittle and crack or never harden completely. Also, the adhesive on paper labels can dry out and the labels come loose. Storing slides on edge (vertically), in the usual configuration, allows the samples and sometimes labels to fall to the bottom of the box where it is nearly always impossible to identify them.
  2. If the slides are already in wooden or plastic boxes slotted to hold them vertically, as an interim solution turn the boxes themselves on a side such that the slides are in a horizontal position. All the slides must be oriented with the preparation side up. Because boxes that are not in their usual position are liable to be straightened up by helpful hands, the new position should be clearly labeled with standard this side up shipping labels.
  3. Mounted slides should be protected from light which might cause the ink to fade and from dust which may become incorporated into the medium and possibly mistaken for the sample itself. Units therefore should be stored in cabinets or shelved in a dust-free area, unless it is required for use at the microscope bench.
  4. It is recommended that the location of each slide be marked on its tray, so that the identity of a missing slide will be immediately obvious.
  5. Preparations must be kept away from sources of heat that degrade mounting media and paper labels, if they are used.

Storage boxes with horizontal trays of aluminum or plastic are made by several manufacturers. One manufacturer produces aluminum trays in a wooden enclosure. This modular unit is 81/2in X 11in X 13in overall and holds 500 slides in 25 trays. This unit has a pocket door that slides into the case when open.

Other models are 22in tall with swinging doors and drawers for a card index at the bottom and have capacities of 1000, 2,000, or 3,000 slides. Another manufacturer produces a modular unit in plastic which measures 71/4in X 71/2in X 14in, and holds 240 slides in 12 trays.

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