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Support System for Collections Stored in Jars


The purpose of the system is to provide cushioned support for a small collection of specimens in glass jars (e.g., types, teaching collections, exceptionally important collections) while maintaining visibility of the jar contents and labels. This system is especially pertinent for earthquake-prone regions. The fabrication is done in-house using inexpensive tools.


Tamsen Fuller
325 S.E. Alexander Ave.
Corvallis, OR 97333
Tel (504) 752-1475

Alice M. Blount
The Newark Museum
49 Washington Street
Newark, NJ 07101 USA
Tel (201) 596-6550
Fax (201) 642-0459

Carol Bossert
The Newark Museum
49 Washington Street
Newark, NJ 07101 USA
Tel (201) 596-6550
Fax (201) 642-0459

Photograph: Tamsen Fuller

Illustration: Karen Ackoff after
Tamsen Fuller

Publication: 1992



The jars are held in holes cut into a plank of polyethylene foam that is adhered to a rigid support. A sheet of soft, thin crosslinked polyethylene foam sheeting is placed in the holes prior to inserting the jars. The jars fit snugly and the foam sheeting may be taken out first so that the jar lifts out easily. If present, unattached specimen labels are encapsulated in clear polyester film and placed upright near the jar in a slit cut in the polyethylene foam plank (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Jar support system constructed of polyethylene foam. Cross – linked polyethylene foam liner strips are indicated with an arrow.

Materials Tools Supplies

  • Alkaline reserve paper
  • Copper pipe
  • Glue gun and hot-melt adhesive
  • Grinding wheel
  • Hacksaw
  • Hole saw
  • Metal straightedge
  • Metallic file
  • Papercutter, for heavy paper and board
  • Pipe cutter
  • Polyester film (polyethylene terephthalate)
  • Polyethylene foam plank, 2in thick
  • Polyethylene foam sheeting, irradiation crosslinked
  • Polypropylene/polyethylene fluted, corrugated sheeting
  • Rheostat
  • Sandpaper
  • Soldering iron
  • Vise


  1. With a pipe cutter or hacksaw, cut 6-8in lengths of copper pipe corresponding to the diameter of the jars. Copper pipe is manufactured in diameters up to six inches.
  2. Sharpen one end of the pipe to razor sharpness using a grinding wheel, metallic file, sandpaper or other appropriate abrasive tool.
  3. Cut holes for the jars in the polyethylene foam plank with the copper cylinder by pressing the sharpened edge into the foam and rotating the cylinder. Keep the instrument sharp for even results. The holes should be perpendicular to the foam plank (Fig. 2). A hole saw attached to a drill may be used to cut the holes if a depth of less than 1in is needed.

    Figure 2. Construction of jar support system. 
                    top, Cross section. 
                    bottom, Top view.

  4.  Using a glue gun and hot-melt adhesive, or a heat gun to soften the polyethylene plank, make the bottom for the support by attaching the polyethylene foam plank to a second sheet of polyethylene foam plank or other rigid support such as fluted corrugated polypropylene sheet.
  5. Line the holes completely but without overlapping the edges of the liners with soft crosslinked polyethylene foam. Cut the liner so that it extends beyond the hole and is easy to grasp. When the jar is placed in the hole, the fit should be snug (Fig. 1).
  6. Encapsulate extra labels (those not attached or inside the jars) in 3-5mil clear polyester film (See Northeast Document Conservation Center “Encap-sulation in Polyester Film Using Double-Coated Tape”, this volume).
  7. Labels that have writing on only one side can be encapsulated with the addition of a sheet of alkaline reserve paper. Cut the paper into rectangles about 1/8in longer on each side than the label itself.
  8. Make a slit in the polyethylene foam near the jar to hold the label.
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