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Cushion and Subdivider for Mid-sized Skulls in Storage Boxes or Trays


This storage method is designed to cushion vertebrate skulls that are too large for storage in vials, but small enough to be accommodated in boxes or trays of various sizes.


Catharine A. Hawks
2419 Barbour Road
Falls Church, VA 22043-3026

Photograph: Karen Ackoff
assisted by Britt Griswold

Publication: 1992



The system is composed of two pieces of thick, cross-linked (electron-irradiated), expanded polyethylene foam that are inserted in the interior of a storage box or tray. One piece lines the bottom of the tray, and the other is configured to provide padding around the skull (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Skull positioned in cushioned tray.

Materials Tools Supplies

  • Polyethylene foam, (cross-linked,  electron-irradiated), 3/8in thick
  • Scissors
  • Small zipper closure polyethylene bags  or polyester film, (uncoated polyethylene terephthalate), 3-5mil


  1. Cut one piece of foam to fit inside the bottom of the container.
  2. Cut the second piece in a strip to a width that approximates the height of the skull, and long enough to make a single uninterrupted band that extends from: one corner of the interior of the box, across one long side, down the first short side and diagonally across the center, down the other short side, and then along the final side, ending at the corner that is diagonally opposite from the starting point (Fig. 1). This configuration keeps the strip in position without the use of adhesives. The central diagonal section will flex to accommodate the relative sizes of the cranium and the mandible that will be stored on either side of it.
  3. Detached specimen labels can be stored in small polyethylene bags (or sleeves made from polyethylene terephthalate film) that are inserted between the polyethylene foam and one side of the box or tray.
  4. Place the cranium and mandible in the cushioned container, keeping the teeth of each section facing upwards whenever possible. Some crania will be unstable in this position and will require placement with the teeth downward.
  5. If the container has a lid, a third piece of foam can be cut to the size of the interior of the lid.
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