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Polyester Film Sleeves for Protection of Fragile or Damaged Specimen Labels


This method is designed to protect fragile or damaged specimen labels, whether detached or still tied to specimens. This system allows labels to be viewed from both sides without direct handling, and because the labels are not sealed in the envelope, they are accessible for annotation if necessary.

The technique can be used to protect labels of almost any material, including paper, metal, or plastic; however, the media on parchment labels could be damaged by static electricity generated by the polyester film. The care of parchment labels should be referred to a trained conservator.


Catharine A. Hawks
2419 Barbour Rd.
Falls Church, VA 22043–3026 USA
Tel/Fax (703) 876–9272

Stephen L. Williams
Natural Science Research Lab.
Museum of Texas Tech Univ.
4th Street and Indiana Avenue
Lubbock, TX 79409 USA
Tel (806) 742-2486
Fax (806) 742-1136

Illustrations: Alexia S. Scott
after Stephen L. Williams

Publication: 1992



The protective sleeves for the labels are constructed of two pieces of 3mil uncoated polyester film. One style of sleeve utilizes a pocket-style opening for easy removal and insertion of the label (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Pocket-style sleeve.

The other style is held closed with the string that attaches the sleeve to the specimen (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Sleeve with string closure.


Materials Tools Supplies

  • Fingernail scissors
  • Linen, cotton thread or string for tying labels
  • Metal straight edge
  • Paper punch
  • Pencil-point soldering iron or polyester film sealer crosswelding machine
  • Razor knife
  • Self-healing alignment grid
  • Stylus
  • Table top corner rounder (optional)
  • Uncoated polyester film (polyethylene terephthalate), 3mil
  • Window glass – one pane, 10in x 10in


  1. Cut film in a rectangle approximately 0.5cm wider and approximately 2.5cm longer than the label. Cut two pieces of film at the same time by placing two layers of film on a self-healing alignment grid and cutting along a metal straight edge, using a razor knife.
  2. Heat bond the two pieces of film together along one short side and one long side, using a polyester film-sealing machine or crosswelding machine, or a pencil-point tip soldering iron. If using the soldering iron, the work surface should be a glass plate placed over the cutting grid. The tip of the soldering iron should be run along a metal straightedge.
  3. Place the label in the sleeve and heat bond the third seam.
  4. If the label is to be attached to a specimen, use a paper punch to make a hole in one end of the sleeve for attaching the string.
  5. Because polyester film has sharp edges, all corners of the protective sleeves should be rounded to avoid damaging the specimens. This can be done with small fingernail scissors, or with a table top corner rounder.
  6. If the label itself is not directly tied to the specimen, an inscribed catalog number on the sleeve will allow reassociation of the specimen and data if the label is removed. Use a stylus to inscribe the specimen catalog number on the polyester film sleeve. 

Adapted From

Hawks, C.A., and S.L. Williams. 1986. Care of specimen labels in vertebrate research collections. Pp. 105-107 in Proceedings of the 1985 Workshop on Care and Maintenance of Natural History Collections. (J. Waddington and D. Rudkin, eds.). Life Science Miscellaneous Publications, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, 121pp.

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