Abstract

Museums use gelatin capsules to store small objects and specimens, despite limited documentation of their long-term viability. The Royal Alberta Museum (RAM of Canada) uses gelatin capsules to store seeds, bones, and plant material because of their ease of use, transparency, soft-bodied walls, size availability, and low cost. Recently, RAM staff reported damaged capsules from the palaeontology collections. We evaluated 499 capsules used to store specimens accessioned in 1986 and 1988 and investigated capsule properties using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and Oddy testing. Only 4.21% of inspected capsules were dented, cracked, and/or fractured. Based on interviews and testing, we determined that damage to capsules likely resulted during handling (i.e., applied force when opening). We conclude that gelatin capsules offer a good, inexpensive method for long-term storage of small, dried specimens in environmentally controlled conditions. Alternatives to gelatin capsules exist, although their pros and cons require evaluation before use. All storage methods require continuous monitoring for signs of container or specimen deterioration.

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Author notes

Associate Editor.—Yemisi Dare