The main concern I would have with types (or the rest of the collection for that matter) in the event of fire is the sprinklers coming on and getting everything wet.  I believe the gun safe solution at ARS relates mainly to the fact that there have been various leaks and floods in the collection over the years, and the safe is water proof as well as fire proof.  Some sophisticated, purpose built collection buildings, such as Naturalis in Leiden, have systems that evacuate all the air from the collection space in two minutes or something like that, and eliminate the need for water-based fire suppression.  But here in the US, collections usually wind up in the most decrepit, marginally inhabitable space left over, after spaces for exhibits, labs and offices have been claimed. 






From: Entomological Collections Network Listserve <[log in to unmask]> On Behalf Of Skvarla, Michael Joseph
Sent: Wednesday, December 18, 2019 9:02 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: type cabinets


The Smithsonian aphid type slides, which are kept at the USDA-ARS Systematic Entomology Lab in Beltsville, MD, are housed in a fireproof gun safe. After the safe was installed, the slide cabinets had to be modified to fit inside as they were a bit too wide for the door opening (the story I heard is that they only measured the inside dimensions of the safe and not the door opening, which wasn't quite as wide, whoops). Gun safes come in all manner of shapes and sizes, so there's certainly one that has a door wide enough to accept a drawer of pinned specimens. You'd just have to rig up some kind of bracket system to hold the drawers.


Best regards,



Michael Skvarla, Ph.D.
Insect Identifier and Extension Educator
Department of Entomology
Penn State University


From: Entomological Collections Network Listserve <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Chris Grinter <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, December 17, 2019 8:52 PM
To: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: type cabinets


Insects handle shaking very well - Jason Dombroskie at Cornell has shake-plate tested insects with surprising results. Jason, do you have that video online somewhere or is that being written up? Consider after all we ship these specimens across the world with little to no damage. Compactors seem to also help mitigate the shaking.


"Also, quakes often bring fire...."


That's why the room is a concrete vault. If that's on fire we'll all be dead! ha




Christopher C. Grinter

Collections Manager of Entomology, The California Academy of Sciences
President, Entomological Collections Network

Assistant Secretary & Asst. Treasurer, The Lepidopterists' Society

55 Music Concourse Drive

San Francisco, CA 94118

office: 415-379-5320



On Tue, Dec 17, 2019 at 4:31 PM Peter A Rauch <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

I can't imagine the dismay upon opening up insect cabinets and observing the drawers' contents after a violent shake. The current engineering thinking for buildings, bridges, etc., is to mount them on sliding / rolling bases so that violent displacements can be controlled.


Has anyone tested the vulnerability of commonly-prepared, drawered specimens to the kinds of shaking that "the next big one" will give that material?


"In theory the room is engineered to withstand anything California can throw at it."


Also, quakes often bring fire....




On Tue, Dec 17, 2019 at 2:24 PM Christopher Grinter <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

We have standard Delta cabinets with regular wood drawers. The cabinets are bolted to the walls and locked in hopes of keeping things secure during a more severe earthquake. With ~700+ drawers of types the only evacuation plan is grabbing drawers - but removing them from the room is probably more dangerous than leaving them in place. In theory the room is engineered to withstand anything California can throw at it.


Christopher C. Grinter
Collections Manager of Entomology, The California Academy of Sciences
President, Entomological Collections Network
Assistant Secretary & Asst. Treasurer, The Lepidopterists' Society

55 Music Concourse Drive
San Francisco, CA 94118
[log in to unmask]
office: 415-379-5320

On Dec 17, 2019, at 1:16 PM, Karen Wright <[log in to unmask]> wrote:


Hi all, do any of you have special cabinetry for type specimens? Our standard is Steel Fixture. Thanks, Karen


Dr. Karen W. Wright

Associate Curator

Texas A&M University Insect Collection

Department of Entomology

2475 TAMU

College Station, TX 77843

(979) 845-9711


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