The study of amber / How to store your collection

How to store your collection

See also: Handling and treatment and the page about Oxidation
 
First of all, it is very important to find a system that fits your interest. When working with amber, your collection will be expanded quickly, and if you do not have a system from the start it can result in a lot of trouble and possible danger of loosing important data on the individual pieces.

I keep all my inclusions in a scientific taxonomic system, eg. a box of Coleoptera. This box consists of a lot of small papers standing vertically, sorted by family names such as Cantaridae, Carabidae, Cerambycidae etc in alphabetical order. The amber is between the various family papers. Each piece is in a Mini-grip bag (the bag with snap lock). These bags are surprisingly effective in slowing oxidation of the amber. Every piece has then been given a unique number that will always be linked to exactly this piece and then a location number so I can find the piece in my collection.

It could, for instance look like this:

  • Location number: ALD.Ba.Can3 - Anders Leth Damgaard, box whit Baltic amber, in alphabetical order: Cantharidae, piece number 3 Or maybe a location number like in the burmese collection ALD.Bu25 - Anders Leth Damgaard, box whit Burmese amber piece number 25
  • Unique number: ALDC0274 

But to get an overview of the collection, and to add data such as purchase price, which mine or taxonomic information, I make a catalog of the collection in exel. Here is a catalog of the collection of beetles - Download as a PDF.

I started to develop a practical and simple system to fill these boxes with an inert gas. In this way, the boxes could be oxygen free, dark and kept at a stable temperature.

I have seen several National Museum collections, and most have been expanded so rapidly that it has been difficult to keep up with a safe storage. Museum staff have always made sure to retain the data on the amber, but more difficult it has been to ensure the conditions it was stored under.

ZMUC insect and amber collection © Anders Damgaard - www.amber-inclusions.dkFor example, on Zoolgisk Museum in Copenhagen amber is stored with the insect collection. This makes good sense in the first place, but the insects are kept under some very special circumstances to prevent mold etc. The conditions are such as high room temperature and dry air, and this is almost the worst possible conditions you can store amber in. Due to lack of financial resources, there is at the present time, unfortunately no evidence of a secondary containment in the near future.

 Museum of Natural History in New York (AMNH) have one of the largest amber collections in the world. In the BBC documentary “Amber Time Machine” with David Attenborough, we see among other things how AMNH's collection is stored, this is representative of how most museum collections are stored. The documentary can be highly recommended to anyone with even a passing interest in amber and evolution! It can be seen here.
 
AMNH amber collection © BBC
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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