The problem with dangerous goods: WA Museum’s conunDRUM

Andrew Hosie's blog | Created 5 years ago

The Western Australian Museum is the repository for the State’s collection of both natural and social heritage. The Museum's collections require varying amounts of care to preserve. Some artefacts or specimens can simply be kept dry. Most of the Crustacean Collection however is wet-preserved in ethanol and stored in jars and housed in our wet store. Unluckily, not all crustaceans can fit into our jars and some larger specimens are stored in drums, which again, sadly, don’t fit in our wet store.

The WA Museum Wet Store

The WA Museum Wet Store: might not be much to look at from the outside, but there's treasure inside.
Image copyright WA Museum

As ethanol is flammable it is classed as a “dangerous good” and needs to be kept in specially-designed containers and areas. As a result our large specimens are actually kept offsite at a chemical storehouse. There are over 350 drums of different sizes containing everything from worms to kangaroos, making up a significant portion of our collections. Fairly recently there has been a change in regulations with regards to appropriate storage of ethanol, which has rendered the drums we currently used obsolete, meaning we have to go through ALL of the current drums and place the specimens into the new compliant drums… A task that has filled staff with dread.

Old drums, meet the new drum.

Old drums, meet the new drum.
Image copyright WA Museum

Luckily, the Crustacean Section has only ~60 of the smaller 30 L drums. This will be the first time that the current members of the Crustacean Team have undertaken a full audit of the drums and we’re expecting to see plenty of great specimens over the next few months, so watch this space.