The George Thomas Building at the University of Utah was built in 1935 to be a library
The building was renovated to be a natural history museum in 1968. There were great large spaces for exhibits with many lovely historical details in marble, vintage wood and old brass. It served as a wonderful space for the exhibits for decades. But not ideal conditions for collections. It was impossible to keep temperature and humidity controlled with the building’s old HVAC system, there was no loading dock and the doors themselves were small enough to limit what we could bring into the building!
The entomology cabinetry was ancient as well. The wood cabinets were originally coated with a white chalky substances that was labelled “DDT 1965” and “Dieldrin 1966”. It was painted over by the Environmental health and safety department of the University in 2000 but the paint was beginning to flake in recent years. Please note the white poles throughout the room. Every square yard was marked off by these poles throughout the collection/lab area and were part of the old library stacks. They were reported to us as unremovable.
Planning for a new facility began more than a decade before the actual move. My preparations included stabilizing each drawer and….
working with cabinet designers to understand cabinet needs for drawers with variable sizes… as well as seeking funding sources for those cabinets. At the time of the move, the collection had about 800 drawers to move, as well as a small wet collection. Most of the drawers are vintage, non-standard sizes. We obtained a grant from IMLS to buy new cabinets to be installed in the new building. and originally thought that we would move the drawers in a new rolling cabinet purchased with those funds. However, I realized that buying a cabinet with wheels, that would only be used for the move, would be an unnecessary expense. There was no question of moving them in their original cabinets as they were too cumbersome, and wouldn’t fit in our elevator. So, my next thought was to pallet them. The thought of palleting a fragile pinned insect collection at first made my stomach lurch but I realized, if they were really well-padded, this was probably the best solution.
But first I had to get the drawers out of the collection room. The insect collection was on the second floor so I had to navigate this hallway with all 800 drawers. Please note: more poles. A platform cart is invaluable for moving large numbers of drawers. We could get about 16 drawers at a time on it.
Here’s the antique elevator that we sometimes used to get downstairs. The phone is there to call for help when it gets stuck.
Once confronted with the pallets, I realized I wanted to be very thorough so they would be as secure as possible for transport. And here’s what I came up with. It took me a few tries to come up with a system so this is the meat of what I wanted to share here in case anyone else ever needs to do this.
Layered the bottom with thick foam
Drawers were laid out in fours.
Flat piece of cardboard not a good idea
Then foam was added to top of each drawer. And a corrugated cardboard square to the center. A single piece of foam couldn’t be used because the drawers were not all of one height. The foam allowed for the variable heights to be accounted for. The cardboard corners are industrially available and made it so the edges wouldn’t knock against one another.
Then I threw a moving blanket over it, wrapped it in visqueen, pallet jacked it onto a moving truck and had the movers pack it onto a moving truck.
Getting put away in new homes.
The new natural history museum of Utah -
Bills ecn 2012
A Moving Experience:
Getting a Pinned Insect Collection
from Here to There
Invertebrates Collection Manager
Natural History Museum of Utah
at the University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah
George Thomas Building
Library at the University of Utah
1935 - 1968
Utah Museum of Natural History,
Salt Lake City, Utah
1968 through 2011
Utah Museum of Natural History
Entomology Collection Room,
1970s through 2012
Hard bottom unit trays were
added to fill in drawer space
to reduce shifting.