A big part of the HOPE for the Future project is re-curating more than one million British insects.
Tom Greenway, Junior HOPE Collections Assistant, explains how he and the team are making sure the insects that make up the unique HOPE collection will be preserved for future generations.
Moving a million insects is a big job! The insects are currently kept in wooden trays inside cabinets in the Westwood Room, upstairs at the museum. We have to move every single insect specimen into new up-to-date storage to preserve the collection for the future. At the moment, we are moving the insects in cabinet 75 which contains members of the order Coleoptera (beetles). There are 151 cabinets in total, each with 20 drawers of insects so although we have already moved around 253,000 insects, there is still a long way to go!
These are some of the tools of the trade!
- Entomology pins
When working on a drawer, we put it inside a fume cabinet like this one to protect us from a chemical called naphthalene. This was used in the past to help stop specimens being damaged by pests, such as moths, which see the collection as a huge banquet!
Each specimen we move needs a new label containing vital information about the specimen:
- binominal name (Genus / species);
- the name of the person who discovered the species;
- the year it was first classified; and
- a location code.
Once a tray is full, we add a data label containing the specimens’ information, along with a checklist number, which in this case relates to the current checklist of classified Lepidoptera (the order that includes butterflies and moths).
We then add each finished tray to one of the new pest-proof drawers. The completed drawers are then ready to go to their new storage space where it will be accessible for teaching and research.