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Preserving specimens at the Natural History Museum

13 September 2010

TAS Engineering Consultants has been contracted by the Natural History Museum to help preserve millions of specimens dating back hundreds of years.

Preserving specimens at the Natural History Museum
Preserving specimens at the Natural History Museum

The Stockton-based design and compliance specialist has engineered a solution that will safely extend the lifespan of more than 22 million ‘wet’ specimens, including specimens collected by Charles Darwin and Captain James Cook.

Stored in Formalin and Industrial Methylated Spirit, the specimens are held in a facility that previously had to be topped up manually. This would involve carrying large containers of fluid through a number of areas within the museum.

TAS’ has created an automated fluid storage and distribution system, which allows topping up of the specimen jars in the museum’s laboratories on each floor of the building.

The solution includes a fully-automated control system, which has a touch-screen
interface and web access facility to allow staff to view the system’s status from any location in the museum.

Working with museum staff, TAS also developed a number of safety protocols, which alongside other automated monitoring precautions, ensure any losses and leaks are quickly identified and managed.

Located in the museum’s Darwin Centre, the system meets all the current safety standards and legislation. In addition, it also worked around the many physical constraints imposed by the site’s Central London location and historical significance.

John Maplesden, Deputy Chairman of TAS Engineering Consultants, said: “This has been a fantastic project, which will enable the Natural History Museum to continue its mission to preserve its international collection of over 70 million specimens for future generations.

“It has demonstrated TAS’ specialised skills and expertise in identifying and managing risk in potentially dangerous atmospheres. We have completed similar contracts for all manner of companies ranging from a breakfast cereal manufacturer to a fuel storage facility, but to help secure the future of one of the world’s largest natural history collections is very special indeed.”

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