Dressing Up Our Drawers  overview image

Dressing Up Our Drawers

  • Post Date: 07/09/2018
  • Author: Gavin Robinson
  • Reading Time: 2 minute read

The majority of the Museum’s 51,000 artifacts are kept in metal drawers. These drawers provide the ideal combination of sturdiness, space efficiency, and ease of access. For artifacts’ protection, drawers are lined with a synthetic padding called ethafoam. However, the thickness, size, and overall quality of this material has varied considerably over the years.

Our Collections team set out to replace previous drawer padding solutions with a new standardized approach that improved storage conditions for artifacts. In addition to providing consistent thickness and quality, foam was cut so that the ridges within the material were parallel to the direction of drawer movement. This meant that artifacts could be nestled into these ridges to avoid rolling or other unnecessary movement from repeated drawer opening and closing.

As ethafoam is typically sold in large rolls and our drawers have an interior measurement of only 27 inches by 44 inches, we needed a system to enable us to cut foam quickly and consistently to the exact drawer dimensions. If the ethafoam insert is not sized properly it can slide out of position or bubble within the drawer causing potential harm to artifacts. We decided to design a customized ethafoam cutting system.

  • A woman in a blue smock unrolls a thin sheet of white foam from a large roll mounted on wooden pillars.
    Collections student Sarah unrolls ethafoam in preparation for cutting.
  • A woman in a blue smock cuts a thin sheet of white foam from a large roll mounted on wooden pillars.
    Sarah removes an ethafoam sheet, cut to size, from the ethafoam cutting device.

Once the ethafoam was cut into appropriate sized sheets, it was ready for installation. Each drawer was emptied and then meticulously cleaned, one at a time. The new ethafoam sheet was then installed and checked for a good fit. Finally, all artifacts were returned to the drawer.

After nearly 2 years of planning, preparation and installation, Collections has almost finished this project. Around 90% of our drawers now have new padding, making us firmly on track to meet our goal of finishing by the end of this summer!

  • A woman in a blue smock cleans a shallow, empty metal drawer using a washrag
    Sarah, after emptying a drawer, cleans it in preparation for new ethafoam installation.
  • A woman in a blue smock lays a thin sheet of white-colored foam down within an opened drawer.
    Collections student Kyndal installs newly cut ethafoam into a drawer.