We have a collection of glass bottles containing pharmaceuticals from the 
mid1800s.  They are housed in a doctor's medical chest, the kind that was used 
on passenger ships. The chest and bottles will be on permanent exhibit.  
Several bottles contain nontoxic substances, and are broken.  Other bottles 
contain hazardous chemicals such as hydrocyanic acid, nitric acid and sulphuric 
acid.  I would like to repair the broken bottles, keeping samples of the 
contents.  I am considering the logistics of removing the toxic substances from 
the other bottles.  The curatorial preference is to leave the bottles as they 
are and to not handle the contents. Has anyone had experience in dealing with 
this kind of collection?  What are the prevailing attitudes toward decanting 
the substances and keeping samples in storage instead of on exhibit?  Replacing 

There are also drawers in the chest that contain medical instruments and other 
objects. What is the accepted approach to dealing with potential biohazards 
present on medical equipment?

Lisa Bengston
Royal BC Museum
Victoria, BC Canada

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