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The Cornell Drawer: A Quick Overview

It takes a lot of time to categorize various insect species, analyze their structures and take under consideration their possible geographic changes and mutations. They also require organization by collection location, collector, evolutionary relationship and zoological hierarchy. As a result, the Cornell Insect Collection relies upon the Cornell Drawer to catalog and preserve its 7 million species collection which includes specimen over a century-old.

So, what is the Cornell Drawer? Although H. A. Agen introduced the original design at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Comstock appropriated the concept to index Cornell’s own collection. However, it is possible that Comstock’s allergic reaction to fumigants catalyzed his desire to create the drawer, evidenced by its current double outer wall. Initially constructed to fit his original desk, the Cornell Drawer’s contemporary size is 16-1/2 x 19x3 inches. However, the drawer in its old and new configurations contains compartments which separates the specimen by units. Additionally, it contains space for microscopic slides. One of the nicer features comprises its movable areas which makes it easier for researchers to add new specimen or rearrange old. However, its clear glass top enabled Comstock as well as Entomology's present-day instructors to use it as a pedagogical assistant.

Although the Cornell Drawer evolved over the years, the CUIC continues to use the original ones in its research. Additionally, it possesses an on-going search to uncover the first drawer constructed at the turn of the century. However, use of the Cornell drawer is not restricted to Cornell University or even national territories. Upon hiring a Cornell alumnus, the British museum recently adopted its frame.

Are you interested in the Cornell Drawer or do you desire to see more? If so, click here for more.


  1. James Leibherr, CUIC Curator
  2. Entomological News. Vol 84. February 1973.