Collections Policies

For general inquiries about any of our collection and loan policies, contact the Registrar’s Office at

To initiate a research or exhibition loan, contact a collection manager in your area of interest, or contact the Registrar’s Office for assistance.

Governing Collections Policies

The General Collection

The management of NHMLAC collections is governed by our Collections Policy.  NHMLAC is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, and this collections policy serves as a core accreditation document.

The current Collections Policy was approved by the Board of Trustees in 2010. The Collections Policy generally covers our entire permanent collection, including acquisition, deaccession, and use of objects for research, education, and exhibition.

Ancestral Remains

Like many museums, we care for human ancestral remains as part of our collections.  These came into our collections because of our long history of research in anthropology and biology.  As an institution, we recognize the injustice and harm caused by antiquated collecting practices that viewed ancestral remains primarily as objects of study. We recognize the need for museums to treat ancestral remains with respect, to mitigate harm and correct historic injustice when possible, and to respect the rights and authority of descendant peoples to determine the use, storage, and ultimate fate of their ancestors' remains. In 2022, the Board of Trustees approved a separate Ancestral Remains Policy delineating additional restrictions that are necessary to respectfully manage this special and significant part of our collection.  NHMLAC's Ancestral Remains Policy includes concepts, topics, and language that may be offensive or painful to some readers, including information about the contents of the collection and how human ancestral remains were previously used by the museum. Please continue to the policy only if you want to engage more fully with this content.  

Additional information

In addition to our governing policies, the following guidelines will be useful to researchers, practitioners in other related fields, or museum colleagues considering a loan request for research, exhibition, or education or a request for destructive or consumptive sampling.


We will consider loans for research, exhibition, or education, typically to organizations and institutions rather than individuals. Initial loan requests should be made to the collection manager in the relevant collecting department.

Depending on the scale, purpose, and duration of the loan request, we may ask you for additional information, such as environmental conditions at your institution, your proposed analytical and handling methods, or your institution’s security. For this reason, it is best to initiate a loan request or query early.  

We welcome visitors to all our collections and may be able to provide on-site access for objects that we can't loan or ship.

Destructive and Consumptive Sampling

We understand that modern research techniques, including genetic, chemical, and microscopic analyses, sometimes require that an object or specimen be subsampled, sectioned, consumed, or destroyed.  These requests require a careful balance of the preservation of our collection against the scholarly potential of the proposed research.  Our objects and specimens are a limited resource, and repeated destructive analysis threaten their long-term use.

We will decline sampling requests if the proposed damage to an object or impact on the collection is too great.

Requests for destructive sampling or analysis should be made to the collection manager of the specific collecting department within the museum.  They will be considered by collection managers and curators depending on the policies for that department.  Details vary by department, but in general the technique you propose must be well-justified and the results must not be obtainable through a less destructive method.

In approving destructive sampling requests, we may require you to agree to conditions about the publication of data resulting from the analysis of our specimens.  Objects in our collection are held in the public trust, and in general we expect data derived from them to be made public in the course of publication or within a reasonable timeframe.  Your loan or sampling agreement will specify all terms and conditions.

Citing our Specimens

If you use our specimens or objects in a scholarly publication, we expect you to cite the specimens/objects and acknowledge us, according to the norms in your field.

These citations are critical to the reproducibility of object-based research.  They also help ensure that NHMLA gets appropriate credit for the work we do to preserve collections and provide access to the scholarly community.

In general, our acronym for citing specimens and objects is LACM (for LA County Museum).  Please do not cite objects with any other acronym, including NHMLA or NHMLAC, unless specifically instructed to do so by a collections manager or registrar.  Our scientific collections are listed under LACM and with their Darwin Core collection identifiers in the Global Registry of Scientific Collections (GRSciColl).

Data and Derivatives

We do not currently have a single policy covering all kinds of data and derivatives.  If you make a request for the loan or use of data, images, 3D scans, or other information derived from our objects and specimens, we will discuss data ownership and any restrictions on use with you before the loan is finalized.  Conditions and restrictions will depend on the kind of object or derivative and the use.  To initiate a request, contact the collection manager in your area of interest.  

In most research loans, if your work includes the generation of new derivatives, including images, scans, and DNA sequences, we expect that those will be added to a freely available repository at the time of publication or after a reasonable period of time.