Collections Use and Loan Policies

General Information for Collection Users

The ornithology collections of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County should be acknowledged in any publications resulting from the use of our specimens, tissues, and associated data. We ask that researchers provide us with a PDF of any publications that result in any part from the use of our specimens and associated data. The standard abbreviation for our collections is “LACM.” If your use of the specimens results in digital material (images, 3D scans, etc.), we ask that you either make the digital files or a link to the digital material available to be linked to the specimen record.

Collection Visits

To visit the ornithology research collections, please make an appointment with the appropriate collections staff. The collections are open to all qualified researchers, including amateur ornithologists, artists, and others who need to refer to museum collections for their work. However, because of our need to conserve the collections for future use, we must strictly control collection access. With advance notice collection visits can usually be accommodated during normal weekday business hours, but must necessarily be arranged around the schedule of the collections staff. 

Specimen Loans

Loans of specimens from the research collections are made to qualified researchers at other museums, academic institutions and governmental agency collections that have the facilities to properly store loaned specimens. Although the loaned specimens are for the use of individual researchers, the loans themselves are made to the institution where they will be housed. We cannot make loans to individuals, commercial organizations, or studios. We do not maintain a teaching collection.

Loans for undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral students must be co-signed by the requester’s mentor. Loans are made for a period of one year, subject to renewal. Additional loan conditions are outlined on the Specimen Invoice accompanying each loan; the Specimen Invoice is to be signed and returned upon receipt of the loan material. 

We generally do not make loans of holotypes or of specimens from taxa for which we house fewer than five specimens; the latter may be negotiated on a case-by-case basis. If a request is made for a loan of all of our specimens of a given taxon, we will make the loan in installments, with the second (and subsequent) installments sent upon successful return of previous installments.

We generally will not make specimen loans to institutions outside of the United States because of frequent changes and increasing complexities in requirements of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and United States Department of Agriculture. If international loans are approved, they may incur inspection fees that will be the responsibility of the borrower.

Tissue Loans

Requests for consumptive loans of small amounts of tissue from the samples in our ornithology tissue collection must be submitted in the same manner as other loan requests and are subject to the same conditions, without the expectation that they will be returned. Tissue collections accompanied by museum specimen vouchers are costly and labor-intensive to make, store, and conserve. We therefore request that the requesting researchers demonstrate their active participation in the building of systematic collections of bird specimens, including tissue collections; for those requesters who cannot demonstrate this, we reserve the right to deny tissue grants or to request the payment of fees to cover our costs.

Destructive Sampling

On a case by case basis, the Museum may grant permission to researchers to take small samples of skin, toe pads, or feathers from study skins or bone from skeletal specimens for specific research projects on genetics, molecular systematics, stable isotopes, or other areas of inquiry. Such requests must include detailed justification as to why the destructive sampling is necessary. As with proposals for use of frozen tissue samples and fluid specimen dissection, we prefer that the requesting researchers demonstrate active participation in building systematic collections of bird specimens.

Fluid Specimen Dissection

Our collection of birds preserved in fluid is available to qualified researchers for anatomical studies and other use involving dissection and sampling. All parts of the dissected specimen are to be returned to the Museum. As with proposals for use of frozen tissue samples or for destructive sampling of skins or skeletons, we prefer that the requesting researchers demonstrate active participation in building systematic collections of bird specimens.

How to Request Specimen or Tissue Loans

Loans are subject to the terms and conditions outlined in the specimen invoice that is issued upon approval of the loan request. Borrowers must return a signed copy of the invoice.

All loan requests will be reviewed by departmental staff and should be sent to To request a specimen or tissue loan, please email a cover letter that includes the following information:

  • Your name, institution, and mentor name (if you are a student or postdoc). If you are a student or postdoc, your mentor will also need to sign the letter.
  • A one or two paragraph explanation of the project. Please include a brief statement attesting to your qualifications for using the specimens, conducting the research, and the suitability of resources that are available to you.
  • A list of the samples being requested. Please be specific about the type of material requested.
  • If tissue samples are being requested, please let us know if they are okay shipped in ethanol or need to be frozen. 
  • If requesting destructive sampling of skin or skeletal material, please justify why the destructive sampling is necessary for your research.
  • If tissue or destructive specimen material is being requested, describe your participation in the building of bird collections (see above).
  • A valid shipping address, contact email, and phone number.

All loan requests must include the following statement:
I (or we) understand that while under the disposition of “on loan” the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County retains ownership of these materials and will not loan samples to a third person without your written consent. All publications will acknowledge the use of NHMLAC specimens and all appendices or lists of specimens examined will identify specimens by their LACM catalog number. If appropriate, data resulting from the use of these specimens will be deposited in a publicly available repository (such as GenBank, MorphoBank, IsoBank, etc.) and identified by their LACM catalog number. I (or we) agree to send the Ornithology Department of NHMLAC any publications resulting from the use of these specimens.

Depositing Research and Salvage Bird Specimens

The Ornithology Department accepts specimens with adequate data and appropriate permits. Adequate data primarily consists of a detailed location (e.g. address) and date, but other potential useful data is also helpful. We encourage researchers to deposit specimens collected in the course of a research project. Researchers can request an embargo on loaning specimens they collected until their research project is complete and published. Additionally, the Ornithology Department will archive sub-samples and ancillary material (e.g. feathers, claws, and tissue samples), provided they have the necessary data. If you are designing a research project or writing a grant proposal that will involve collecting bird specimens or samples, please consider budgeting funds for the curation of specimens. Accepting specimens is not contingent on accompanying funds, however any support for specimen care and curation is greatly appreciated.

The Ornithology Department will also accept specimens of either native species or non-native species (e.g. rock pigeons, house sparrows, European starlings) that are found or euthanized in the course of pest control. If you find a dead bird that you think may be of interest, please contact us.

Please note that Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been reported in the state of California and we recommend taking precautions when handling birds, especially if you have contact with live domestic or pet birds. Please avoid touching dead wildlife with bare hands and wash your hands after collecting specimens in sealed bags. Our collection will continue to accept specimens as we see fit with the exclusion of waterfowl, as they have a much greater risk of having HPAI. More information can be found at

We welcome any questions or inquiries regarding depositing specimens. Please contact us at