Per L.A. County Department of Public Health, masks must be worn at all times indoors and in our outdoor Spider Pavilion. NHMLAC currently does not require visitors to show proof of vaccination. We are working through the implications of the LA City ordinance with respect to our operations. View our COVID-19 Safety Guidelines for more information.

Our Collections

Collections status as of 14 May 2021

Due to the pandemic, our regular collections activity is somewhat restricted.  Our collections staff are combining on-site and remote work and can answer questions about our holdings via e-mail. You can also browse or search some of our collections online through our Digitized Collections page or through Calisphere, iDigBio, GBIF, VertNet, and other resources.  Please contact us at collections@nhm.org if your questions about the current status of our collections are not answered below.

Visitors: The collections at NHM and La Brea Tar Pits are open to visitors, but with some limitations given the number of people that can work in proximity in small spaces.  Please contact a collections manager or curator in your area of interest to find out whether that department is currently able to host visitors.  All collections visitors must follow the museum's safety protocols.  Visitors must also follow any travel restrictions for Los Angeles County.  

We know that this is inconvenient and that restrictions on collections access may cause delays for existing and planned research.  Please contact a collections manager or curator in your area of interest if you are concerned about our closure affecting your research, especially if you are a student or postdoc with a degree or project deadline that cannot be extended.  We may be able to provide options other than an in-person visit. 

Loans:  We are now making outgoing loans when we are satisfied that we can do so without compromising the safety of our staff or the preservation and security of our collections.  All loans are subject to the availability of on-site staff and the approval of the Registrar's Office and the Associate VP for Collections.  Please contact a collections manager or curator to find out whether your department of interest has any additional restrictions on loans. If you request a loan, expect additional questions about the status of operations at your institution, such as how packages are being received and distributed.  Our priority for loans is to support students, postdocs, and others with a degree completion deadline or other time-sensitive project.  As always, borrowers in the L.A. area may be able to hand-carry loans to reduce the risk and logistical issues related to shipping.

Please do not ship any collections material to us unless you have been specifically directed to do so by a registrar or collections manager. This includes new loans from your collection and returns of loans from our collection. We cannot guarantee that appropriate staff will be on-site to process incoming material that arrives without advance notice.

About our collections

We support our own and the rest of the world’s scholars by building and preserving an archive of objects, artifacts, and specimens from the natural world and human cultures, across the whole globe and from the present to billions of years ago. Our collections support current research and await future research uses no one has even thought of yet.

Sometimes we also use these objects, artifacts, and specimens in support of exhibitions and public programming, and visitors can see some of them on display, but those are not the primary purpose for the research collection.  It is an ever-growing record of nature and culture for anyone to use to better understand our world.

Coelacanth Fish
Coelacanth Fish
Did you know? Coelacanth fish “walk” on their fins like land animals use their legs.

Recent Acquisitions

Photo of a kit containing five different wood and metal hand tools

This tool kit used to create bonsai trees was recently donated to our History department by the Kozawa family, who owned and operated the Tokio Florist in Silver Lake for decades. 

Photo by Beth Werling

Photo of a ringtail study skin

This ringtail (Bassariscus astutus) was recently added to our Mammalogy collection after being salvaged as roadkill on State Route 39 near the San Gabriel Reservoir.  Salvage is one important way we develop our collection of local species.

Photo by Shannen Robson

Photo of a fossil ammonite embedded in rock

This is a late Cretaceous ammonite in the family Tetragonitidae from the Tumey Hills area of Fresno Co., California. It was collected on a joint field expedition by staff from Invertebrate Paleontology, Vertebrate Paleontology, and the Dinosaur Institute to the same area where our state dinosaur, Augustynolophus, is from.

Photo by Lindsay Walker

Photo of workers surrounded by a meshwork of beams and conduit

This photo is one of a longer series of Los Angeles photographs donated to our History department by photograph Gary Leonard.  It shows skill workers installing conduit within the reinforcing steelwork for a concrete column for the new Sixth Street Bridge in January 2016.  See more photos from this series here.

Photo by Gary Leonard.

Image of a row of museum jars containing multiple different fishes

Our Ichthyology (Fishes) collection recently added about 500 specimens collected by curator Bill Ludt in southern Louisiana in 2020.  We previously had very few specimens from this area, and some of these species were not in our collection at all.  Field trips like this one are an important way we continue to build and enhance our collections.  
Photo by Todd Clardy

1 of 1

This tool kit used to create bonsai trees was recently donated to our History department by the Kozawa family, who owned and operated the Tokio Florist in Silver Lake for decades. 

Photo by Beth Werling

This ringtail (Bassariscus astutus) was recently added to our Mammalogy collection after being salvaged as roadkill on State Route 39 near the San Gabriel Reservoir.  Salvage is one important way we develop our collection of local species.

Photo by Shannen Robson

This is a late Cretaceous ammonite in the family Tetragonitidae from the Tumey Hills area of Fresno Co., California. It was collected on a joint field expedition by staff from Invertebrate Paleontology, Vertebrate Paleontology, and the Dinosaur Institute to the same area where our state dinosaur, Augustynolophus, is from.

Photo by Lindsay Walker

This photo is one of a longer series of Los Angeles photographs donated to our History department by photograph Gary Leonard.  It shows skill workers installing conduit within the reinforcing steelwork for a concrete column for the new Sixth Street Bridge in January 2016.  See more photos from this series here.

Photo by Gary Leonard.

Our Ichthyology (Fishes) collection recently added about 500 specimens collected by curator Bill Ludt in southern Louisiana in 2020.  We previously had very few specimens from this area, and some of these species were not in our collection at all.  Field trips like this one are an important way we continue to build and enhance our collections.  
Photo by Todd Clardy