Search MCZ

Invertebrate Paleontology Department

Collection Policies

Registration Policy

In the absence of a central Registrar in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, the activities of such an office necessarily become a part of the Department's collection responsibilities. To accomplish these activities in addition to routine management of collections several separate but partially overlapping sets of records are maintained to control the Acquisition, Accession, Loans with Tracking, Cataloging and Locality of Occurrence of the specimens in our collections of responsibility. These records are kept in manual files of archival correspondence, forms of record, and when applicable in electronic databases. Several number systems are in use to control and access these record sets while a fully developed collection management information program is prepared for electronic storage, backup and access.

A. Acquisition

Specimens may be acquired through field collection by students or staff, purchases, contract collecting, gifts, bequest, exchange, abandonment or other appropriate means. Each specimen or lot entering the collection area will receive a Registration Number for tracking while in the care of the Department although acquired specimens are not considered part of the permanent Museum collection until formally accessioned. These unaccessioned specimens may be culled, prepared or discarded at the discretion of the staff and collector with only a note relating to the disposition of the material in the registration record.

B. Accession

Specimens to be accessioned into the permanent collections must meet all specifications listed below. When materials are found suitable the acquisition Registration Number becomes a formal accession number and is attached to all documents relating to the incoming transaction along with any documents or information arriving at a later date. All documents relating to the lot or single specimen which are relevant to the transfer of ownership, provenance or other pertinent data will be kept in a separate folder and filed as described in the procedural manual. Specimens or collection lots will only be considered for accession when the Department can provide proper curation, storage and conservation.

Three levels of accessioning decisions exist within the Department:

  1. Routine accessioning of specimens uniquely referred to in the literature or of obvious scientific or exhibit value may be handled by the Curatorial Associate, with verbal communication before or after the transaction.
  2. Accessions of mixed or specialized specimens, some or all of which fall within the expertise of a particular Curator must be reviewed by this Curator for approval prior to the transaction.
  3. Accessions, which will involve major monetary value and/or major space considerations must be approved by a committee of the Department staff chaired by one of the Curators. The Director must approve prior to action if either space or monetary value is considered extraordinary, particularly if sizeable tax considerations are involved with a gift.

Criteria by which collections or individual specimens are evaluated for permanent addition to the Museum collections are numerous and closely related. Any single criterion may dominate or several may be combined to qualify material for accession Collectively the criteria constitute the intrinsic value of the fossils for research, teaching or exhibition. Included are:

  1. Specimens uniquely identified in any way in the scientific literature.
  2. Data suitable for modern taxonomic evaluation with the single exception of a specimen that might demonstrate some anatomical uniqueness.
  3. Quality of preservation.
  4. Recollectability.
  5. Historical significance.
  6. Need for filling gaps in existing collections
  7. Free and clear title of ownership conveyed by Deed of Gift or other legal statement must be provided by the donor.
  8. Title must be unencumbered by restrictions made by the donor as to use or future disposition.
  9. All specimens must have records demonstrating, or the donor able to satisfy the responsible staff in writing that:
    a) the materials were acquired legally in accordance with the laws of its country of origin
    b) the material was legally exported from the country of origin and legally imported into the U.S. and
    c) the origin of the material did not involve any unscientific or intentional damage to sites protected for environmental reasons or which might be considered environmentally fragile.
  10. Size.
  11. Prices if a purchase.

C. Loans


Loans are considered temporary physical transfers of specimens or objects from one Museum, University or other organization recognized to be involved in research or education to another when there is no transfer of ownership. This is carried out through a formal loan agreement that acts as a contract concerning content, duration and other particulars of a transaction. It is the intent of the Department to ensure that no statute of time limitations concerning interest in the loan or full return of the specimens or objects shall be in question.

The Department, under the authority of the Director, will be lenient and cooperative in making available material to any scientist, student, individual or educational program when a properly justified need for carrying out scholarly activity is made. The definition of "properly justified" leaves flexibility with the following guidelines whereby the Curatorial Staff may use judgement in designating particular specimens to be loaned and potential recipients of loans.

Specimen safety is a primary consideration. No specimen will be shipped or carried from the Department if there is reasonable question concerning its safety from breakage, destruction or other loss. The nature of the specimen and transport conditions are major factors of consideration.

Requests for material may be addressed to any Departmental Curator or Collections Staff member. Records will be maintained for all transactions and are the responsibility of the Curatorial Associate. All materials being received by or leaving the Department will be processed through the office to the Curatorial Associate for approval of recorded information and format.


Three kinds of loans are recognized: Outgoing Loans, Incoming Loans and Intramural Loans. Type specimens include any specimen uniquely referred to in the scientific literature. .

1. Outgoing Loans

Loans of type or non-type specimens are made to recognized scientists for justified research. Only non-type specimens will be loaned for justified exhibit or educational purposes. All loans will be considered the responsibility of the institution with which the borrower is affiliated. No loans will be sent to a private address.

Graduate students wishing to borrow material may apply only through their advisor or Department head. Loans will be made for a student's use with all responsibility for the material remaining with their advisor or department head.

Type specimens sent for research will be loaned for a period of two months from date of receipt. Non-type specimens may be retained six months from date of receipt. Most loans may be extended upon request. Long-term exhibit loans are considered on en individual basis. The number of type specimens sent in a single loan transaction would usually not exceed 15 type specimens. Non-type specimen loans may be larger at the discretion of a Curator or the Curatorial Associate.

Note: All loans are made at the discretion of the Department and may be recalled as necessary. The borrower is subject to any conditions added to the contractual loan papers. The borrower is responsible for all return costs of packing and transport. Specimens will be sent by registered mail, commercial courier or hand-carried. They are to be returned in the same manner as sent.

2. Incoming Loans

All specimens received on loan by the Department Staff, visiting scholars, post-doctoral affiliates, students doing research under staff direction or other students attached in any fashion to the Department will be processed into the Department through the office of the Curatorial Associate. Specimens will be examined to ensure that the covering invoice is correct. Records will also be maintained by that office of the presence of the specimens being temporarily housed and when they are due for return. All specimens will be returned through that office to ensure proper packing, shipping and completion of records concerning the transaction.

Students needing specimens from other institutions for study must make their requests through a Curatorial Staff member or the Curatorial Associate. Although the loan will be for student use the responsibility for the material will remain with the Staff member involved. Should loan extensions be needed they will be sent over the signature of the responsible person.

3. Intramural Loans

In-house loans to students housed in other Department, exhibitions or non- Departmental faculty/staff members will be recorded in the same manner as outgoing loans. Leniency will be extended in all such transactions but cooperation from the borrower is expected.

D. Cataloging

The goal of the Department is to catalog each specimen in the permanent collection. This will be accomplished at the lot or specimen level with a Catalog Number placed on or with each specimen. All data concerning taxonomy, geographic location, stratigraphic occurence, bibliographic reference, accession, or other information pertinent to the specimen or lot will be recorded manually until completion of programming and then directly into an electronic data base. For cataloging details see the department procedural manual for cataloging.

E. Locality Register

The Locality File is a description of the geographic and stratigraphic occurrence of the find of a particular fossil or lot of fossils. An individual locality entry may not have complete information but will contain as much information as can be found from any records available. No attempt to transform the data from the original collection notes or available information into standardized geographic net will be done in recording locality information. A stratigraphic hierarchy of names will be added when the information is readily available.

The manual file will be coordinated with the electronic file at all times to ensure no overlap. See the procedural manual for entire protocols for ensuring this coordination.

F. Deaccession

If an accessioned specimen or lot of specimens fails to meet any of the criteria described under the accessioning procedures described above they will be re-evaluated and if found unacceptable will be removed from the collection and disposed of as the staff recommends. In general, the specimens may be used or given for use in teaching, exchanged, or discarded but not sold. Any state or federal regulations regarding fossil materials and their disposition will be followed in disposing of specimens as well as all legal and ethical standards.