Collection Policies

Access to the collection is open to qualified visitors, researchers and students.  In addition to its own collection policies, the Department of Entomology adheres to the general MCZ policies and procedures.

A limited amount of funding is available for researchers to use the collections. The Museum of Comparative Zoology periodically awards Ernst Mayr Grants to systematists who need to make short museum visits in order to undertake research needed for the completion of taxonomic revisions and monographs.


Loan requests should include full taxonomic information on the specimens requested (Order, Family, Subfamily, Tribe, Genus, Species), as well as the borrower's name, institutional affiliation, mailing address, email address, and phone number. All loans for student research are made to, and the responsibility of, faculty advisors.  No loans will be shipped during the month of December.

Approval for a new loan must be given by a member of the curatorial staff: faculty curator, curatorial associate, or curatorial assistant. Approval is subject to the considerations outlined below. 

Institutional Affiliation

The borrower must have an affiliation with some research institution. Under no circumstances will a loan be sent to a home address. Individuals without such affiliation may borrow only under the condition that they are sponsored by an individual with such affiliation, and agree to study the material at the sponsor's institution.

Past Loan History

New requests are filled only after past loans are returned, or reasons are given for granting a loan extension. New additional loans may be granted during the period of an existing loan if they are an extension of the same project. Loan recipients who fail to complete and return Outstanding Loan Questionnaire(s) will not be issued new loans. Requests from individuals with histories of not returning, losing, or breaking specimens will be rejected on those grounds.

Students/Faculty Sponsors

Loans are not made directly to students. Student borrowers must have a faculty sponsor who agrees to take full responsibility for the care and safe return of the specimens. The student must leave the specimens in the custody of their faculty sponsor for safe return in the event that they leave the University. Delinquent student loans will delay new requests from other students of the same faculty sponsor.

First-Time Borrowers

Loans to first-time borrowers should be of reasonable size. In the event of a large request, a part of the material will be loaned in the first shipment. When that material is returned, additional loans will be granted. No determined specimens will be loaned for use as synoptic of reference collections. At the discretion of the curator, loans of types to first-time borrowers may be limited in size. In most cases, a maximum of three (3) primary types will be loaned to a first-time borrower. More types may be loaned in subsequent loans, once the borrower has established a pattern of safely and promptly returning types.

Size of the Request

The number of specimens involved should be of reasonable size. In most cases, every specimen of an entire group (higher taxon) will not be loaned at once; some representative vouchers from series of identified material will be held in the collection. For exceptionally large requests, involving hundreds or thousands of specimens, the researcher is encouraged to either limit the size of the request or visit our Museum instead. Ernst Mayr grants are available as a possible source of funding for visits.

Primary Types

Requests for primary types (holotypes, lectotypes, neotypes, or syntype series) should be of a reasonable amount. Loans of primary types, or series, are usually limited to a maximum of six (6) species. When those are returned, additional types loans will be made. No new loans will be approved until types from past loans are returned. Types will normally be loaned for not more than six months. Unique types and entire syntypic series will ordinarily be loaned only for monographic work. Requests for loan of types should include type data (number of specimens, localities) as originally published and/or references to original descriptions. Lack of such information may cause delays in responding to type loan requests, as many older "types" are in fact syntype series and/or poorly labeled, and their recognition requires consultation of the original descriptions. All borrowed types and all holotypes, allotypes and a majority of paratypes newly designated from MCZ material must be returned promptly, via registered air mail. Any lectotypes or neotypes should be clearly labeled as such with year and name of designator. Workers needing to examine type material of twelve (12) or more species are urged to visit the MCZ if at all possible.


Non-types will normally be loaned for one or two years, depending on the scope of the project and the number of specimens involved. Subject to approval by the MCZ curatorial staff, a minority (at most 1/3) of duplicate specimens (from a locality /date series) identified by the borrower may be retained. We prefer that such retentions be part of an exchange of equal benefit to the MCZ. All unique specimens must be returned. Determination labels with determiner's name and date should be placed on the first specimen of each series and all unique specimens identified during revisionary or other detailed studies.

Condition of the Specimens

If the Curator, Curatorial Associate, or Curatorial Assistant judges the condition of the requested specimen to be such that damage is likely to be incurred by shipping, the request will be rejected on those grounds. This is particularly true in the case of delicate types of Odonata, Neuroptera, or Lepidoptera, or other specimens with loose abdomens, wings, legs, or weak pins. In the case of historically important specimens, very old types, or otherwise rare or unusual specimens, loan requests may be rejected at the discretion of the curatorial staff, on the grounds that the specimen(s) is (are) too valuable to be trusted to the mail. In the case of such specimens, the researcher should be encouraged to visit our Museum. Ernst Mayr grants are a possible source of funding for such a visit.

Loan Extensions

Loan extensions are negotiable on an individual basis. As long as there have been no other requests for the material, extensions are usually granted while the researcher is actively working on the project.

Publication of Results

The borrower should acknowledge the loan in any paper based on study of the borrowed material, and send a copy of the paper to the MCZ Entomology Department. Workers designating holotypes from MCZ material are encouraged to publish the MCZ type number with their type designation; these numbers will be supplied on request.

Change of Address

It is the responsibility of the borrower to inform the MCZ curatorial staff in a timely manner of any change of address. Borrowed specimens should not be moved to a new collection or location until permission for the transfer is granted by the MCZ curatorial staff.

Loan Transfers

Borrowed specimens should not be loaned secondarily or transferred to the care of other researchers unless written permission for the transfer is granted by the MCZ curatorial staff.

Care of Specimens

All borrowed specimens should be kept in units, boxes, or drawers that are clearly marked to indicate that they are property of the MCZ collection. If, during the course of study, MCZ specimens are mixed with specimens from other collections, then the MCZ specimens should be affixed with individual labels to indicate that they are property of the MCZ collection. Labels will be supplied on request. The borrower takes full responsibility for care of specimens; they should be protected from breakage, dust, and museum pests.


Dissection of specimens is permitted for revisionary, monographic, or morphological research; however, it is preferable to use duplicate material whenever possible. Dissected parts must always be returned with the remainder of the specimen, either in microvials, card or point mounted, or mounted on microslides in permanent mounting media. In the case of specimens preserved in fluid, dissected parts should be placed in tiny vials, cotton stoppered, within larger containers with the remainder of the specimen. If parts of specimens are separately mounted on glass microslides, these should be clearly cross-referenced with the remainder of the specimen, and labeled with complete data from the original specimen. Complete disarticulation or metallic coating for SEM study of an entire specimen is not permitted unless the specimen is part of a series (3 or more specimens) with the exact data, and written approval is granted by the MCZ curatorial staff. Researchers should obtain approval from the MCZ curatorial staff before conducting dissections that will result in the total destruction of specimens. Types should be dissected only when necessary to resolve a difficult taxonomic problem. Types may not be coated for SEM work.

Loan Forms

Loan forms should be promptly signed and returned on receipt of specimens. Any damage during shipping should be detailed on the form at the time of receipt. By signing the loan form, the borrower agrees to abide by the rules set forth here.

Loans to Visitors

Visitors are allowed to hand-carry loans of specimens selected during their visit; however, the loan must first be approved and full information provided to the staff before any specimens leave the collection. Each visitor should place a marker on the outside (inside if appropriate) of each drawer from which they remove specimens in order to enable the curatorial staff to properly replace returned specimens.

Shipment of Returning Specimens

Borrowers are encouraged to return all specimens as soon as possible after the completion of a project, and before starting new unrelated projects. In the case of very large loans, partial returns are encouraged as lots of material are studied. Please do not ship any specimens (types/non-types) during December. A separate cover letter should give full particulars from the original loan form. Primary types must be pinned in individual units, plastic wrapped, and sent via registered air mail. Specimens should be securely pinned, and all heavy specimens or loose parts should be brace-pinned. Packing materials should be lightweight, and at least two (2) inches of packing material should surround the specimen box. A shipping label should be placed in the box, in case the outer label is lost or damaged, together with a copy of the loan form, annotated to indicate what material is being returned. The outside of the box should be clearly marked: "Fragile -- Dead Insects for Scientific Research -- No Commercial Value." When a shipment contains returns from more than one loan, the specimens should be sorted by loan number and loan numbers indicated by small labels pinned in the unit trays.

Commercial Use of Specimens

Harvard University has strict policies on the use of museum specimens for commercial purposes. If photographs, figures, reproductions, or detailed data of specimens are to be used for purposes other than research (i.e., text books, field guides, consulting) the borrower should contact the MCZ staff for information about Harvard's policies. Publications resulting from the study of MCZ specimens should properly cite the MCZ (see also Publications of Results above).