Collection Policies

The Department of Ornithology is open to visitors Monday through Friday (9am – 5pm). We require that visitor notify us at least two weeks in advance so that we can ensure availability of the collection. Please direct any questions regarding collection access to Curatorial Associate

In addition to its own collection policies, the department adheres to the general MCZ collections 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.


Requests are only considered from permanent staff members of an institution. Loan requests from students and postdoctoral fellows need to be cosigned or requested by a major professor or postdoctoral advisor. Additionally, researchers visiting other institutions may request loans to that collection, but the request must come from a resident curator or collection manager of that institution. Ultimate responsibility of the specimens is assumed by the institution to which the specimens are loaned.

Taxa which are represented by fewer than 5 specimens in the MCZ collection are generally not considered for loans. Special consideration may be made with proper justification. Alternatively, we suggest that a researcher visit the MCZ to study these specimens. Ernst Mayr Travel Grants are available for researchers visiting the MCZ for work in animal systematics.

No more than one-half of the total specimens of a single taxon will be loaned out at any one time. Second requests may be made to view the remainder of specimens upon safe return of original loan. Loans of individual specimens, no matter the total number of specimens for that taxon, will be made on a case by case basis. 

If a specimen is too fragile for transport it will be not be lent at any point. 

Loans of type material are not considered. However, researchers are encouraged to visit the MCZ to view this material.

Loan requests should include the following information:

  1. Full name and institutional affiliation of the requestor as well their mailing address, email and phone number.
  2. MCZ Catalog numbers and complete taxonomic information of requested specimens.
  3. Justification of the need of the specimens for the proposed study.
  4. Experience of the researcher in handling ornithological specimens.
  5. Proposed activities to be conducted using the specimens (if measurements, specify types of measurements to be taken).
  6. Summary of previous work on the taxonomic group.
  7. Summary of specimens requested from other institutions.
  8. Requested length of loaned material (length will ultimately be decided by the Curator of Ornithology at the MCZ).

Loan requests should be directed to Jeremiah Trimble, Curatorial Associate in Ornithology. 

Loaned specimens must never be altered in any way and should be handled with great care. Specimens must be stored in air tight cases in a climate controlled facility. 

Two copies of any publications resulting from work on material loaned from the MCZ must be sent to the MCZ Ornithology collection, care of Jeremiah Trimble. Credit must be given to the Ornithology Department of the MCZ in that publication and mention of specimens must include the proper MCZ Ornithology catalog number.

Destructive Sampling

Destructive sample loans are considered, and may include skin samples taken from preserved scientific skins as well as subsamples of tissue specimens. 

Such requests should include all the information detailed for standard specimen loans and must also include the researcher's experience working with avian tissues. Additional information should include a detailed summary of other sources of avian tissue that were considered or used by the requestor and a justification of the material requested from the MCZ. Evidence of support of museum activities such as contribution of modern material from the field to natural history museums should also be included. 

The following rules must also be followed in all cases:

  1. Grantees must return unused tissues to the MCZ Department of Ornithology.
  2. Grantees are requested to return a portion of the extract derived from granted samples (e.g., DNA). This is intended to maximize use of the tissue loan and increase availability of information to the research community. Extracts or original tissue cannot be distributed to other researchers without MCZ permission.
  3. Grantees must acknowledge the “Department of Ornithology, Museum of Comparative Zoology” in all publications that use data generated from MCZ samples. Publications should include a table that lists voucher numbers of all samples used.
  4. Grantees must send a reprint of any publications benefiting from any MCZ Ornithology tissue grant. It would be helpful if the grantee emailed the publication citation to the Curatorial Associate, Jeremiah Trimble.


Photographing MCZ Ornithology specimens is not permitted without prior approval. In most cases, requests for photographs are approved. An MCZ Copyright Request form must be filled out by the requestor prior to any work being done. Permission for the use of images of MCZ specimens is granted for one-time application and only for research and non-commercial purposes, other purposes must receive specific written authorization from the MCZ.

Researchers unable to visit the museum or receive specimens due to their location or the limits placed on loaning of certain specimens (type specimens, for example) may request digital photographs be sent. Such requests are fulfilled following completion of the MCZ Copyright Request form and depending on the nature of the request and availability of Ornithology staff.