Collection Policies

Access to specimens is open to qualified visitors, researchers, and students. Contact the Curatorial Associate for further information. In addition to its own collection policies, the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology 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 for use of the collection should include:
  1. A short research proposal (e.g. what you plan to accomplish with work on the requested material and how that fits in with your research goal).
  2. Your full name and institutional address. For graduate students and post docs, please also include the name of your supervisor and their institutional address.
  3. A list of MCZ specimens or taxa you wish to study.   

All users of the collection are requested to fill out a pink specimen withdrawal card, and deposit this card in place of each specimen removed from a storage cabinet. When the specimen is returned, the card will be removed and destroyed. A formal loan form is required for all specimens going on loan, including in-house loans.


Loan Requests should be directed to the Curatorial Associate in the form of a research proposal, and should cite the MCZ catalog number, as well as appropriate taxonomic information. The proposal should also address any techniques or methods requested to be used on the specimen while on loan. Loans are made for research purposes only (not for classroom teaching) with the following guidelines:

  1. Institutional Affiliation: The borrower must have an affiliation with a research institution. Individuals without such affiliation may borrow only under the condition that they are sponsored by an individual with such an affiliation, and agree to study the material at the sponsor's institution. In such cases, loans will be sent to the sponsor at the sponsor's institutional address. The loaned material may not leave the sponsor institution.
  2. Students/ Faculty Sponsors: Student borrowers must have a faculty advisor who is willing to oversee for the care and safe return of the specimens. All requests must be accompanied by the full name and address of both the student and advisor, so appropriate inquires can be made. Delinquent student loans may delay the processing of new requests or may prevent any future loan request by the student, advisor, or institution more generally.
  3. Types and Specimen Stability: In most cases, loan requests for type material or other historically important specimens will not be granted, unless deemed appropriate by the curatorial staff. If, in the opinion of the curatorial staff, the condition of the specimen requested is determined to be fragile, transportation by hand may be required or the researcher will be required to visit the collection to examine the requested material in person.
  4. Loan Form: The recipient is required to sign and return a copy of the loan form upon receipt of the specimens. Any damage during shipping should be indicated on the loan form. Failure to return the form could jeopardize publication copyright or future loan requests.
  5. Shipping & Insurance: The MCZ pays for the loan shipment and insurance, with the borrower assuming responsibility for the return.
  6. Hand Carrying Specimens: If a specimen is hand carried, the recipient of the loan must demonstrate they have the appropriate funds to return the loan in the allotted loan period. Failure to return the loan on time may jeopardize any publication copyright or future loan requests.
  7. Care of Specimens: The borrower assumes responsibility for the care of specimens. All borrowed specimens are to be kept in association with their labels and other accompanying data, and in a secure facility. If the loan institution is not known to the MCZ curatorial staff, details of where and how the specimen will be stored while on loan may be requested before a decision is made. Improper care of specimens while on loan (e.g. they are returned damaged), could impact future loan requests by the borrower, his/her lab, or the institution more generally.
  8. Change of Address: Loans may not be move between institutions without prior permission. It is the responsibility of the borrower to notify the MCZ curatorial staff of any change of address in a timely manner so appropriate measure can be taken.
  9. Loan Tenure: Specimens are ordinarily loaned for a period of 6 months. It is the responsibility of the borrower to contact the Curator or Curatorial Associate in writing to request an extension. Request for an extension must be made before the current loan period expires. Failure to return the loan on time could jeopardize publication copyright or future loan requests by the borrower, his/her lab, or even the institution more generally.
  10. Size of Loan Request: Researchers are requested to consider the practicalities involved in responding to requests for large numbers of specimens, or material that is very large. In these cases, you may be required to visit the MCZ. Our policy is not to exhaust a taxonomic group.
  11. Designating New Type Specimens: Researchers designating holotypes from MCZ material are requested to provide the curatorial staff with a copy of the published type designation. It is requested that type specimens be returned either via registered mail or hand-carried.
  12. Loan Transfers: Transfers may not be undertaken without the written permission of the curatorial staff.
  13. Packing & Returning Specimens: Borrowers are requested to return all specimens as soon as possible upon completion of their research. Partial returns are acceptable. A copy of the original loan form should be enclosed with the returned loan. Types should be sent via registered mail. Specimens should be securely packed and boxed. Specimens with loose elements should especially be protected. Please do not ship any types and specimens during the month of December because of the uncertainty of the holiday mails.

Exhibition loans are managed by MCZ Collections Operations. Short duration loans may be made with the approval of the curatorial staff.


Researchers should contact the MCZ curatorial staff for approval before undertaking preparation. If thin-sectioned specimens are prepared on glass or by other techniques, the sections should be clearly labeled with complete information from the original specimen. Types should not be electrocoated for SEM examination if such coating may impair other types of study.

Molding & Casting

Molding and casting be undertaken with the approval of the curatorial staff.