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Loans of Specimens

Typically, only qualified, responsible research scientists and graduate students at academic or research institutions may borrow specimens from the collection for scientific purposes and with the intent to publish scientific findings in a timely fashion.  

Loan requests should anticipate at least one week of processing time before specimens are shipped. Loan requests may be initiated by e-mail or verbally but must be followed by with a hard-copy letter request, on institutional letterhead to the Curator-in-Charge. Frequent borrowers may submit an e-mail request. Borrowers unknown to AMNH may be asked to submit supporting documentation (letter of reference.)  

Loans are made to the borrower's institution typically for a 2-year time period. Type specimens are loaned for no more than 6 months. Loans are processed generally within two weeks from the date of request. The institution is responsible for the care and return of the specimens. Loans for students are made to their advisors or another responsible staff member of the institution. Individuals known to have lost or mistreated specimens in the past may be denied further use of the collection. Dissection of genitalia must be approved by the Curator-in-Charge. Dissected parts should be preserved in permanent mounts or plastic microvials with glycerin, attached to the specimen pin and returned with the associated specimen. Genitalia of specimens stored in ethanol should be placed in alcohol-filled microvials and kept in the vial with the associated specimen but secured with cotton so as not to damage the specimen. A USFWS 3-177 import/export declaration must be filed for all incoming/outgoing loans shipped internationally.  Before you return borrowed (or donated) specimens to AMNH-IZ, please contact us with the list of specimens being returned, an anticipated shipping date and mail carrier. One of our staff will submit a 3-177 declaration to U.S. Fish and Wildlife. Once this is cleared, you will receive a copy of the cleared form to include in your shipment.

If you are shipping any bees or bee products into or out of the United States, please see the USDA/APHIS website:


Loans are Subject to Standard Restrictions

  • Destructive sampling is not permitted unless permission is granted by the Curator-in-Charge.
  • Loan material may not to be transferred/forwarded to a third party & must be returned to AMNH.
  • The Division of Invertebrate Zoology should be given appropriate credit in publications & databases that draw on the loaned material. Copies of publications resulting from loaned material should be sent to DIZ.
  • Determination labels should be placed on each specimen used in descriptive work or as voucher.
  • Loans are made at the discretion of AMNH and may be recalled at any time.

Loan Shipments

Domestic loans will be shipped via UPS Ground. International loans will be sent via Federal Express unless otherwise requested. For international loans, the borrower is responsible for providing copies of relevant import and export permits. Loans to countries where commercial delivery services are unreliable will be granted only when specimens can be hand-carried in both directions. AMNH has a moratorium on shipping and receiving loans during the month of December. Please do not ship specimens back to AMNH in December. 

Packing Pinned Insect Specimens

To insure that the specimens you have borrowed are returned to us in good condition, please:

1. Select a sturdy box for shipment that allows 2-3 inches around the specimen box. Place specimens in a smaller box with a foam lined bottom that fits comfortably in the shipping box.

2. Specimen pins should be inserted firmly into foam bottom so they do not get easily dislodged.

3. Secure (brace) specimens, especially loose or large specimens on pins, with additional pins and place pins in the four corners of the specimen box.

4. Place an inner "lid" on the specimens and pad the lid if the specimen box lid does not rest firmly against the box lid.

5. Label and seal the specimen box with tape or rubber bands.

6. Place only one or two specimen boxes in the shipping box with foam peanuts on all six sides of the specimen box in the 2-3 inch space.

7. Include the loan return form and/or letter stating from whom and to whom the specimens are being sent and the loan number!

8. Seal shipping box with clear shipping tape and label all four sides of box with "Fragile" or "Handle with Care" labels.


Packing Fluid Specimens

In order to make sure that our specimens are returned in good shape, please follow the guidelines below.

Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) 70% and above is regulated for transport. Please follow the guidelines below when returning borrowed specimens in fluid back to AMNH. Concentrations between 10-80% fall into Packing Group III. Concentrations above 80% fall into Packing Group II.

Always inform your lender that you are returning specimens. If returning specimens from outside the U.S., inform your lender prior to shipping so that we can complete the necessary US Fish & Wildlife Import/Export 3-177 declaration.

  1. The maximum quantity of dangerous goods per inner receptacle cannot exceed 30 ml. This inner receptacle cannot be full of liquid at 55 C (131 F) and should be of plastic with .2 mm thickness, earthenware, glass or metal.
  2. The lid to the inner container must be secure with wire or tape.
  3. The inner container needs to be secured in a secondary package.
  4. An absorbent, cushioning material that doesn’t react with the dangerous fluid must surround each inner receptacle and be able to absorb the entire fluid of the container.
  5. The secondary containers must be packed securely in a strong box or other container that complies with DOT (Department of Transportation) mandated drop and compressive load tests without breakage or leakage.
  6. Packages should be able to be dropped from 1.8 m (5.9 f) onto a solid, unyielding surface on each side of the package without damaging the containers inside.
  7. Packages cannot weigh more than 29 kg (64 lbs).
  8. Mark the package clearly with the AMNH address and to whom the specimens are being returned.
  9. Include one of the three copies of your loan form. Email your lender that you have shipped the package so we know to expect your package(s).
  10. In some cases, you may want to remove the ethanol and wrap specimens in cheese cloth or gauze moistened with alcohol and sealed in plastic. This negates the material from being considered dangerous goods, as long as each package contains less than 30 ml of 70% ethanol. But PLEASE CHECK with your lender to make sure that you do not damage specimens in wrapping them this way.
  11. If you have any questions, contact the Curator-in-Charge.



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