Loans of Invertebrate Zoology Specimens

Upon approval from the Curator in Charge of the various collections of the Division of Invertebrate Zoology, specimens may be loaned for use by qualified, accredited, responsible scholars at educational and research institutions and to AMNH staff and students for scientific purposes and the intent to publish scientific findings in a timely fashion. Loans are made to the borrower's institution, with the care of the specimen(s) in the hands of a permanent staff member who is responsible for the care and return of the specimens. Loans for students are made out to their advisors or to another responsible staff member of the institution.

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 and 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.

When returning specimens, include a copy of the loan form or a list of specimens enclosed and indicate to whom the specimens are being returned.

[recipient’s name]

Division of Invertebrate Zoology

American Museum of Natural History

Central Park West at 79th Street

New York, NY 10024-5192 USA

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 ensure that our specimens are returned in good shape, please follow the guidelines below when returning borrowed specimens in fluid back to AMNH:

  • Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) 70% and above is regulated for transport. 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.
  • 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). The total liquid per package must not exceed 1L.

Large Specimens

  1. Remove large specimens and their labels from jars and wrap them in ethanol soaked paper towel, cheesecloth or cotton wool.
  2. Place wrapped specimens in a heat-sealed plastic bag. Any liquid in the bag must be less than 30mL. Remove excess air from the bag prior to heat sealing.

Small Specimens

  1. Small or partial specimens (genitalia, tissue samples, etc.) may be heat-sealed in original vials if flammable liquid is less than 30mL.
  2. Secure lid to container with parafilm or tape. Use plastic containers for shipping whenever possible. Glass containers are heavy and likely to break during transit, which leaks fluid and risks damage to the specimens.
  3. Place heat-sealed specimens into a second, larger plastic bag with enough material (paper towel, cotton, etc.) to absorb all of the liquids in the bag.
  4. Cushion primary containers from each other so they do not move freely within the secondary bag.
  5. Remove excess air and heat-seal the secondary bag
  6. Place prepared bag(s) into sturdy box or other container with sufficient cushion (bubble wrap, Styrofoam, packing peanuts) to protect specimens.
  7. Packages annot weigh more than 29kg (64lbs).
  8. Packages must comply with DOT (Department of Transportation) mandated drop and compressive load tests without breakage or leakage.
  9. 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.
  10. Mark the package clearly with the AMNH address and to whom the specimens are being returned. Include a copy of your loan form or a detailed list of enclosed specimens. Email your lender upon sending the package and provide the tracking number.
  11. Packages should be labeled as follows:
  • “Fragile or Handle with Care”
  • “Scientific research specimens, not restricted, Special Provision A180 and 49 CFR 173.4b applies”
  • “Excepted Quantities or Limited Quantities” (see DOT and IATA regulations for more information)

If you have any questions, contact the Curator-in-Charge.

Loan Request General

For more information on shipping dangerous goods (including flammable liquids) see the following:

U.S. Department of Transportation 49 C.F. R. 174.3b :

IATA regulations: Special provision A180 & Subsection