Upon approval from the staff of the Division of Paleontology, we typically loan original catalogued fossil specimens only for use by qualified, accredited, responsible scholars of educational and research institutions, and to staff and students from other sections of AMNH, with the additional requirement that these will be used to generate published results 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; i.e., the institution 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. If an individual is known to have lost or mistreated specimens in the past, that individual may be denied further use of the collection. Normally loans will only be made to institutions with a collection manager (or similar responsible collections position) who will be responsible for managing the loan.

Applying for a Loan

Requests for loans may be initiated by e-mail or telephone call, but must be immediately followed by a formal request. Requests for loans usually require a formal hard-copy letter, on institutional letterhead, which can be faxed or e-mailed. In the case of regular borrowers, an e-mail alone may suffice. Under certain circumstances, for example where borrowers are not known to the institution, a supporting reference may be requested. Loan requests should be sent to the appropriate curator-in-charge.

Specimen Availability

Only accessioned and cataloged specimens can be loaned. In general, the Division of Paleontology does not loan Type specimens. Under certain circumstances, and at the discretion of the curator-in-charge or Division Chair, Type specimens may be loaned; in such cases, restrictions may be placed on the duration of the loan and the method of shipment, and the borrower may be required to insure the specimen during transit.

Additional Conditions

In some cases, for example where the borrower works for a non collections-holding institution or for extremely rare or valuable specimens, they may be asked to provide suitable evidence that the specimen(s) will be handled adequately, and that suitable and secure environmental and storage conditions will be provided for the specimen. 


Loans typically will be for no less than one year, and will not normally be made for periods of more than three years. Loans are considered due for return once the period of the loan has elapsed. Persistent failure to return overdue loan material may be grounds for the withdrawal of the borrower's right to use the collection. Under extreme circumstances, such as failure of the borrower's home institution to act to ensure the return of the material, and at the discretion of the Divisional Chair, withdrawal of privileges may be extended to cover all staff and students of the borrower's institution. Further action, including legal proceedings, may be undertaken if necessary.

Standard Restrictions

Normal loan conditions preclude any interventive work on the specimen(s), such as preparation, molding or casting, or destructive sampling. Such work must not be undertaken without advanced, written permission from AMNH. The process for requesting and granting such permission is covered in the destructive sampling and preparation section of this website. Carrying out preparation or destructive sampling on a borrowed specimen without permission may be grounds for denying future loan requests from the borrower.

Photography: Imaging AMNH specimens is limited to scientific use only. Images may not be used for commercial purposes without prior written consent from AMNH.

Loan Material must never be transferred to a third party, within or outside the AMNH. All material must be returned to AMNH; if necessary a new loan can be requested by the third party and arranged according to the standard procedures. 

Generation of 3D Data: Scanning AMNH specimens while on loan is prohibited without prior written approval. Please review the application guidelines here.

The Division should be given appropriate credit in any publications and databases drawing on the loaned specimens. Two copies of all publications in which the specimen(s) appear should be sent to the Division for inclusion in the Osborn Library. Failure to credit the Division, and/or to deposit publications, may result in loss of future borrowing privileges. Please review these guidelines on the citation of AMNH catalog numbers.

Loans are made solely at the discretion of the AMNH, and can be terminated or otherwise recalled at any time by the Museum, for any reason. The Museum will endeavor to give a minimum period of 2 weeks notice.

Destructive Sampling and Specimen Preparation

3D Scanning



Loans Contacts

Dr. Roger Benson
[email protected]

Fossil Fish
Dr. John Maisey
[email protected]

Fossil Invertebrates
Dr. Melanie J. Hopkins
[email protected]

Fossil Mammals
Dr. Jin Meng
[email protected]

VP Archives
Dr. Michael Novacek
[email protected]