3D Scanning Policy main content.

3D Scanning Policy

Our aim in developing these policies has been to promote the widespread sharing of data, to clarify the intellectual property rights associated with scans of our specimens, and to minimize handling of fragile and rare specimens entailed by the repeated rescanning of specimens by multiple researchers.

Procedural Overview

  1. Write letter requesting specimens to scan
  2. To scan specimens, must sign user agreement: AMNH retains rights, but grants license to user for typical non-commercial academic uses
  3. Obtain loan if the specimen is to be removed from the department
  4. Public Data Repository upload within 1 year: Morphosource
  5. Data Embargo: up to 3 years
  6. Publication: only in publications allowing AMNH to retain copyright

Failure to follow these policies may result in forfeiture of future collection privileges or other actions.

1. Requests to Scan Specimens

Requests to scan specimens require a formal, hard-copy letter on institutional letterhead, stating exactly which specimens are being requested, which scanning method is intended, and for what research purpose. Initial inquiries by email to the curatorial associate are encouraged.

2. User Agreement

This agreement covers the copyright, licensing, use, and distribution of 3-D data generated from specimens in the AMNH collection using CT and all other scanning technologies (photogrammetry, laser scanning, MRI, etc.).

Once the department has made the decision to allow you to scan a specimen, you will be required to complete, sign, scan and return the user agreement (download the PDF below), including “Terms and Conditions for Scans of AMNH Specimens”, via email to the curatorial associate.


As set forth in AMNH’s “Terms and Conditions for Scans of AMNH Specimens,” AMNH retains copyright ownership of images, scans, raw data, pre-processed data, rendered data, and all derivatives of its specimens, including photos, molds, x-rays, and printed casts.

The user is in return, granted a non-exclusive, non-transferrable worldwide license to make derivative works of, distribute, and display the scans for publication in peer-reviewed journals and classroom use (see the user agreement for details).

Other aspects of the scanning permission are detailed in that agreement.

3. Loans for Scanning

All specimens that will be scanned outside of the department (including in the AMNH Microscopy and Imaging Facility (henceforth MIF) must be treated as a loan, since the specimens physically leave the department.

If the specimens are to be scanned at the MIF (by external researchers or non-Resident AMNH Research Associates), we require a minimum of three weeks’ notice in advance of the scanning date to prepare the loan. If you anticipate scanning multiple specimens, we expect a longer lead time. Scanning at the MIF is done only by, for, or in conjunction with AMNH research staff.  Time slots on the micro-CT scanner at the AMNH are assigned to curators; occasionally, a curator may elect to provide some of his/her hours to a visiting researcher to scan AMNH specimens here, for collaborative research or for other purposes determined in advance by the pertinent curator. Please contact the relevant curator that you are collaborating with on research. Please note that it is only in exceptional circumstances that time on the AMNH scanner is granted to external researchers.

Specimens for CT scanning will be sent in individual pre-packaged parcels with indications of specimen orientation. To avoid desiccation and damage specimens may not be removed from their packaging. If for some reason this protocol will not work for your research or the received parcels are not conducive to your machine e.g. not fitting properly, you MUST contact the curatorial associate and get written approval after justification and explanation of an alternate method.

4. Public Data Repository: Morphosource

When post-processing work has been completed on your scans, data must be uploaded to the Morphosource online repository (Morphosource.org). When using Morphosource, you must specify “American Museum of Natural History” as the Copyright Holder of your scan or derivatives. For the Copyright Permission field, select “Permission to use media on MorphoSource granted by copyright holder”, and for the Copyright License field, select “Media released for one-time use, no reuse without permission”. When releasing data to public searches of the archive, settings that restrict download of data without permission must always be used.  All requests for downloads must be approved directly by AMNH staff; please enter the contact details of the curatorial associate ([email protected]rg) who will review requests to download data.

If you should wish to additionally upload CT scan data to another online repository, you may do so only in a repository that allows tracking and restriction of downloads and offers an alternative option to choosing a Creative Commons license, and that meets the AMNH conditions for posting/uploading into the repository. Creative Commons licensing is not allowed for AMNH specimens, unless separately agreed upon by AMNH in advance and in writing.

Upload of both the raw data and pre-processed data (e.g. tiff, jpeg, dicom files) to Morphosource must take place no later than one year from the scanning date, as detailed in the “Terms and Conditions for Scans of AMNH Specimens.”

5. Data Embargo

For AMNH specimens borrowed and scanned at an external institution, AMNH will not use those scans and accompanying data, except for internal/archival use, for a period of three years from the scanning date unless otherwise agreed upon with the borrower. However, the AMNH (or other AMNH-approved entities) is in no way limited or restricted from creating their own scans from the same specimens in that time.

There is no embargo on AMNH’s use of any scans or data created from an AMNH specimen at the MIF scanning facility at AMNH.

6. Publication of Scan Data

When publishing results from your research, you must attribute to AMNH and cite AMNH catalog numbers (e.g. AMNH-Herp A-123456 for amphibians, AMNH-Herp R-123456 for reptiles).

Publication of scans and related data from AMNH Herpetology specimens is expressly permitted only in peer-reviewed academic publications that allow AMNH to retain copyright of those data.