Museum of Southwestern Biology

Accession and Deaccession


Acquisitions of natural history collections (specimens and associated documents), derived from gifts, exchanges, and museum sponsored field activities, which fulfill the mission and objectives of MSB, are formally accessioned. This formal declaration of title to specimens and associated documents is also an acknowledgement by the University of New Mexico and MSB of the institution’s responsibility in the long-term care of accessioned collections. Dispatching institutions and donors of specimens are acknowledged in an official and timely manner by the MSB divisional Curator. Any conditions, terms of acceptance, or policies to be adhered to by the MSB are noted in the accession records. Only preconditions or terms that do not constrain the Museum's full stewardship of the collections are accepted.

Each division accepts collections acquired legitimately, according to the laws and regulations of the international, federal, and state agencies dedicated to the protection of fauna and flora. All appropriate permits, import, and export documents are retained in each division's accession files for public inspection. Each division has written collection goals and principles. These guide the division in accessioning collections which augment the current holdings of the division, assist in current research and educational requirements, and are within the scope of the MSB.

Accession files, hard files and electronic files, are maintained so that original documentation (collecting permits, proofs of title, export/import forms, field notes, correspondence, and invoices) is easily accessible to museum staff, researchers, and authorities.

Each division assumes full stewardship for collections it accepts. This includes the principle that minimal standards of care will be provided for specimens and original documents received. As part of the accessioning protocol, the MSB expects in most cases that all available original documentation and field notes accompany collections received from museum sponsored field activities and gifts. These data will be held in each division's library and stored according to recommendations made by professional societies of librarians and archivists (see Documentation Policy).

The monetary value of an accession is not assessed by MSB staff. Depositors may not request this service of staff those evaluations will be considered confidential information for primary parties only (i.e., the MSB and the donor.) 

Reports of museum acquisitions in the form of gifts (see Appendix III) will follow current University of New Mexico requirements. Gifts to the MSB are subject to The Board of Regents approval.


As a steward of natural history collections, the MSB recognizes its role as a caretaker of the wider scientific community's intellectual property. However, the permanent removal of cataloged specimens from the MSB collections may be done for sound scientific and curatorial reasons. Therefore, the following are acceptable conditions for formal deaccessioning procedure:

Exchanges: An agreement between the MSB and another museum to exchange specimens of equal scientific value and to mutually relinquish their respective stewardship over those exchanged collections.

Transferring or Discarding Collections: This is an agreement between the MSB and another museum that the MSB will relinquish its ownership of collections that no longer serve a purpose to the MSB (or require more accessibility to the wider scientific community). MSB collections are transferred only to institutions that have adequate standards of collections care and are accessible for research. In these transactions, the MSB does not require specimens in return. MSB primary types may be transferred to other museums depending on the discipline's philosophy regarding stewardship of type collections and accessibility. (see Lachner 1976). Likewise, a MSB division may share an important series of specimens with another peer institution or museum with international recognition in order to increase accessibility to those specimens (e.g., dividing a paratypic series among several museums or institutions.) The original MSB catalog number must be maintained in the other institution’s database when the specimens are cataloged by recipient. 

Destruction of cataloged specimens can sometimes occur by natural disasters, museum pests, and consumptive sampling procedures. Each curator may decide which (destroyed) specimens no longer have scientific value and informs the Museum Director of his/her intention to discard these specimens. The Museum Director will inform the Museum staff of a division's intention to discard cataloged specimens and will seek their opinion on the matter. Original documentation for discarded specimens is always retained by the MSB. Holotypes and Type series are never discarded, regardless of their condition. Gifts made through the University of New Mexico by approval of The Board of Regents are subject to formal procedures of deaccessioning.

Original documentation of deaccessioned specimens will be retained by the MSB divisions. 

Exchanged and transferred specimens will retain original specimen labels, will be transferred with the specimens to recipient. Digital copies of other original documents (field notes, accession files and correspondence) will be provided. 

MSB catalog numbers assigned to deaccessioned specimens are never reassigned. The catalog entries are amended to show the status of those specimens and the date of deaccessioning.