Museum of Southwestern Biology

Collections Care and Use

The MSB collections are, first and foremost, research collections. They are available to legitimate users from the national and international scientific community. Each division imposes more specific policies for use of its collections while at the same time operating under the general scope of the MSB. Specimens may be used for research, exhibit, and educational purposes. Owing to their research value and manner of preservation, MSB specimens are generally not suitable for display in exhibits. However, on a case-by-case basis, MSB specimens may be used in exhibits at the discretion of the individual divisions. Similarly, selected examples may be used in teaching and or scientific illustration for publication. The governing consideration in any use of Museum specimens is the conservation of specimens in particular and the collections as a whole.

Collection Access

Access to collections is permitted for research and educational purposes. Use of the collections is by approval of the divisional curator or his/her designee, usually the collection manager. Individuals or representatives of organizations who wish to use the MSB collections for commercial purposes or who may profit financially from its use are given access at the discretion of the divisional curator. These users may be charged a service fee (to be deposited into a divisional UNM Foundation fund).

The MSB has the right to deny access to individuals or representatives of organizations who propose to use the collections in ways that are contrary to the objectives of the Museum. Reasons may include: excessive costs to the MSB in terms of staff effort and use of facilities, compromised security of the MSB collections and buildings, unauthorized consumptive use of specimens, a history of misuse and mishandling of Museum materials at the MSB or other institutions, misrepresentation of credentials, research purpose, and affiliations, criminal activity, or disorderly or disruptive conduct. The curator of each collection may withhold specimens and associated documents in cases where dissemination of information may jeopardize sensitive or protected species or certain collections that are actively being used by other researchers or part of collaborative projects.


Loans constitute the primary method of access for the majority of collection users. Specimens and other Museum materials (such as collateral material) may be loaned to researchers at established, scientifically recognized institutions. Loan requests are to be submitted in writing, on institutional letterhead, and should describe the nature of the research and how the MSB specimens will be used in this research. Students must include the name and signature of their supporting faculty member (accepting responsibility) both for requests of collection information and for loans of specimen material. Electronic mail requests (digital copies attached to email) are acceptable if the letter of request is signed and on institutional stationery. Facsimile requests on letterhead also are sufficient. All requests are approved by the divisional Curator.

The duration of each loan is specified by the MSB division making the loan, typically not exceeding one year. A renewal period may be negotiated prior to the return date of loaned material.

Loan shipments are made in accordance with the Lacey Act of 1903 and the United States Department of Interior regulations concerning the, "Import, export, and interstate transportation of wildlife", CFR 50.14.

All MSB specimens cited in published works must be identified by their catalog numbers and standard institutional code: MSB (Arthropods, Fishes, Amphibians and Reptiles, Birds, and Mammals, Parasites) or UNM (Herbarium). The MSB requests a copy (pdfs) of the resulting published work (for divisional publication files) sent to the Museum division that provided specimens for the cited research.

Loans of material for exhibits must comply with the MSB Loan Policy specifically as it relates to long-term storage, security, and environmental conditions. Before it is displayed, material must be correctly identified to species (if possible), cataloged, and the MSB must be acknowledged. MSB specimen tags are to remain on specimens at all times; tags are never removed from MSB specimens.

Loans within the UNM Department of Biology and other departments on campus are allowed for research, teaching, and demonstration purposes with permission of the divisional Curator. Normally, the loan request should be made to the divisional Curator, in writing on institutional letterhead but on a case-by-case basis, this requirement can be waived. UNM faculty, students, staff, and visitors may not remove specimens, MSB documentation (library, maps, etc,), or museum and field equipment without following standard loan policy. Failure to adhere to interdepartmental loan policy can result in the MSB denying access to collections and facility.

Loans may be denied or modified due to size or number of specimens or the fragility, rarity, or uniqueness of the specimen(s). Borrowing institutions must meet minimal standards (as defined by professional organizations) for security, storage environment, and handling of specimens.

Future loans are contingent on loan recipients’ (UNM and outside researchers) care and maintenance of MSB specimens. Beyond not following the terms of use found on each divisions’ invoice, MSB specimens returned in poor condition, not returned in timely manner, or put at risk of loss by not packaging and mailing specimens in acceptable manner, may result in future loans being denied.

Consumptive Analysis

Requests for consumptive analyses of Museum specimens will comply with the following restrictions: consumptive sampling is not allowed without prior written approval from the divisional Curator; researchers must refer to divisional guidelines on how consumptive sampling is to be accomplished and documented; and residual products resulting from consumptive sampling (e.g., parasites, DNA, gut contents, karyotype test slides) are to be returned to the MSB with a copy of any written reports or published results.

Collection Visits

Visitors to the collection should make an appointment by telephone or or by sending an email or letter to the MSB divisional Curator and/or Collection Manager about a week in advance of their visit. First-time users of collections are trained in specimen handling and collection arrangement before access to the collections is granted. All specimens and documents used for study are reinstalled in permanent collections by MSB staff. No food or drink is allowed in the collection areas. Visitors are expected to adhere to all UNM and MSB safety guidelines and codes of conduct while visiting the museum.


Educational tours of the collection may be provided as staff time allows.

Special Collections

Most divisions maintain teaching collections. Representative taxa in these collections are used on a regular basis by students in courses or in exhibits and demonstrations. Specimens in teaching collections are documented (usually with their own, separately maintained catalog) and stored separately from the main cataloged collections.

Reference collections are a loaned portion of research collections for periods of time in excess of the normal loan period. For instance, a reference collection is maintained at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, LTER site, near Socorro, New Mexico, for personnel to verify specimens collected locally. Although this collection is remote from the main collections, users must comply with the Loan Policy relative to care and management of the specimens (e.g., proper storage and handling, adequate security, acceptable environmental conditions, and commitment to long-term preservation). Reference collections can be recalled at any time if MSB staff determine proper care and management are not provided or the collections are no longer needed.

Unprocessed or uncataloged research materials for example data sheets, owl pellet remains, electrophoretic gels, field books, blood samples) may be loaned to another organization or researcher after a reasonable length of time, with written permission by the original researcher or her/his designated agent (e.g., major advisor). Researchers must cite MSB catalog numbers in published reports even if that material was uncataloged at the time it was loaned to that researcher.

Collection Care

The long-term conservation of MSB specimen collections and document archives is the responsibility of all MSB staff members and associates, regardless of divisional affiliation. Staff members directly involved with specimens, curators, collection managers, curatorial assistants, and museum technicians all have a role and level of responsibility in this care of collections.

Curators are ultimately responsible for the condition of collections in their divisions, determining direction of growth, and assisting the Director in securing adequate funding for normal Museum operations. Collection managers are under the supervision and guidance of the curator. Collection managers are responsible for the care, management, and maintenance of the collection, loan activity, access to specimens and data, assisting researchers in museum lab work, and training and supervising curatorial staff and prioritizing and coordinating the activities of curatorial staff.

Procedures for care and maintenance will be consistent with current conservation information and meet professional standards within the discipline. MSB Collections Managers will train and supervise curatorial staff in effective conservation of natural history collections through recognizing potential problems in preservation and archival conditions. Collections Managers are responsible for using current, best practices in their curatorial duties and will continue to get appropriate training in areas of collections care, archival methodology, and data management. This can be achieved through attendance at meetings and workshops that address “best practices” in collections care and data management; utilize the expertise found in professional societies dedicated to the care and conservation of natural history collections; subscribe to journals dedicated to collections care.

An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) will be implemented as an environmentally sound approach to conservation of MSB collections, using the US Environmental Protection Agency four-tiered model: action thresholds, monitor and identify pests, prevention, and control.

A MSB Disaster Preparedness Plan is available and reviewed on an annual basis by MSB curators. The Plan is based on recommendations and guidelines from the following: International Council of Museums, US National Park Service, US Federal Emergency Management Agency and Museum SOS, an online comprehensive resource for museum disaster preparedness and response (

Type specimens (primary) are maintained on or in designated shelving/cabinets for monitoring and quick retrieval in the event of an emergency. These collections are accessible for to qualified researchers upon request to the Curator. 

Copyright and Use

All materials housed or produced by, or donated to the MSB are property of The Board of Regents of the University of New Mexico. Federal specimens curated by NBS remain the property of the United States Government. Use of these materials may be granted to bona fide individuals and agencies for acceptable purposes as approved by the divisional Curator. Any person or activity that is not consistent with the philosophy, scope, or spirit of the MSB (and thus violates the Museum's mandate) may be denied all or part of the holdings and services of the Museum.

MSB encourages the reproduction of museum material in scholarly and general publications as a means of broadening accessibility to researchers and the general public. MSB will cooperate in such projects to the greatest extent allowable with the appropriate permissions.

MSB retains the copyright to papers published by the MSB and to the image of any museum owned material. Permissions for reproduction of such MSB materials must be obtained in advance and are for one-time use only.

Ordinarily there is no charge for non-commercial use of such images, such as for a standard scientific publication, but fees are determined solely by the MSB. A general condition of use is that copies of images and other media, which should include the associated metadata, must be provided to the appropriate MSB collection department for archiving.

To request permission to use MSB copyrighted materials, such as photographs, video, and 3D scans taken of a specimen or publication images and figures, contact the appropriate divisional Curator.

For artists who are producing a unique work that is based on incorporated objects of MSB copyrighted material, an addendum broadening the copyright permissions may be considered. This consideration is determined solely by the MSB.