Collections material may be borrowed for scientific research purposes to approved borrowers, subject to certain conditions.

Arranging a loan 

All loan requests should be directed to the appropriate collections group.

Before contacting them, researchers wishing to access information on the Museum's collections should first consult our online collections

Please be aware that it can take up to three months to fully assess and process loan requests due to the large volume of loans handled.

All prospective borrowers must approved. The collections group will be able to provide copies of our current approved borrower applications and our lending terms and conditions.

assessing applications and fully processing loans can take up to three months. 

Lending restrictions

  • Type specimen lending is restricted. Rare and fragile items are not loaned. In these instances the Museum can provide high-quality images.
  • The Museum retains the right to refuse loans, to request the return of loans before the end of the loan period and to take action against borrowers who do not comply with our terms and conditions for lending.
  • Hand carries are only permitted in certain circumstances and must be approved by the Head of Collections. It is often not possible to take specimen loans at the end of a collections visit.
  • Researchers in the UK are generally asked to make a study visit to the Museum rather than request a loan. This is to save fragile material having to be unnecessarily submitted by post.
  • Loans will not be sent for a month over the Christmas and New Year period. 
  • Library and Archives collections are for reference only and may only be consulted in the public reading room.

Loans for destructive and invasive sampling

The Museum considers requests for destructive or invasive sampling, including

  • sampling of molecular (frozen tissue and genetic) collections
  • preparation of a thin section
  • subsampling of part of a specimen 
  • total destruction of any biological, palaeontological or mineralogical specimens.

Grant applications

If you are making a grant application that requires sampling from our collections we strongly recommend that approval in principle is sought in advance of external funding requests being submitted.

Criteria for destructive and invasive sampling loans

The Museum evaluates loans request against set criteria based on the following questions:

  • How abundant in the collection is the material of the particular biological, palaeontological or mineral species in question or is the request for an important subset of that species?
  • Can alternative material be used or collected for the purpose?
  • Is there a non-destructive alternative or is one likely to be developed sufficiently soon?
  • Will the results justify the sacrifice?
  • Has a pilot study been done, ie will the method work?
  • Will someone in the future want to repeat the work on the same specimens - ie will the specimen be reduced further?
  • What other methods of study, known or potential, are prevented by allowing this destructive action?
  • What is normal taxonomic practice in this classificatory group?
  • Is the material type or figured and/or historically important?

Historical and type specimens

Permission to sample type specimens, historically important items or extinct or endangered species or taxa that are poorly represented in the collections may only be granted in exceptional circumstances.

Location of sampling

The Museum may insist that the work is done within the Natural History Museum and/or by Museum staff. If this is the case the Museum may recover any costs associated with the sampling.

Data and publications

Samples or items for sampling are sent to the applicant as a research loan on the understanding that data may be returned in lieu of physical items. Borrowers will be made aware of any restrictions that may apply regarding the use or publication of items, and where appropriate copies of Material Transfer Agreements, Prior Informed Consent, Mutually Agreed Terms etc. will be provided. The Museum may require use of a Material Transfer Agreement to define obligations with respect to Access and Benefit Sharing.