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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Department ofVertebrate Zoology

Division of Mammals

Tarsius bancanus
Petrodromus tetradactylus
Petrodromus tetradactylus (Four-toed Elephant Shrew), Mozambique. P. Naskrecki. © P. Naskrecki. Photo used by permission of the photographer.


The Division of Mammals is in the midst of a staff transition. Several long-time staff have recently retired, and it may be many months before we will be able to replace some of them. In the meantime, please understand that we may need additional time to respond to visitor requests and loans in particular. We will continue to serve the scientific community as best as we can under these circumstances.


The mammal collections consist of dried mammal skins, skeletons, and whole fluid preserved carcasses kept for the purpose of scientific research. As much as possible we encourage researchers to study our collection onsite, and hundreds of scientists come to the museum to examine specimens each year. At the same time we understand that a visit may not always be practical. A scientist working hundreds of miles away, for example, may not be able to justify travelling to Washington D.C. to examine just a few small skulls; or a researcher in the middle of a major systematic revision may need to have a large number of specimens handy for months at a time. Under special circumstances such as these, we will consider a specimen loan.

Requests for Loans

To request a loan, please submit a completed Specimen Loan Request via email to mammalloans[at]

Availability of the Collection

Specimens are loaned only for scientific research, or scientific illustration related to the publication of research results. Research specimens are not loaned for teaching, nonscientific illustration, decoration or for personal or commercial use. Specimens categorically unavailable for loan include: type specimens, primates, extinct species, or material being actively studied by our resident staff.

Conditions of Loans

Specimens are loaned to academic or scientific institutions in the name of a recognized member of that organization. Student loans must be cosigned by an institutional representative assuming responsibility for the loan. The loan period is six months, after which the borrower must return all specimens or write for an extension. In some cases loans may be arranged for longer (ongoing revision) or shorter (rare or unique specimens) periods of time. Not more than one-half of a taxon or locality series may be borrowed at one time. Specimens on loan must be properly stored in a closable cabinet protected from dust, humidity, light, and pests. Loans involving numerous specimens will be shipped as two or more smaller installments, each being forwarded on the safe return of the previous. We expect loans to be returned in similar packaging, and via the same method by which they were sent out. Second-party transactions are not permitted—recipient institutions may not transfer USNM specimens without special written permission. Specimen loans are a privilege, and the division of mammals reserves the right to grant loan requests at its discretion.

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