Prairie Research Institute

Illinois Natural History Survey

INHS Biological Collections Policies

Collections Resources Committee, Illinois Natural History Survey

Effective as of January 26, 2009

I. Mission Statement

The mission of the Illinois Natural History Survey Collections is to acquire, conserve, share, and interpret collections and associated information pertaining to the biotic resources of Illinois and the diversity of life.

II. Acquisitions and Accessions

A. Scope of the Collections

The research collections of the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) naturally emphasize the biota of Illinois and the midwestern U.S. However, to place the Illinois biota within the broader context of the world flora and fauna, the collections range in scope from intensive coverage of a geographic region, biotic community, or ecosystem to international coverage of a certain taxa that are the subject of research by the staff.

Collections of INHS, some world-renowned, are separated into the following groups: Amphibians and Reptiles, Annelids, Birds, Crustaceans, Fishes, Herbaria (vascular plants, bryophytes, and fungi), Insects (and related arthropods), Mammals, and Mollusks. A brief description of, and policies specific to, each collection are provided in Appendix A.

B. Modes of Acquisition

INHS may acquire specimens by field collection, contract, gift, bequest, exchange, abandonment, or other legal and appropriate means. Acceptance of specimens into the collections is at the discretion of the appropriate curator or collection manager. Questions regarding the proper preparation of specimens should be addressed to the curator or collection manager. Each specimen should be properly prepared, accompanied by complete locality data (including, when possible, latitude/longitude and/or Universal Transverse Mercator [UTM] coordinates), and, where appropriate, copies of the collector’s field notes. INHS may also request copies of scientific collecting permits. All new acquisitions must be brought to the attention of the appropriate collection manager or curator and, when appropriate, treated for pests before being deposited in the collection. A record of each acquisition is added to an electronic database.

C. Guidelines for Prioritizing Acquisitions

Curators will make every possible effort to build and improve the collections of INHS. The following guidelines help establish priorities for accepting specimens but, ultimately, each curator is responsible for establishing his/her own priorities, consistent with the overall objectives of the collection.

  1. Type specimens and voucher specimens cited in the scientific literature.
  2. Specimens related to the research interests of INHS scientific staff.
  3. Specimens collected on grant or contract funds carrying a stipulation that the material be added to the Survey collections.
  4. Specimens from areas or ecosystems threatened by alteration or destruction.
  5. Specimens that will increase the systematic breadth of the collection (e.g., taxa new to, or poorly represented in, the collection).
  6. Specimens from geographic areas or habitats that are poorly represented or of special interest (e.g., a survey or re-survey of a particular area).
  7. Donated specimens and specimens documenting surveys not conducted by INHS staff. These will be accessioned as agreed upon by the curator, usually only if funds for curation are provided.

D. Ethics and Laws

Every reasonable effort will be made to ensure the specimens considered for accession have been collected or imported in full compliance with the laws and regulations of the U.S., individual states, and country of origin. Specimens of endangered species collected before endangered status was designated can and will be accepted in accordance with current federal guidelines. INHS may accept specimens that have been confiscated and offered to INHS by government authorities. INHS adheres to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and other applicable international laws. It is the responsibility of each curator to enforce these guidelines.

 E. Violations of Policy

If any material acquired is shown to be in violation of CITES or other applicable laws, the material will be reported to the appropriate authorities or returned to the donor, as appropriate.

F. Encumbrances

The agreement to receive specimens into the collections is considered a service to the research community; specimens, once accepted, become the property of INHS. Unless superseded by an individually negotiated Memorandum of Understanding, title to all specimens or collections acquired must be obtained free and clear, without restrictions as to use, exhibition, loan, dispersal, or future disposition.

G. Appraisals

No curatorial staff shall participate in the appraisal or estimation of the value of a specimen, either as a part of museum services to the public, or as a precondition for potential donation of a specimen to INHS. Such action could represent a conflict of interest. Staff may recommend qualified appraisers to the extent that such action avoids the appearance of a conflict of interest.

III. Management and Care of Collections

The biological collections of INHS were first established in 1858. INHS has maintained a tradition in caring for and managing these collections, using established curatorial methods appropriate to each taxon.

Conservation and preservation of specimens should conform to the current highest professional standards.

An emphasis is placed on integrated pest management. Collections managers are responsible, through careful monitoring and proper sanitation, for minimizing the risk of pest introduction and for reducing the need for chemical pesticides and repellents.

A yearly activity report is maintained by each curator or collection manager; copies are available upon request.

IV. Access and Use – Loans

The biological collections at INHS function as reference resources for scientists around the world. Specimen loans are made upon approval by the curator of the collection, subject to the following conditions.

A. Qualifications

Specimen loans are made either to qualified individuals or institutions, subject to the policies of the individual collections. Qualified individuals are scientists affiliated with academic or research institutions that will assume responsibility for the care and safe return of the specimens. Loans to students are made through their advisors.

B. Duration

In general, loans are made for a period of twelve months, but some individual collections loan specimens for longer or shorter periods (see Appendix A). Loans may be renewed upon advance written request and approval of the curator or collection manager.  Failure to return specimens at the end of the loan period, or upon request by the INHS curator or collection manager, may result in denial of subsequent requests for loans.

C. Use

Because of their irreplaceable nature, specimens from INHS research collections are not to be used as teaching aids in the laboratory or classroom. (The curators of some INHS collections have set aside small assemblages of deaccessioned specimens for use in teaching; see Appendix A.)  Specimens sent out on loan are not to be removed from the institution to which they were consigned without prior written consent of the appropriate INHS curator. Specimens should be handled properly so that they may be returned in the same condition as they were received. Specimen labels and tags must not be removed or altered. The borrower assumes responsibility for protecting specimens from fire, flood, exposure to extremes of temperature and relative humidity, insects, dirt, vandalism, theft, mishandling, handling by unauthorized persons, or any other hazard that might result in the deterioration or destruction of loaned material.

D. Shipping

Costs of outgoing shipments are borne by INHS; the cost of returning loans is assumed by the borrower. Returned loans must be packed and transported in the same manner as received. Primary types must be returned by U.S. Postal Service registered mail or other traceable shipping methods (e.g., commercial express mail). If a large number of specimens is requested, the curator may elect to send only part of the material and mail the rest upon the return of the original shipment. The borrower must sign and return a copy of the loan form to INHS upon receipt of the specimens. Hand-carrying of loans is generally permitted with the prior approval of the curator or collection manager, and researchers are encouraged to visit the collections for the purpose of selecting the specimens needed for their research. Shipments of loaned specimens (including hand-carried loans) must conform to state and federal regulations regarding transport of natural history specimens (e.g., endangered or threatened species; see Appendix B for detailed guidelines).

E. Retention of Specimens

All loaned material must be returned unless designated as a gift or exchange (see Deaccessions, below). Retention of duplicate specimens, including paratypes, is permitted only by written arrangement with the curator. All primary types, including those designated by the borrower, must be returned.  Any retained material must be deposited in a properly curated institutional collection and remain accessible to other qualified researchers.

 F. Acknowledging Use of INHS Material

The use of INHS specimens must be acknowledged in publications based on the material. Separates, reprints, or citations of literature should be provided to the collection manager.

G. Visitors

Visitors may access the collection with prior consent of the curator or collection manager. All visitors must register by signing the collection guest book upon arrival. Qualified scientists may handle specimens independently in areas specified by the curator, but others may need to view the collection under the supervision of a curator. Tours can be arranged for small groups wishing to see the collections by contacting the appropriate collection manager or curator.

V. Destructive Sampling

Dissection, extraction of biochemicals, or other kinds of destructive sampling or analyses of specimens are permitted only by prior agreement with the appropriate curator or collection manager. Sampled material, including biochemicals, may be retained only by permission and with the understanding that unneeded portions (e.g., extracted genomic DNA) will remain available to other qualified researchers.

VI. Deaccessions

Deaccession is the permanent removal of a specimen or specimens from the collection.

A. Criteria

Specimens may be deaccessioned for the following reasons:

  1. Material is inappropriate to the institution’s mission.
  2. Insufficient specimen documentation or collection data.
  3. Specimen poses risk to human health.
  4. Specimen has no scientific or educational value.
  5. Specimen irreparably damaged, lost, or stolen.
  6. Specimen will be destroyed during sampling (e.g., extraction of biochemicals).
  7. Legality or ownership has been challenged.
  8. Repatriation to country of origin is required.
  9. Specimen is part of an exchange or gift agreement.

B. Restrictions

Before any specimen is deaccessioned, a reasonable effort will be made to ascertain that INHS is free to do so. Where restrictions to the disposition of a specimen or collection are found, the curator and Director will seek advice of the legal counsel of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

C. Authority

INHS may deaccession any specimen unless there are specific written restrictions to the contrary. Collection managers may, at their discretion and subject to the above restrictions and criteria, carry out routine deaccessions of small numbers of specimens. Gift or exchange agreements involving deaccession of large numbers of specimens require additional authority (see Exchanges and Gifts, below).

D. Disposal

The disposal of deaccessioned specimens may be through transfer to the collection of another institution, use for teaching purposes, destructive sampling for research, or destruction and discard. Copies of all records pertaining to these specimens will be retained by INHS.

E. Exchanges and Gifts

Exchanges or gifts of INHS specimens are made only by specific written agreement with the appropriate INHS curator or collection manager, and for the purpose of enhancing the research value of INHS collections, e.g., as compensation for authoritative identification of INHS specimens, or expansion of the geographic or taxonomic coverage of the collections.  In general, only duplicate specimens may be deaccessioned for the purpose of exchanges or gifts. Exchange or gift agreements involving primary types, or large numbers of nontype specimens (>20 birds or mammals, >50 specimens of other animal taxa), require written approval of the Chair of the INHS Collections Resources Committee and the Director of INHS in addition to the consent of the appropriate INHS curator (for restrictions on gifts and exchanges of plant specimens, see Plants, Appendix A).

VII. Health and Safety

[see Sections 7.02-7.07, INHS Internal Policy and Procedure Manual]

VIII. Emergency Preparedness

[see Section 7.01, INHS Internal Policy and Procedure Manual]