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For Online collections databases, Terms & Conditions for Use of Online Collections Databases, See:

The National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution (NMNH) captures electronic data about its collections to:

  • enhance access to, and ability to do research on its collections;
  • meet the Smithsonian’s mission and stewardship responsibility to preserve its collections and the information inherent in them;
  • enhance informational integrity and value of collections as the foundation for research, exhibitions, publications, and educational programs;
  • facilitate legal, physical, and intellectual control over collections; and
  • improve public access to the collections.

The Smithsonian seeks to provide the widest possible dissemination of collections information consistent with the stewardship responsibilities for its collections, associated documentation, and intellectual property rights.

In keeping with the above statements, the National Museum of Natural History will make data in the following fields freely available on the “Natural History Web” for collections that have been electronically recorded, with certain exceptions (see below):

  • Catalogue number (USNM number)
  • Name (for biological and paleontological specimens this includes at least the scientific name (binomial) and author(s) and may also include year published, identifier and year identified; for rocks, minerals, gems, etc. the name(s) and sometimes the chemical composition; for anthropological specimens the object name)
  • Original collection locality including:
    • Country and/or Ocean
    • State or equivalent primary political and/or geographical unit within country
    • County or equivalent secondary political and/or geographical unit within country, if available
    • Depth and/or Elevation (if available)
    • Geographic coordinates (if available, and sometimes rounded to the nearest degree)
  • Collector(s)
  • Collector’s number (if available)
  • Date collected
  • Numbers of specimens (if appropriate)
  • Type Status (if appropriate)
  • Low resolution thumbnail photo (when available)
A selection of specimens from the collections from the National Museum of Natural History

Collections from National Museum of Natural History. Photo by: Laurie Minor-Penland


In keeping with its stewardship responsibilities, the Smithsonian will control, monitor, and document all access to and use of its collections.

Requests for data from the Natural History Web will be tracked. (More information on how we track, will be coming in soon). Collections and database information not available on the Natural History Web may be available on a specific request and approval basis.

Access to collections and collections information may be restricted due to resource limitations, security, privacy, personal data, confidential proprietary information, object availability, intellectual property rights, applicable restrictions, and preservation constraints.

The provenance of acquired collection items is a matter of public record. Sensitive information involving privacy, collecting localities, intellectual property restrictions, security, privacy, personal data, confidential proprietary information, and restricted use may constrain access to collections information.

For the following reasons, the National Museum of Natural History may not make every record or all of the fields listed above available.

Some records or fields may be restricted for any of the following reasons:

  • cultural sensitivity;
  • restrictions agreed to by NMNH as part of accepting a collection (accession agreements), documented restrictions due to intellectual property rights, collecting permits, distribution agreements, or similar restrictions; or
  • ongoing research (by NMNH staff and associated scientists, either by individuals or projects , may limit availability of some data for a period not to exceed five years, which may be extended in some cases after review by the museum’s director or designate(s)).

Some provenance data may be restricted for the following reasons:

  • personal privacy of staff, collectors, donors or their families or
  • personal safety and security of staff, collectors, donors or their families.

Some collection locality data may restricted for the following types of collections:

  • collections of high monetary value
  • commercially traded collections (especially those biological species regulated under CITES or other international conventions to which the U.S. is a party; anthropological, rock or mineral, and paleontological specimens);
  • endangered or threatened species;
  • cultural objects or information from archaeological sites and other culturally sensitive properties; or
  • specimens or objects collected on private property.

For Online collections databases, Terms & Conditions for Use of Online Collections Databases, See:

Thank you
NMNH Webmaster

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