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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Department of Anthropology

Mexican Masks in storage

Department of Anthropology
Archaeology, Ethnology and Physical Anthropology Collections

Borrowing Collections
The Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), loans objects from its collections for temporary exhibits to qualifying museums. While the Department's goal is to accommodate qualified borrowers, the volume and timing of submissions often make it impossible to approve all requests. Requests submitted at least 18 to 24 months prior to the proposed shipping date and which are accompanied by clear intellectual justification and evidence of budgetary planning for conservation, bracket-making and packing and shipping will have the best chance of being approved.

Due to the volume of loan requests currently in process for 2013 and 2014, the Department of Anthropology will not be accepting or reviewing any additional loan requests until July 1, 2014. Proposals received in July 2014 should be for loans that ship no sooner than June of 2015. International loans will require additional time. Please plan accordingly.  

Loan requests are initiated by the submission of a Preliminary Loan Request Form. This form asks for basic information about the exhibit dates, intent, venue(s), the number of objects requested, and, if known, their catalog numbers. This initial document is intended to help the borrower compile information needed for a successful loan request. It also provides the Department of Anthropology with a general sense of the nature and scope of incoming loan requests. After review by Department staff, borrowers whose requests meet Departmental standards will be directed to move forward to Active Loan Review status. Please send any questions and completed Preliminary Loan Request Forms to our Registrar, Susan Crawford.

For detailed guidelines on the overall loan request process please refer to the Department of Anthropology Active Loan Status/Loan Process Information document.

We strongly encourage borrowers to consult with appropriate Department curator(s) and, if possible, visit the collections. Borrowers are also encouraged to use our online database, or, if needed, request a report from our collections database. It has been our experience that such preparation facilitates the processing and evaluation of loan requests.

  • For information on our collections, search our online database. Be advised that due to frequently incomplete database records, and the amplitude of our collections, not all prospective borrowers will be able to select specific objects based only on the online records. Therefore, we encourage prospective borrowers to visit to the collection.
  • To schedule an appointment to visit the collections please fill out an appointment request form
  • To request a report or object list from our collections database, please fill out a printout request form.
  • Feel free to contact Anthropology Department staff members with questions.

For more details on loan requirements and procedures, please refer to the following documents:

For further information regarding our loan program, please contact:

Susan Crawford
Anthropology Department Registrar




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