Curatorial Requirements for Specimen Collection


A museum collection is generated and maintained to document and support a park's resource management, research, and interpretive programs. The National Park Service (NPS) museum program objectives include the commitment to collect, document and preserve objects, specimens, samples and associated records as defined within a park's approved scope of collection statement (SOCS).

The collection is a nonrenewable resource. In the NPS, the Superintendent is responsible for the accountability, preservation, protection and use of the site's museum collections. The Superintendent ensures that all research projects generating museum specimens include funding to ensure that cataloging and the initial preservation and storage requirements are accomplished.

The Superintendent recommends or approves all planning documents that are related to the proper management of the museum collections. The day-to-day care for a park's collection is delegated by the Superintendent to the park curatorial staff. Park curatorial staff may also undertake the responsibility of researching and interpreting the collection. The curatorial staff must be involved in reviewing specimen collecting activities, including permit requests, to insure that NPS curatorial requirements are met.

Scope of Requirements

The curatorial requirements outlined in this document apply to both NPS and non-NPS researchers. Park-generated research projects and specimens collected by park staff are not exempt from these requirements.

  • Natural resource museum collection
    A collection comprised of permanently retained specimens and samples taken from the living and nonliving components of the natural world and project documentation generated by the collecting and research activities. A specimen without its associated documentation has limited or no scientific value. The decision to permanently retain a specimen in a park's museum collection depends on the purpose of the collecting activity or the recommendations of the researcher/collector in consultation with park curatorial staff. General reference collections, voucher specimens, exhibit specimens and most research specimens are managed as part of a park's museum collection. Natural resource museum collections can include biological specimens, geological specimens, paleontological specimens and environmental samples.

  • Project documentation
    Data, records, reports and other related information generated as a result of research activities conducted within a park or on museum specimens collected in a park. Natural resource archives may contain field notes, daily journals, maps, drawings, photos and negatives, slides, videotapes, raw data sheets, remote sensing data, copies of contracts, correspondence, repository agreements, specialists' reports and analyses, reports and manuscripts, collection inventories, field catalogs, analytical study data, sound recordings, computer documentation and data, tabulations and lists, specimen preparation records, conservation treatment records and reports on all scientific samples lost through destructive analysis.

Ownership of Collections

All specimens collected for permanent retention, as well as their derivatives and byproducts, remain the property of the National Park Service. If you collect specimens that are to be permanently retained—regardless of where they are kept—those specimens must be accessioned and cataloged into the NPS Automated National Catalog System (ANCS+), and must bear NPS labels containing NPS accession and catalog numbers.

Designated Repositories

The museum collections from Denali National Park and Preserve (DENA) are located at the park in the basement of the resources building. The use of other repositories, however, is appropriate in furtherance of the NPS mission to ensure access and preservation of museum collections.

All such repositories must meet NPS standards for the preservation and protection of museum collections. The proposed repository for specimens collected must be discussed with the park Curator as part of the permit application process. The NPS reserves the right to mandate specific repositories for collections from park property. 4 Please note that the NPS does not loan specimens to individuals—institutional sponsorship is required.

All loans of specimens to institutions (for cataloging, research, conservation, exhibit or storage purposes) must be accompanied by the required loan paperwork, approved by the appropriate park Superintendent. The maximum time period for any loan is 10 years; extensions or renewals of loans can be granted.

Before Collecting

Contact the park curator to obtain an accession number for the collection. , Accession numbers are assigned as a condition of receiving a permit. , Please have your study number available when you call. , Be prepared to discuss you project briefly (specimen collection, destructive analysis, associated records, proposed repositories, etc.). ,

The accession number will be emailed to you and the Research Coordinator as well as appropriate cataloging instructions. , The park accession number must appear on all reports, field notes and correspondence relating to the collection, and on the label of each specimen collected.

While Collecting

During collection it is essential to gather complete information required for cataloging specimens. It is highly recommended that you review the fields in the cataloging instructions prior to collection.

The Museum Catalog Worksheet-NH (Form 10-254D) may be used during field work for documenting pertinent data on-site, thus assuring that the collector has recorded all pertinent ANCS+-related data. Copies of Form 10-254D may be obtained from the park Curator. Per Director’s Order #77, the use of longitude/latitude or Universal Transverse Mercator Grid (UTM) coordinates is required in the natural resource specimen catalog record to integrate information into the Geographic Information System (GIS).

These databases allow for efficient and effective use of the collection information for park-related management programs, for determining gaps in research needs, and for helping resource managers make decisions and set priorities, for the following programs:

  • Inventory and monitoring
  • Environmental compliance
  • Fire planning
  • Development planning
  • Wildlife management
  • Vegetation management
  • Environmental impact plans
  • Resource management plans

After Collecting

Contact the park curator to obtain a block of catalog numbers for the specimens that will be permanently retained. Please have the following information ready: ,

  • Your accession number.
  • Dates collecting began and ended.
  • Number of specimens collected (estimates are acceptable for large collections).
  • The name of the institution and point of contact where specimens will be cataloged.

The Curator will send you (or the individual responsible for cataloging the collection):

  • ,Additional copies of the cataloging instructions, if needed.
  • Sample catalog records, if needed.
  • At the request of the cataloger, a copy of the ANCS+ software to allow direct entry of data, can be sent instead of the export file. ANCS+ is a Windows-based, user-friendly program based on a commercial product called Re:discovery. A contractor’s license is available through the software company.
  • NPS specimen labels and instructions for their completion, if needed. If you are using ANCS+, NPS labels can be generated electronically.
  • An NPS Outgoing Loan Agreement form, to be signed by the institutional representative responsible for the loan. (All specimens, as well as their derivatives and byproducts, remain the property of the United States).
Integrated Pest Management

The NPS does not fumigate museum specimens as a preventive measure. Pests are managed through isolation, monitoring, good housekeeping, eliminating food and beverages, excluding pests and other Integrated Pest Management practices. Do not use fumigants with NPS collections. If you have concerns or questions about individual specimens, please contact the park Curator.


Cataloging of NPS specimens must be done in ANCS+, or, by using an export template to catalog in MS Excel. Refer to the cataloging instructions for additional information on required fields and formats for cataloging NPS specimens.

Cataloging of specimens to NPS standards is the responsibility of the collector. The cataloging process records the documentary information of the specimen and can serve as an index to additional sources of information. It is the primary property and location record of a natural resource specimen. This information is entered into the ANCS+, making the information available for future accountability, inventory, and research purposes.

Note: Specimens that are to be consumed in the course of research should not be cataloged.

For standard cataloging procedures, refer to the NPS Museum Handbook, Part II, Chapters 3 and 4, Appendix H, and the ANCS+ User Manual. Electronic copies of these documents are available at

Specimen Labels

As stated in Director’s Order #77 (Natural Resources Management Guideline), NPS specimen labels:

  • Become a permanent record and identify the specimen as belonging to the NPS irrespective of where it is being stored or used;
  • Provide data that are essential to the identification of the specimen and are required for the proper cataloging of the specimen; and
  • Must be completed by the collector before cataloging.
Specimen labels are available to NPS and non-NPS researchers who collect specimens as part of an approved research project. For guidance on standard labeling procedures refer to the NPS Museum Handbook, Part II, Appendix H.

Labels must be printed on archival quality (acid-free) paper or Tyvek using permanent ink. All labels MUST contain the appropriate park accession and catalog numbers in permanent ink, in this format:

  • Accession Number: DENA-12345
  • Catalog Number: DENA 999999
Note that the hyphen is necessary to distinguish the accession number from the catalog number. Do not use hyphens in the catalog number.

,The accession number must appear on all reports, correspondence and original field records pertaining to the collection. Catalog numbers should be cited in your final report when referencing individual specimens.

After Cataloging

Within one year of the final date of collecting, you must submit:

  • Any specimens that are to be permanently retained, along with your labels and project documentation, to the repository in which they are to be curated. An electronic copy of your catalog records (either in ANCS+ or the appropriate export file) to the park Curator.
  • ,Copies of all of your field records (notes, maps, recordings, etc.) to the park Curator. Please copy notes, maps and other written or printed matter onto acid-free paper. This requirement is a safeguard, in case original materials are accidentally destroyed or lost in the future. Original field records must be retained permanently in association with the collection.

If you find that you will have trouble meeting this deadline, contact the park curator to make other arrangements.

Material Transfer Agreements

All specimens (including anything derived from such material) removed from DENA remain federal property. If you wish to send specimens (or their progeny or derivatives) to a colleague outside your own laboratory or institution for further analysis, your colleague must complete a Material Transfer Agreement with the appropriate park and may also be required to apply for a Scientific Research and Collecting Permit. No materials can be transferred until the appropriate paperwork has been completed. For assistance with specimen transfers, please contact the park curator.

Last updated: June 15, 2016

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