Are you planning to donate fossils to the LACMIP collections? This page outlines what steps you can expect in this process.

:hourglass_flowing_sand: If your donation is time sensitive, please keep in mind that this process involves staff from multiple departments and takes time to be completed properly. We will do our best to accommodate your request, but for this reason, donations should be initiated with as much advance notice as possible. Your patience and cooperation are greatly appreciated!

Donation Workflow

1. Pre-Donation

The first step in the donation process is to send the Collections Manager a clear description of what you’d like to donate:

Information Needed Example
How many fossils? “3 fossils”, “about 100 lots”, “2 buckets of matrix”, etc.
What taxa/species are included? “ammonites”, “Pachydiscus sp.” “assorted marine invertebrates, mostly crinoids”, etc.
What state are the fossils in? “unprepared”, “prepared but not identified”, “fully sorted and identified”, etc.
Where did the fossils originate? “personally collected on BLM public land”, “collected in a private quarry”, “purchased from a dealer”, etc.
Who owns the fossils? The “owner” is whomever has legal authority to donate the fossils to the museum.
  • The information above can also be submitted by completing our Pre-donation Form.
  • If you are donating a large collection, be aware that a more comprehensive inventory may be requested prior to the collection arriving at the museum, the purpose of which is to ensure LACMIP is the most appropriate repository for your fossils.
  • Detailed locality information is highly preferred, and may be provided by downloading and completing a copy of our Locality Request Form.

:warning: Be prepared to provide evidence that all fossils to be donated were legally and ethically acquired, be this via personal collection, purchases, or otherwise. Documentation may include, but is not limited to, copies of collecting permits, letters of permission to collect, and/or import/export documentation. While we aim to accommodate donations whenever possible, the museum reserves the right to decline fossils and other materials that are not well documented. Refer to our guide on “Collecting Permission & Permitting for Fossil Invertebrates” for more information.

2. Transportation

Once the museum decides that it can most likely accommodate your donation, the fossils must be transported to the collection. There are two options:

  • Personal delivery (“hand carry”) is preferred as this method minimizes the risk of damage or loss of the specimens during transit.
  • If hand carry is not an option, shipping may be acceptable in some cases. Shipping is typically at the owner’s risk, and for this reason, the use of couriers (FedEx, UPS, DHL), insurance, and tracking numbers is highly encouraged.

Do not ship fossils via the postal service! Risk of damage and/or loss is high.

All fossils to be donated should be clearly labeled and organized before arriving at the museum. Please include labels for each fossil indicating any important collecting information, including field numbers, as well as any LACMIP locality numbers that may have been issued to you. A printable label template can be downloaded from here if needed.

3. Receipt

Once the specimens are acquired by the museum, a receipt will be issued to you indicating the fossils were received. If they are hand delivered, this document must signed at the time of drop-off; if they are received via mail, the museum will electronically issue this document to be DocuSigned.

4. Accession

The museum will thoroughly review the material received and its accompanying documentation. If necessary, more information may be requested at this time. If it is determined that the donation 1) aligns with our mission, 2) is appropriately documented, and 3) can be satisfactorily cared for in perpetuity, a new accession–the act of legally accepting the objects into our permanent collection–will be initiated. Paperwork will be electronically issued to the owner to electronically sign.

5. Deed of Gift

Once the donation is fully approved and accessioned, a Deed of Gift will be issued to the donor. If you are a researcher in need of numbers for publication, specimen numbers can only be issued once the specimens are accessioned.

Why are these steps important?

In the words of the American Alliance of Museums:

“Accessioning is the formal act of legally accepting an object or objects … that a museum holds in the public trust, or in other words those in the museum’s permanent collection. Because it commits staff time, space and other resources to the proper care of this material, it is important that acquiring material for the collections be done in a thoughtful, inclusive way that reflects the best interests of the museum and its audiences, and can be sustained by the available resources.”

For these reasons, while the NHMLA aims to accommodate donations whenever possible, the museum reserves the right to decline donations that are not well documented, do not align with our mission, and/or may be exceptionally difficult for us to properly care for in perpetuity.

Contact information

Please direct questions and related inquiries to the collections manager.


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