Article 1. Purpose.
The Auburn University Museum of Natural History (AUMNH) comprises natural history and heritage collections. These collections are archives of objects that are priceless, irreplaceable, and represent a valuable resource for research, teaching, and extension and outreach at Auburn University. The collections of the AUMNH, organized by scientific discipline and preservation requirements, catalog the planet’s natural heritage with an emphasis on Alabama and biodiversity in the Southeastern United States. The collections form a basis for continuing reappraisal of our knowledge of the past, present, and future. Curators and staff of the AUMNH, scholars from around the world, and independent researchers working in the collections, conduct original specimen-based scientific research, using the collections. Identification services for nonspecialists, teaching of undergraduate and graduate students, and similar activities represent another set of important functions of the collections. In addition to research collections, smaller teaching collections, usually specimens with lesser scientific value, and at any given time, a small portion of the research collections, supplemented by specially purchased or loaned objects, may be on display as public exhibits. The policies of AUMNH outlined herein seek to accomplish and facilitate the following objectives: 1) maintain a high standard of curation of specimens with the aim to protect and preserve the collections in perpetuity; 2) continue ethical and sustainable growth of the collections through acquisition of specimens; 3) allow access to the collections for research, teaching, and outreach.
Article 2. Access.
During operating hours, collections will be accessible for legitimate research and study by responsible investigators, subject to procedures necessary to safeguard specimens and to restrictions imposed by limitations of space and facilities, exhibition requirements, and availability of appropriate curatorial staff.
Article 3. Maintenance.
AUMNH agrees to hold in perpetuity all collections entrusted into its care according to rigorous curatorial standards, and we establish the following rules and conditions.
3.1. Curation. Curation embraces all aspects of professionally caring for the collections and the objects they contain, including, but not limited to, acquiring, accessioning, cataloging, maintaining, preserving, restoring, deaccessioning, and disposing of the collections, specimens, field notes, databases, and other associated records and documentation. All collections in the AUMNH shall be curated according the highest professional standards.
To assure that those standards are met, each collection is assigned to a particular Curator. Each Curator will establish a schedule for monitoring the status and condition of the collections under their care. This schedule will be documented in writing and status-condition checks will be signed off by the Curator or their representative and summarized as part of the annual report provided to the Director of the AUMNH.
3.2.1. Title of acquisitions. The title to specimens collected by staff of the AUMNH and the faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences (DBS) during working hours, or with state or federal funding, or as part of their job assignment, or collected on fieldtrips sponsored by the AUMNH, is vested in the AUMNH. Permits for collecting specimens may specify which specimens belong to the AUMNH. Acquisition also may occur through purchase, donation, bequest, or exchange of objects from individuals, private companies, other museums, or research institutions outside the AUMNH. Objects and collections that are to become part of the research collections should be acquired directly by the AUMNH for the state of Alabama.
3.2.2. Ethics of acquisition. All acquisitions by staff of the AUMNH and DBS shall reflect a commitment to preserve and guard the living and cultural heritage of the planet. Biological collections involving unnecessary decimation of populations with limited numbers of individuals or a tenuous existence shall not knowingly be made by staff or accepted by the AUMNH from others. Objects will be acquired only when they have been collected, exported, possessed, and imported in full compliance with laws and regulations of the country of origin, the United States, and the appropriate state within the United States. These standards also will be taken into account in determining whether to accept loans for exhibition or other purposes.
3.2.3. Conditions of acceptance. With few exceptions, acquisitions are unconditional. The AUMNH usually cannot accept objects on which the owner has placed restrictions that would prevent effective research examination, usual use in exhibitions, loans, or disposal in accordance with established policies.
3.2.4. Standards of documentation. Minimum requirements of documentation vary among research collections. Such standards are necessary requirements for objects to be added to the research collections. The AUMNH cannot afford to permanently house specimens lacking scientific value. Specimens with less than complete data, but having scientific or education value, may be accessioned at the discretion of the Curator in charge.
3.2.5. Appraisal and authentication of acquisitions. No member of the AUMNH staff shall, in his or her official capacity, give appraisals for the purpose of establishing the tax-deductible value of gifts or purchases offered to the AUMNH. The United States Internal Revenue Service prohibits appraisals from a recipient institution that is directly involved in the transaction. No member of the AUMNH staff knowingly shall appraise, identify, or otherwise authenticate natural history objects for other persons or agencies under circumstances that could encourage or benefit illegal, unethical, or irresponsible traffic in such objects. Identification and authentication may be given for professional or educational purposes and in compliance with the legitimate requests of professional or governmental bodies or their agencies.
3.3. Dispositions. Objects in the collections should be retained permanently if they continue to be useful to the purposes and activities of the AUMNH, if they continue to contribute to the integrity of the collections, and if they can be properly stored, preserved, and used. Upon recommendation of the Curator in charge of the collection, objects may be disposed of by formal deaccessioning when the above conditions no longer exist, or if it were determined that such action would ultimately improve or refine the collections, upon compliance with all legal requirements. Each object being considered for deaccessioning must meet the following criteria as evidenced by the written recommendation of the Curator in charge to the Director of the AUMNH and based upon the following: I) the object lacks value for scientific research or documentation, or for educational use; 2) the object no longer retains its physical integrity, its identity, its provenance, or its authenticity; 3) the object is not relevant to or consistent with the function and purpose of the AUMNH; 4) exchange of a redundant object (one of a series of similar objects in the collection) with a recognized public systematics collection or museum of natural history will improve and refine the collection of the AUMNH. Permanent transfers of scientifically valuable objects may be made by the Curator in charge. Except in extraordinary circumstances, transfers shall be made only to other public institutions. Transfers to private individuals shall be made only when the curator can document a benefit to the collections or AUMNH.
Article 4. Loans.
Materials from the research collections may be loaned to museums, universities, and other appropriate public institutions for research or exhibition. A record of all incoming and outgoing loans shall be maintained as part of the permanent records of the AUMNH. The policies outlined below are not intended to restrict, in any way, access to collections of the AUMNH. It is the policy of the AUMNH to make all specimens in the collections available to the scientific community with the only stipulation that the care, safety, and preservation of those objects can be guaranteed by the borrowing individual or institution.
4.1. Incoming loans. While loans are in the care of staff of the AUMNH, they will be handled, conserved, stored, and exhibited, as required by the lending institution, or otherwise accorded the same professional care as if they were part of the collections of the AUMNH. All loans associated with student projects should be resolved upon completion of the student project or thesis. Collection Managers will keep track of all loaned materials, and aid in their unpacking and return.
4.2 Outgoing loans. The AUMNH lends specimens to qualified institutions for scholarly research and exhibition subject to policies and practices consistent with each of the collections of the AUMNH. However, the following policies pertain to all outgoing loans
4.2.1. Specimens shall not be lent to individuals not associated with a recognized institution, except under exceptional circumstances, and then only with written justification, provided to the Director, by the Curator in charge of the collection.
4.2.2. Loans are not made directly to students. Specimens for student projects will require a loan request from a faculty member or institutional representative and will be considered the direct responsibility of the faculty member or institutional representative endorsing the request.
4.2.3. Loans shall not be transferred by the borrower to any other institution or individual without prior written approval from the curator in charge of the collection.
4.2.4. The maximum duration of the loans is 12 months, but 6-12 month extensions may be granted by the Curator in charge upon receipt of an acceptable written justification from the borrower. Loans of type specimens are for 6 months; a single 6-month extension may be granted.
4.2.5. Specimens will not be loaned for destructive analysis, except under exceptional circumstances and then only with the prior written approval of the curator in charge of the collection.
4.2.6. Shipment of incoming and outgoing loans must comply with labeling and permitting regulations of all applicable state, federal, and international laws. Specimens preserved in ethanol or formaldehyde must follow IATA guideline A180; the completed package must be marked as “scientific research specimens, not restricted Special Provision A180 applies”.
Article 5. Destructive analysis.
On occasion, destructive analysis of specimens yields information that benefits the research collection and is in the public interest. This is particularly true when redundant, not unique, specimens or materials are involved. When destructive analysis is appropriate, every effort must be made to limit destruction to less than the entire specimen and to save what remains so it will continue to be available for research and education. Tissues or DNA extractions resulting from such action are to be vouchered in the tissue-DNA collection of the AUMNH.
Requests for destructive analysis must be made in writing to the curator of the collection and must detail the specimens or materials required and the procedures to be conducted. Final disposition of related materials to include tissues and DNA extractions will be outlined as part of the original petition for destructive analysis. Remains from the analysis are property of the AUMNH. In instances involving dissection of biological specimens, the undestroyed component parts shall be returned to the collection along with associated identifying tags or marks. Data resulting from destructive analysis (e.g., GenBank accession numbers) shall be reported to the appropriate research collection and will be maintained as part of the database.
Article 6. Database accession numbers issuance (collecting and import/export oversight).
To ensure that all AUMNH collections were collected with permission, review of permitting documentation must occur before they are accepted into the collection and databased. Before specimens are entered into their respective collection’s database and given an AUMNH specimen number, they must first be issued an accession number. The Director or his/her designee approves accession numbers; issuance is contingent upon demonstration that collecting permits and import/export permits are in order and electronic copies have been made and are in the database.
Article 7. Private collections.
Because of potential conflict of interest, employees of the AUMNH are prohibited from having private scientific collections, or objects of scientific interest in collections, that are in their professional field of interest. Collections of natural history objects of scientific interest and associated field notes made by employees or non-paid associates of the AUMNH with the use of AUMNH funds or grants funds managed through Auburn University is property of the AUMNH. Objects in private collections made before association with the AUMNH are exempt from the policy stated in this conflict-of-interest section. The AUMNH will not restrain or restrict use of field notes by principal investigators. Should the principal investigator leave the staff, a complete copy of the field notes must be left with the AUMNH. Every student working in association with the AUMNH is subject to the above policies.