Collections at the Beneski Museum of Natural History

An early collecting expedition lead by Amherst College geology professor, Frederick  B. Loomis.An early collecting expedition lead by Amherst College geology professor, Frederick  B. Loomis

The collections of the Beneski Museum of Natural History at Amherst College support the Museum’s mission that is, in part, … preserving and interpreting the physical evidence of the geological history of the Earth, the evolutionary history of its inhabitants, and the processes that have shaped both through time...

Like many museums, the Beneski Museum of Natural History possesses far more specimens than it can possibly display. Its non-exhibit holdings are used primarily by professional researchers, undergraduate and graduate students performing coursework or original research, and by faculty for in-class teaching demonstrations. Although careful specimen preservation and cataloging represent a substantial portion of museum work, it cannot be said that once documented, specimens sit staidly in cabinets, devoid of purpose. Rather, as specimens are studied and the results of those studies are published, information is added to specimen records, enhancing the dynamic educational process that is central to the role of any academic museum. In the 21st century, as well as in the past, natural history specimens are one of the preeminent sources of data that drive biological, environmental and Earth sciences.

Research, Loan and Image Requests

The Beneski Museum of Natural History maintains several natural history collections that incorporate approximately 200,000 objects, many of which are available for research and teaching. Proposals for research visits to specific holdings within a collection may be accepted from professional researchers and students at accredited educational institutions. Proposals must be submitted a minimum of two weeks in advance of the requested date, and should specify proposed research methods (e.g., photography, measurement, scanning, molding, genetic analysis, etc.) as well as a description of the intended results of study. Professional researchers should indicate their publication goals; students may indicate course or thesis work related to their request.

Loans for teaching and professional research are considered on a case-by-case basis, and are made only to qualifying educational institutions, and not to individuals. The maximum duration of any loan is two years, however loans may be recalled at any time.

The Beneski Museum of Natural History does not maintain an image library. Images for publication must be obtained by the publishing author. Permission must be obtained before any image or other media may be published (including on websites). Casual photography (no tripods) for personal use is allowed in all of the museum galleries.

Proposals for research visits, loans, or image permissions may be directed to the collections curator and should be sent on institutional letterhead or using an institutional email account.

To learn more about our collections, please select from the menu to the left.


The Beneski Museum of Natural History is no longer a collecting institution, and is therefore unlikely to accept donations of specimens or artifacts. Please contact the collections curator with questions regarding this policy.