Bird Curatorial Manual | Loans

General Information

Carol Spencer and Aileen Lavelle with loan boxes.

The MVZ provides loans of skins, skeletons, fluid-preserved specimens, and tissues from its collections for scientific research. The MVZ does not loan egg or nest specimens. All requests must be received in writing and approved by a MVZ Curator. Loans are made only to faculty, curators, and permanent staff at recognized institutions that have facilities to properly house and care for specimens. Loans then become the responsibility of the recipient at that institution. Loans are not made directly to students or postdoctoral associates and should not be mailed to home addresses or P.O. boxes.

Individuals who are not affiliated with such an institution may request a loan of material only if they have made prior arrangements with an appropriate person for housing of specimens, and if that person agrees in writing to receive the specimens on the researcher’s behalf. All requests (1) must be made in writing, (2) should include a brief statement about the proposed use of the material, and (3) must be approved by an MVZ Curator.

See Use Policies for complete information about specimen and tissue loan policies.
For detailed information, also read the MVZ Loan Guide for Arctos.

MVZ Bird Specimen Request Form

Specimen Loan Procedures

Loans keep track of MVZ bird specimen and tissue usage, which is important for annual reports or grant proposals. These include requests from outside researchers as well as in-house usage for classes, research, tours, and visitors.


All loans are processed through Arctos. Every loan is assigned a unique loan number in Arctos by the Staff Curator. In addition to the loan number, information recorded in Arctos includes the curator(s) who authorized the loan, loan type (e.g., “returnable” “consumable”), transaction date, recipient, in-house and outside contacts, and the nature of material (count of number of specimens, taxonomic information, and part types if relevant). Additional information may be recorded in the description, instructions, or remarks fields.

For returnable loans, it is also important to add a due date for when the loan is expected back at the MVZ. This is typically 6 months from the time of the loan, although that may be adjusted depending on the nature of the request. Arctos will send automated reminders when a loan is due or overdue based on that due date.

Be sure to hit “Save” when creating a new loan. Once the loan is saved, enter the shipping information which includes: the person who is packing the loan; shipment method; shipment type; recipient’s address; and sender’s address. The addresses must be entered before printing out the loan header (see below).

The Staff Curator will create a project in Arctos based on the original loan request, then add the loan to the project. The project title, description, and people involved are all recorded.

Removing Specimens From the Collection

Removal of any specimens from the collection must be noted by placing either a withdrawal slip or post-it (temporary removal only, see below) in the physical location. For loans, place a blue withdrawal slip in the place of every specimen that is removed. One blue slip nay be placed for multiple specimens if they are all taken in sequence. For skeletons where the entire specimen is sent on loan, place the blue slip in place of the box that is removed; if only certain elements are removed and the original box remains in the collection, put the blue slip inside the box where part of it is folded over and showing from the outside of the box (under the lid). When removing alcoholic specimens from a jar, tape the blue slip on the outside of the jar lid.

Blue slips should include:

  • Species name
  • MVZ catalog number(s) – either a single number or a series separated by a hyphen (if continuous numbers) or by commas
  • Name of person who removed the specimens and the loan number
  • Date removed
  • Part type if relevant (e.g., if just the skull is removed from a skeleton).

If specimens are removed for temporary usage, e.g., for a tour or class, a post-it may be used in place of a blue slip. The post-it should include the specimen number, person’s name, date removed, and purpose (e.g., Cal Day, Conservation Biology class). Similarly, any post-its placed on the outside of cases (which aids in locating a case for a tour or some other purpose) must include the person’s name, date, and purpose. Any post-it without complete information will be removed.

Tissue Subsampling

Tissue loans require subsampling of tissues stored in the MVZ Liquid Nitrogen facility on the first floor of VLSB. Subsampling is done only by curatorial assistants who have been trained in this procedure, are trained in locating and removing tissues from the liquid nitrogen storage, and are authorized (including safety training) to work in that facility. 

Adding specimens to the Loan

Individual specimens are added to the loan through Arctos. Users must have permission for ‘manage transactions’ in Arctos in order to edit loans. Search Arctos for the loan number (Manage Data > Transactions > Find Loan), then click Add Items which will get you to a Specimen Search page. The top of the page will say “You are searching for items to add to a loan. Select “Bird Specimens (MVZ:Bird)” from the drop-down list for Collection, then search by catalog number(s) for specimen(s) that you want to add to the loan. This will return the specimens of interest, including information on all of their associated parts. Select the correct part for the specimen, then click “Add” to add it to the loan. If the loan involves subsamples (e.g., tissues, bone fragments from a skeleton, toe pads from a skin), check the box in the “Sspl?” column for that part before clicking “Add” to indicate that only a piece of the specimen is included in the loan. Once you done adding all specimen parts to the loan, click “back to loan” at the top of the specimen results page.

Items for large loan requests (e.g., 20-30 or more specimens) may be entered through the Arctos “Bulkload Loan Items” Batch Tool (Enter Data –> Batch Tools –> Loans –> Bulkload Loan Items). Download a template or use this example (note: change “create_subsample” from TRUE to FALSE and  PART_DISPOSITION to “on loan” if the item is a skin, skeleton, fluid-preserved organism, or other part that will not be subsampled and will be returned to the MVZ). The part barcode is not necessary unless there are multiple tissues for a specimen and you need to specify which barcoded vial you sampled. Once you have filled out the spreadsheet, save it as a comma-delimited (csv) file and open it in a text editor such as Textpad to remove any blank rows at the bottom. The part name in the spreadsheet must match the part for the item in Arctos. 

To upload the file, go to Enter Data –> Batch Tools –> Loans –> Bulkload Loan Items.

  • Click on “Load csv” where it says “Visit Load csv for documentation, a template, or to upload data.”
  • Click on “Choose File” and select the file to upload, then click “Upload this file.” This will bring up a window “Data Uploaded – Review and Load.”
  • Click on the link and you’ll get another window with a summary of all data waiting for review. You will see your username, the status of the review (blank if it has not been reviewed), and a count of the number of records uploaded (make sure it matches what you are expecting to load). You have the option of either clicking “Review” or “Get CSV” (if you want to download the data again to check) or “Delete.”
  • Click on “Review” which will put the records into a temporary table.
  • Once you are satisfied that the data look correct, click the button “Check All and Change Status to autload.”
  • You will then need to click “Change status for checked records to the above value” which should equal “autoload.” That will bring up an empty table, so click “Return to Review and Load.”
  • You will see now that the Status column is set to “autoload.” Arctos has a script that automatically loads the records unless it finds errors; if errors are found, those will show in the Status column.
  • Refresh the screen periodically to update the status. Records without an error will load, and the count will update if there are records that will not load due to an error (e..g, “part lookup fail: part name not resolved”). 
  • Fix any errors and redo just those records by either (1) manually adding the part to the loan, if there are only a few records, or (2) downloading the CSV file of the remaining records, fixing the issue, removing extraneous columns that were downloaded but aren’t part of the upload template, and re-uploading the loan items following the same steps as above.

For specimens that are not cataloged yet, there are two ways of adding them to the loan. One is in the Description field for the loan, where the material may be referenced by collector/preparator numbers. Alternatively, spreadsheets with the loan items may be uploaded as a text file and attached to the loan as media.

For skins, skeletons, or fluid specimens, note their condition after adding them to the loan (Hint: Write down the conditions on a piece of paper before entering them into Arctos, or alternatively you can do it directly into Arctos. Skeletons should be emptied from their box onto a white piece of paper so that the bones are easily separated and examined for missing or broken parts). This is important for tracking damage incurred in transit or at the borrowing institution. In Arctos, click on “review loan items” for the loan and enter condition notes in the “Condition” text box for each specimen. Pay particular attention to the following: skins – loose parts (e.g., head, wings, legs) and soiled or ruffled feathers; skeletons – missing or broken bones; fluid specimens – body incisions. Hit the tab key to move to a different field and save the condition entry.

Items added to a loan in Arctos receive a default disposition of “on loan” but this can be changed individually or in batch. For consumable loans or permanent gifts, the disposition should be changed to “transfer of custody” which indicates that the MVZ does not expect the material to be returned.


Print three copies of the loan paperwork from Arctos. The paperwork typically includes a loan header and a loan invoice, although the invoice is not relevant if the loan consists of uncataloged material. Make sure that the sender and recipient address has been entered into the loan shipment before printing the paperwork.

Go to the loan and select “Any Report” in the dropdown under “Print…” You may need to click on a link to get to the Arctos Reporter. From the long dropdown list, select “MVZ_Loan_Header (MVZ_loan_header.cfr)” and click “Print Report, then print three copies of the loan header. Return to the Reporter and select “MVZ_Loan_Invoice (MVZ_Loan_Invoice.cfr”)  to print the list of specimens and associated information. Staple the header and all pages of the invoice together for each copy.

Two copies go with the shipment (see below), and one copy gets filed in the loan invoice binder. For the filed copy, write the loan number in pen at the bottom of the header page because the printed number at the top of the page is usually hidden by the binding.

Every loan gets an archival folder that is filed in the loan file cabinet in the curatorial area. The loan number is written on the left side of the folder’s tab, and the year that the loan was generated is written on the right side. The Staff Curator typically creates these folders for birds to ensure that all associated paperwork is kept together.

The folder should contain:

  • copies of the initial request and all correspondence (including printed emails) related to the loan
  • one signed copy of the loan header/invoice (to be sent by the recipient upon receipt of the loan)
  • one copy of the FedEx waybill (see below)
  • one copy of the shipping receipt

Shipping Specimens

Packing Specimens by Type

How the specimens are packed depends on the specimen type (see below). Bird skins are wrapped in tissue paper as a “bird burrito”, skeletons are kept in boxes with the bones wrapped in tissue paper (different sets of bones are wrapped separately), and fluid-preserved specimens are wrapped in ethanol-moistened cheesecloth. Skins and skeletons are always shipped in wooden boxes, which are found on the lowest shelves in the supply hallway running between the Curatorial area and the elevator. Fluid specimens are shipped in sturdy cardboard boxes; empty  boxes are kept in the surplus fluid room next to the mammal fluid collection. Be sure to select a box that is large enough to fit the FedEx envelope for the waybill (see below).


Place one copy of the loan invoice/header inside the box on top, before securing the lid. Also place an MVZ card with the address inside the box – either with the loan invoice or taped to the underside of the lid.

Print a copy of the MVZ Shipping Label to put on the outside of the box. This label includes the address of the sender, recipient, and the loan number. Go to the loan and select “Any Report” in the dropdown under “Print…” You may need to click on a link to get to the Arctos Reporter. From the long dropdown list, select “MVZ_Ship_Label (MVZ_Ship_Label.cfr)” and click “Print Report, then print. This will generate two copies of the label on one page; cut them into separate labels, but remove the loan number information so that it just has the addresses (for security purposes).

Secure the lid to the box. Wooden box lids are secured with screws or galvanized nails, while cardboard boxes (for fluids only) are closed with heavy duty clear wrapping tape. Once the box is closed, wrap each end with strapping tape and use clear wrapping tape to add one of the two shipping labels with the address to the outside of the box. 


Wrap the entire box neatly in brown kraft paper using the roll that sits on top of the curatorial cases. The seam should be on the bottom of the box, so gently turn the box over to start and then continue with it right-side-up. Use clear wrapping tape to cover each seam. Again, wrap each end with strapping tape. The final box should look like a neatly wrapped Christmas present (no loose baggy folds). If the loan consists of multiple packages shipped at one time, put in the upper right corner of each package “Box 1 of 3, Box 2 of 3…” Tape a second copy of the MVZ Shipping Label to the side of the box (not the top which is reserved for the FedEx paperwork).

federal express & edecs

Loans typically are shipped via Federal Express (if not hand-carried). The Federal Express paperwork must be done through a UC Berkeley account. The Staff Curator typically does the Federal Express paperwork for birds.

Specimen Returns