Engage with Collections

Interested in learning more about a specific collection or item at the Peabody? Or working with the collections in person? Collections at the Museum are available for teaching, research, publication, community engagement, and artistic endeavors. two women examining museum collections

The Peabody Museum provides access to the collections in a manner founded on respect for descendant communities and those for whom the collections hold cultural value. The nature and conditions of collections engagement must be consistent with the Museum's commitment to ethical stewardship and care. Visitors are encouraged to engage in active dialogue with the tribes or communities associated with the material they are studying. 

Please review our guidelines below and contact us with your inquiry through our online Collections Access Request Form, via email at pmresearch@fas.harvard.edu, or in writing at the Museum address in webpage footer. We also encourage you to identify collections of interest by browsing our Collections Online database and  Collections Overview pages.

Image: Peabody Collections Steward Meredith Vasta and Professor Shawon Kinew of Harvard's Department of History of Art and Architecture working with North American collections: bandolier bag 995-29-10/73425, moccasins 41-72-10/24363, stone pipe 69-31-10/2208, fan 14-10-10/85617, quilled box 995-29-10/73200A,B.

Inquiries about found items or collections not housed at the Peabody

Please note for legal, ethical, and best practice reasons, Peabody Museum staff and curators are unable to identify, authenticate, or appraise non-Peabody items. Please contact the regional branch of the Appraisers Association of America or the American Society of Appraisers directly. If an artifact is from Massachusetts you may want to connect with the State Archaeology Program  or the Massachusetts Archaeological Society for information. 

For information on donating collections to the Peabody, please visit our Giving page.

Collections Access Guidelines

Woman holding camera while looking at a textileTo make arrangements to work with collections at the Peabody, please submit a Collections Access Request

Visits can be scheduled by appointment generally between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, Monday–Friday, though hours may vary by department. The Museum is not open for research on weekends and university holidays. All research visits are by appointment and the date/time you are requesting may not be available. Please do not make travel arrangements or adjust your personal schedule before confirming your appointment with the Peabody Museum Research staff. 

We are not able to accommodate walk-ins or last minute requests, please allow at least six weeks advance notice to schedule appointments.  

Please review our Collections Visitor Guidelines ahead of your visit.

Image: Dr Beatriz Marín-Aguilera studies a Mapuche sash, 37-4-30/1527

General Research Visit Information

The Peabody Museum’s Collections Access Policy establishes the policies and procedures for access to Peabody Museum collections for study, teaching, research, publication, and exhibition. This document highlights those sections of the Collections Access Policy most applicable to routine access. It is intended to provide general information, but does not serve as a replacement or substitute for the larger policy. Copies of all current collections policies and forms mentioned on this website can be obtained by emailing pmresearch@fas.harvard.edu

RESEARCH HOURS Research visits are scheduled Monday-Friday; hours vary by department, but do not occur before 9:00am or after 5:00pm. Supervising Museum staff members may schedule a lunch break at their discretion. The Museum does not provide research access outside of stated times, on weekends, on Harvard University holidays, or at any other time when administrative offices are closed.

RESEARCH POLICIES AND PROCEDURES All researchers are required to abide by established policies and procedures regarding object handling, data collection, distribution of research and archival materials as well as researcher photography and any special instructions provided by Museum staff. Researchers who fail to abide by Museum policies, either during or after a research visit, or who otherwise abuse their status, may have their visit terminated and may not be invited to return in the future. 

COLLECTIONS ACCESS AND PERMISSION FORMS Prior to or at the start of a research visit, a Collections Visitor Agreement Form and/or Archival Material Request Form must be completed by each individual accessing the collection.  Please review the Collections Visitor Guidelines online;  researchers must agree to the policies stated therein in writing and in advance of working with objects. Museum staff will provide researchers with copies of all signed policy documents.

PHOTOGRAPHY All individuals wishing to take personal research-use (i.e., not for publication use) photographs during a  visit must also sign a Collections Media Agreement form. At their sole discretion, Museum staff may restrict research photography of objects when condition or other factors warrant. General photography (i.e., photographs that show the space rather than focusing on objects) is not permitted in collections storage rooms except with advance approval from the Director of Collections.

GROUP RESEARCH VISITS When arranging visits, all researchers must inform the Museum if they intend to bring colleagues and, if so, the number of people who will be participating in the visit, their names, and professional affiliations. All individuals taking part in the research visit (e.g., professional colleagues, research assistants, etc.) must complete the appropriate paperwork for access to the collections. Accompanying family members not directly involved in research are welcome to tour the Museum galleries during the researcher’s visit to collections.

SECURITY REQUIREMENTS Researchers will be provided with visitor badges at check-in and must wear them at all times. All coats, bags, briefcases, backpacks, umbrellas, etc. must be left in the area designated by the assigned Collections Steward.  Food and drink are not permitted in storage areas. Researchers may only bring laptops (outside of their bags), cameras, phones, power cords, notepaper, pencils, and approved measuring devices into storage/study areas. The Peabody Museum reserves the right to examine any possessions taken into storage/study areas upon departure. 

USE OF PROTECTIVE CLOTHING/GLOVES Researchers working with archaeological, ethnographic, and osteological collections are required to wear provided protective lab coats and gloves for the safety of both the researcher and the object. Visitors working with the PMAE’s photographic collection must wear gloves as requested by Archives staff. For safety reasons, researchers must wear closed-toe shoes when working with collections.

ACCESS TO NAGPRA-ASSOCIATED COLLECTIONS Collection objects in the possession of the PMAE that have been determined by the Museum to meet certain criteria of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and have been culturally affiliated may be subject to special considerations for teaching and research access.

CLASS ACCESS Collections access for class use is supported through class visits to storage, objects to class, and teaching displays. For all activities, object selection will occur in consultation between faculty/instructors and AP staff to meet course teaching goals while ensuring PMAE requirements for collections care and stewardship are followed. Instructors and students must complete a Permission to Visit Collections: Class Visit Form in advance of working with objects. Collections use may be limited due to the size, fragility, or availability of particular objects. Culturally-sensitive collections that have been identified by communities of origin as inappropriate for public use are not available for teaching purposes as outlined above.

Archives Research

The Peabody Museum Archives contains papers, photographs, and other primary source materials that document the Museum’s archaeological and ethnographic research and fieldwork since its founding in 1866.  Learn more about our holdings in Collections Overview.

If you are looking for more information about paper collections, please search Hollis for Archival Discovery. To view brief descriptions of paper and photograph collections, or for digitized photographs, please search Collections Online.  As staff continue to work on arranging, describing, and digitizing collections, more descriptions and images will appear on these platforms.

Please email pmresearch@fas.harvard.edu to:

  • Make a research appointment to view archival material, or if you have questions about the archival collections.
  • Request research-use, medium-resolution scan orders.  The Peabody Museum Archives offers up to 30 complimentary research-use medium-resolution scans of material from paper collections. 
  • Request permission to include text from archival collections in a publication.

For high-resolution scans of paper or photograph collections, and for image publication permissions, please fill out the Media and Permission Request Form.

As archival collections are often unique and fragile, the Museum maintains use policies that are consistent with its commitment to the care and preservation of its collections. We ask visitors to help us protect the archival collections by following the guidelines below:

  • Researchers must read and sign an Archives Visitor Form
  • Handle papers with clean hands; handle unsleeved photographs with nitrile gloves.
  • Food and drink are not allowed in the Reading Room.
  • Use pencils; pens and markers are not permitted.
  • Do not remove documents from protective sleeves.
  • Do not rearrange the materials, even if they appear to be out of order.
  • Do not place anything on top of materials or write on notepaper placed on top of materials.
  • Keep materials flat on the table.
  • Use one box and one folder at a time, keeping the place of the removed folder with a flag.
  • Keep bags in the Reading Room lockers.
  • Laptops are permitted and internet is available at the computer.

Daguerreotype Photographs

The Peabody Museum is pleased to provide visual access to a rare and historically important collection of daguerreotypes for faculty, students, and individual researchers internal and external to Harvard. Because of their fragile nature, special policies and procedures are in place to help protect and preserve the daguerreotypes during these scheduled viewings. These policies and procedures apply to all daguerreotypes in the Museum’s care, including the Zealy daguerreotypes of enslaved Africans and African-Americans. To increase the accessibility of the Zealy daguerreotypes, a set of reproduction daguerreotypes may be offered for viewing outside of this schedule. To view the daguerreotypes online, please visit the Peabody Museum’s Collections Online.

PLEASE NOTE: Viewing the Zealy daguerreotypes of enslaved Africans and African-Americans can evoke strong emotional responses for many people. The Peabody Museum strongly encourages anyone organizing a class or group visit to discuss their viewing plans with the Curator of Visual Anthropology in advance of their arrival. The Peabody Museum expects visitors to arrive prepared for their experience, and does not provide disclaimers or other notifications at the time of viewing.



Reproduction Daguerreotypes

Due to the fragility of original daguerreotypes, it is necessary to limit their light exposure to a maximum of ten hours per year. To increase the accessibility of the Zealy daguerreotypes, the Peabody Museum has had reproduction daguerreotypes made. These reproductions can withstand far greater light exposure, allowing for more frequent and flexible viewing times. Since the reproduction plates were made using similar techniques to Zealy’s, they are themselves daguerreotypes. This means viewers can experience the images in the same photographic format as the originals. The reproductions were also created to match the originals in style and design, including similar-looking cases and mats. Please note that while these maintain the overall aesthetic of the original daguerreotypes, the reproductions are clearly marked as such, and there is no risk of confusion to the visitor.

We strongly encourage classes, group visits, and individual researchers to make use of these reproductions as a valuable resource for their teaching and learning. Appointments to view the reproduction daguerreotypes can be scheduled directly with the Associate Archivist, independently from the structured viewing schedule established for the original collection.

Class visits may not be scheduled during the first week of class. Students must be accompanied by a TF or professor, and groups are limited to 15 people at a time. A Peabody staff member will be present during the visit to monitor the daguerreotypes; if possible, a Peabody staff member who can answer questions about the daguerreotypes will be on hand as well. Policies and Procedures During Viewing Session (below) remain the same.

Original Daguerreotypes

For those whose teaching and learning goals require viewing the original Zealy daguerreotypes, scheduling is coordinated based on a specialized plan as outlined below.

In order to accommodate as many classes and visitors as possible, the Zealy daguerreotypes are shown in two groups, with half shown during the fall semester for a maximum of ten hours and half shown during the spring semester for a maximum of ten hours. Every effort will be made to accommodate specific image requests; however, the final grouping designation will be made by the Curator of Visual Anthropology in consultation with Collections staff.

To reduce handling of daguerreotypes as they are retrieved from storage, and to maximize the viewing time available, every effort will be made to consolidate viewing sessions (for example, to schedule a researcher on the same day as a class, multiple researchers for the same viewing, or multiple classes on the same or consecutive days).  As class visits represent the largest and most frequent group visits, viewing days for all visitors will be coordinated in consultation with Harvard course needs.  Viewing sessions cannot run for longer than an hour.  In order to facilitate this scheduling, all interested classes, group visits, and individual researchers are strongly encouraged to contact the Associate Archivist as early as possible.  Please note that visits will only be able to be scheduled if there is time remaining in that semester’s ten-hour allotment of light exposure, and that summer visits will only be possible if there is time remaining after the academic year’s needs have been met. 

Class Visits

The Associate Archivist will work with faculty to schedule visits as follows:

  • A TF or professor must accompany each class group for the duration of its visit. A Peabody staff member will also be present during the visit to monitor the daguerreotypes; if possible, a Peabody staff member who can answer questions about the daguerreotypes will be on hand as well.
  • Class visits may not be scheduled during the first week of class.
  • Each viewing may have a maximum of 15 students present, and can only have students from one class.
  • In semesters in which a large class (more than 15 students) is viewing the daguerreotypes, each viewing day will have a maximum of six 30-minute viewing periods and a 15-minute passing time between each period. A one-hour break will take place between the third and fourth viewing slot.  The viewings will start no earlier than 10am and end no later than 4pm.
  • Start and end times must be strictly observed. Professors/TFs will be given a 10 and 5-minute warning as the end of the viewing approaches.
  • Viewings will occur in the Archives Reading Room or in B8 at lowest possible light levels.
  • Faculty needing additional time for class discussions at the end of the viewing period should find and reserve an available classroom nearby using RoomBook.

Once scheduled with the Associate Archivist, it is the responsibility of faculty/TFs to:

  • Coordinate viewing times directly with students.
  • Ensure that no more than 15 students will join any one viewing.
  • Inform students that late arrivals for viewing times may not be allowed to join a session in progress nor a subsequent session if space is not available.
  • Share all applicable policies and procedures with students and confirm they will arrive at the Museum knowing what to expect from their visit and what will be expected of them.

Individual Researchers

Researchers are invited to schedule visits to view the reproduction daguerreotypes at any time, in coordination with the Associate Archivist.

Researchers who require viewing the original daguerreotypes should notify the Associate Archivist of their request as far in advance as possible. At least one viewing per semester will be reserved for individual researchers, as scheduled by the Associate Archivist. Once this schedule has been confirmed, researchers who have requested to view the daguerreotypes will be contacted. If there are no researchers with pending requests, the session will be released for class viewing. In semesters with fewer class requests, there may be multiple viewings for individual researchers, to the extent allowed by the maximum ten hours of light exposure.  Researchers are subject to the Museum’s standard policies and procedures for collections access, as well as those listed below.


In order to assist Museum staff in their preservation efforts and help to ensure the daguerreotypes will be available for future generations of scholars, please review the following policies and procedures prior to your visit to the Peabody Museum.

  • Personal belongings are not permitted in the Archives reading room or B8. If you are arranging a group visit (class or other), we strongly recommend you instruct participants in advance not to bring bags or backpacks to the Museum. For those who must do so, cubbies are available outside of the viewing room where visitors will be asked to leave all bags, coats, and other belongings. Any food or drink must be in a well-sealed container and secured inside their bags prior to arrival. Please note the cubbies are not in a public part of the Museum, but are in an area easily accessible by Museum staff, other researchers, and external vendors. Visitors should plan accordingly if there are concerns about valuables.
  • A limited number of lockers are available in the Archives reading room for use by individual researchers.
  • No food or drink, including water, chewing gum, and throat lozenges, is permitted in the Archives reading room.
  • Visitors will not be able to use laptops or other devices for taking notes while viewing daguerreotypes.
  • Only pencils may be used for note taking; the use of pens is not permitted in the reading room.
  • Photography is not permitted when viewing the daguerreotypes. The Zealy daguerreotypes, along with the rest of the Museum’s daguerreotypes, may be viewed digitally at the Peabody Museum’s Collections Online if images are needed.
  • Visitors will be leaning over to view the daguerreotypes, so they should be conscious of their bodies and clothing. They should have no dangling jewelry, loose hair, hoodie ties, scarves, glasses perched on top of heads, or anything else that could fall onto or touch the daguerreotypes. If visitors need to cough or sneeze, they should turn away from the daguerreotypes


Find more information on the Peabody Museum daguerreotypes of enslaved African and African-American individuals in the Museum’s publication, To Make Their Own Way in the World: The Enduring Legacy of the Zealy Daguerreotypes.

What are daguerreotypes? Daguerreotypes are early photographs, most commonly produced from 1840 to 1860. Unlike later photographic processes, they are not produced using negatives. While negatives can be used to create multiple photographs, daguerreotypes are made directly “in-camera,” making each image unique.

Why do they require special care? Daguerreotypes are very fragile. They are complex objects made up of three components: an image layer of microscopic particles on a metal plate; a thin mat and cover glass; and a protective case. These components comprise a variety of materials, from silver to leather. Daguerreotypes are at risk from mechanical, biological, and chemical deterioration. In particular, some daguerreotypes can still be light sensitive and in recent years there has been concern regarding photochemical deterioration of images. Damage caused by light is permanent and cumulative. Because of the fragility of daguerreotypes, conservators recommend using digital surrogates to limit handling of the originals. The Peabody Museum works closely with the photographic conservation team at Harvard’s Weissman Preservation Center to ensure the Zealy daguerreotypes are preserved and cared for in accordance with the highest professional standards.

Why are the Peabody Museum’s daguerreotypes only shown for ten hours per year? The Weissman Preservation Center has undertaken extensive assessment of the condition of the Peabody Museum’s daguerreotypes, including those taken by Zealy. Because of their importance, condition, age, and rarity, the Weissman Preservation Center has recommended that all daguerreotypes in the Peabody Museum’s collections be limited to 10 hours of light exposure per daguerreotype per year. The Peabody Museum coordinates these viewings to maximally accommodate faculty, classes, students, and individual researchers internal and external to Harvard. While we understand that our viewing schedule may not work for all interested parties, we regret that we are unable to make exceptions. During the viewings, the Peabody Museum is careful to follow all guidelines provided by the Weissman Preservation Center, ensuring light levels are within recommendations and minimizing the amount of time the daguerreotypes are exposed. To this end, the Peabody Museum also provides faculty, classes, students, and researchers with viewing procedures to follow when working with the daguerreotypes. Showing the daguerreotypes for a limited number of hourse per year balances access with preservation needs, allowing the Peabody Museum to offer the opportunity of learning from these unique and important objects to future generations of scholars.

What are the reproduction Zealy daguerreotypes and when can they be viewed? To increase the accessibility of the Zealy daguerreotypes, the Peabody Museum has had reproduction daguerreotypes made. These reproductions can withstand far greater light exposure, allowing for more frequent and flexible viewing times. Since the reproduction plates were made using similar techniques to Zealy’s, they are themselves daguerreotypes. This means viewers get to experience the images in the same photographic format as the originals. The reproductions were also created to match the originals in style and design, including similar-looking cases and mats. Please note that while these maintain the overall aesthetic of the original daguerreotypes, the reproductions are clearly marked as such, and there is no risk of confusion to the visitor. Classes, group visits, and individual researchers internal and external to Harvard are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to view the reproductions, and may arrange viewings independently from the structured viewing schedule established for the original collection. Those interested should contact the Associate Archivist to arrange their visit.

Does the Peabody Museum have other daguerreotypes, and can I view those? Yes, the collection does include other daguerreotypes, which can also be viewed in accordance with our policy for Class, Group, and Research Visits to View Daguerreotypes (above).

Where can I view the Zealy daguerreotypes online? The Zealy daguerreotypes, along with the rest of the Museum’s daguerreotypes, may be viewed digitally at the Peabody Museum’s Collections Online.

Osteology and Paleontology Research

The Osteology and Paleoanthropology collections at the Peabody Museum contain human and nonhuman primate remains, fossils, and casts used in teaching and research. For more information, visit Collections Overview

If you have a question about the collections or are interested in working with them in person, please submit a Collections Access Request or email pmosteology@fas.harvard.edu. Please review the General Research Visit Information above, and include the following information if you would like to visit:

  • A summary of your research goals and why the Peabody Museum collections are essential to achieving them
  • A detailed methodology including any instruments you plan to use and measurements you plan to take
  • An estimate of the length of time your visit will require to complete your research

Please keep in mind that visits can be scheduled from 9am-4:30pm on weekdays, with a break for lunch.

We request that visitors help us to care for and preserve the osteological collections by following our handling guidelines, which include:

  • Respect the integrity of the human remains you are handling
  • Only one Peabody catalog record may be examined at a time
  • Use provided protective gloves and lab coat whenever handling collections
  • Food and beverages are not permitted near collections
  • Pencils may be used near collections to record information; pens and markers are not allowed.
  • Obtain prior staff approval for all materials or tools. Metal calipers are not always permitted; the department has plastic calipers and carbon tip dental calipers available.

Please note that some collections may have been treated with pesticides or insecticides that may be harmful if inhaled or ingested. Gloves and protective clothing must be used at all times. Masks are available. For a full copy of the Osteology and Paleoanthropology handling guidelines, please email pmosteology@fas.harvard.edu. Handling guidelines will be reviewed at the start of each visit.

CT and surface scans of some Peabody Museum collections are available on Morphosource. For information about non-invasive analysis or analytical sampling of osteological and paleoanthropological collections, please see the Museum’s Analysis and Sampling overview or email pmosteology@fas.harvard.edu.

With some exceptions, most of the non-human primate remains were transferred to the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology's Mammalogy Department in the 1930s. You can browse their database.

Access to teaching collections Harvard University classes are welcome to make use of the Osteology and Paleoanthropology teaching collections. Department staff will work with you to identify collections appropriate for your course. Please email pmosteology@fas.harvard.edu

Analysis and Sampling

The Peabody Museum encourages a multidisciplinary approach to collections research. In certain circumstances, it may be appropriate to remove samples, conduct invasive tests, or otherwise modify items in the collection in order to maximize their research potential. Decisions about the appropriateness of such requests must balance the legitimate needs of the scholarly and scientific community with the long-term preservation of the collections, including future research needs.

Non-Invasive Analysis

Non-invasive analysis encompasses any procedure conducted on PMAE collections that does not require the permanent macroscopic alteration of an object or its associated material. This includes but is not limited to XRF, X-ray, CT scan, Micro-CT scan, multispectral imaging, Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) as well as surface analysis using other optical and spectral imaging tools including laser scanning. The review process outlined in these policies will also be applied to assess requests to use or operate collections such as requests to play musical instruments in the collection. Requests that include any procedure for which a sample of any size is removed from an object or any procedure that permanently alters an object macroscopically, including the removal of residues located in or on an object, are considered in accordance with the Peabody’s Analytical Sampling Policies and Procedures.


All analyses at the Peabody Museum are carried out in accordance with requirements set forth by Harvard’s Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) Office. Exceptions to these policies and procedures cannot be made without the express written approval of EH&S.

Researchers are required to follow the Museum’s standard policies for requesting research appointments through Peabody Museum Research (PMR) or the Academic Partnerships department (AP) as outlined in the Collections Access Policy. All approved requestors are required to sign the Collections Visitor Agreement, which specifies requirements for providing copies of data and publications to the Museum.

Requests that involve non-invasive analysis of culturally sensitive collections may be subject to additional procedures and permissions.

For the purposes of this document, the term collections steward applies both to PMR staff as well as Peabody staff who fill that role in other Museum departments.

Proposals to Conduct Analysis

Requests for non-invasive analysis on Peabody Museum collections should be submitted to Peabody Museum Research (PMR). This includes requests from external researchers, as well as internal requests from Harvard faculty, staff, and students, and requests from Museum staff, with the exception of the Peabody Museum Conservation department, which is exempted from this requirement. PMR will filter non-invasive analysis requests to a collections steward for coordination with the Conservation department. Requests for analysis of Osteology/Paleoanthropology collections will be referred directly to that department. Requests from Harvard students and/or faculty will be forwarded to Academic Partnerships.

Because they are not considered destructive, requests for non-invasive analysis are generally not subject to review by the Peabody Museum Collections Review Committee (CRC), except when such a review is recommended by Collections or Curatorial staff. Examples of non-invasive analysis requests that may require a more extensive review include the analysis of large numbers of objects or proposals in which the analysis methodology has the potential to become invasive.

The request should include the following information:

  • Date of request.
  • Requestor’s name, institutional affiliation, address, telephone number, and e-mail address. For joint projects, the requestor is defined as the principle investigator(s); however, all individuals/institutions participating in the project to whom data will be released must be listed as well.
  • Description of the project, including its significance (i.e., the research question being investigated), research methodology, and expected results.
  • Type(s) of analysis proposed, why they are appropriate to the nature of the research, and complete information about who will perform these analyses, including names of each institution/laboratory and full contact information, if applicable.
  • List all equipment to be brought into to the Museum, indicating type, make, and model, or, for XRF analysis, or indicate if the researcher is requesting use of the Peabody Museum’s pXRF unit to undertake analysis.
  • List of specific items requested for sampling, including complete Peabody Museum accession/object numbers. The PMAE is not able to review blanket requests that do not list specific object numbers.
  • Proposed dates of the research/analysis visit.
  • If the requestor is a student, the request must be accompanied by a letter supporting the project from the supervising faculty member.

Approval Process

Approval of non-invasive analysis proposals is generally determined by the appropriate collections steward in consultation with the conservator, senior collections manager, and appropriate curator. Proposals requiring extensive staff time or the use of fragile or sensitive collections may require further consultation and approvals. The Conservation department will determine the extent to which direct Peabody supervision is required for any non-invasive analysis requests. Once approved, the designated collections steward will follow up with the requestor regarding scheduling of the research appointment and associated policies and procedures in accordance with the Museum’s Collections Access Policy.

Data and Reporting

All researchers, including Harvard faculty and students, are required to leave a copy of their raw data with the Museum at the time of their research appointment. Exceptions will only be made in very specific circumstances and if approval is granted for data to be delivered at a later time, a specific delivery date must be set during the research appointment.

The assigned Peabody Museum staff member will follow up with the researcher if their data and/or report are not received as scheduled.

Documentation and Tracking

Appropriate documentation of approved objects, including cataloging, inventory, photography, and recording of test sites, must be completed by the assigned collections steward prior to analysis. These procedures are outlined on the Memorandum on TMS Steps for Non-Invasive Analysis Events Records.



While a variety of non-invasive analysis techniques are used at the Peabody, following are more specific policies and procedures for the most common formats.


All staff members who may potentially be exposed to x-ray beams during a research visit must be notified and at least two staff members willing to work in the vicinity of a researcher using equipment that emits x-ray beams must be identified prior to approval of research. Researchers must supply all required information to EH&S. Researcher equipment must be inspected and approved by a representative from EH&S prior to use by researcher.

The Museum generally does not provide this service for researchers. Requests for pXRF analysis to be undertaken by PMR staff on behalf of an external researcher are considered on a case-by-case basis. Approval from the director of collections is required when these activities would require extensive use of the Museum’s pXRF analyzer, significant staff time or other resources, and/or analysis at an off-site location. In such cases, the Peabody Museum reserves the right to limit the number of objects tested and/or charge processing fees to cover staff time and any other associated costs.

Use of an External pXRF Analyzer

External researchers may bring their own pXRF device into the Museum, but they must complete required documentation to be able to use it on-site. If the researcher’s pXRF analyzer is coming to Harvard University for the first time, the radiation safety officer must set up a temporary x-ray registration with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, for which the researcher must supply a letter to the Commonwealth providing the following information:

Type of radiation machine (make, model, serial number, etc.)

  • X-ray output voltage (in kV) and current (in mA).
  • Nature, duration, and scope of use.
  • Exact location(s) where the machine is to be used, including room number.
  • The state(s) in which the machine is currently registered.

The researcher should provide this information 30 days prior to use of the pXRF at the Peabody Museum. The unit cannot be used before permission is granted by the Commonwealth. Peabody Museum staff will forward this information to radiation_protection@harvard.edu for review by the radiation safety officer.

Additionally, the researcher must provide a copy of his/her XRF training certificate from either the XRF vendor or trained staff from their institution. This training is specific to the particular equipment being used. Museum staff do not provide training, even when that equipment is the same make/model as that owned by the Museum. Upon approval, the researcher will then be placed on the Peabody Museum permit and will be issued a temporary dosimetry badge.

Researchers requesting permission to use pXRF must complete Harvard’s online x-ray safety training in advance, regardless of any prior training the researcher may have from Harvard or another institution. To do so, they must first request a Harvard Key. Once in the system, EH&S will provide the researcher with a link to the required training. Harvard currently does not accept safety training from other institutions as a substitute for the Harvard online x-ray safety training.

On the first morning of the researcher’s visit, Harvard EH&S will perform an initial x-ray survey to measure personal exposure from the pXRF. This survey will be scheduled by the assigned collections steward and may affect the duration of the researcher’s visit to the Museum.

Other Harvard departments, including academic departments and museums, are responsible to EH&S for their own unit registration and training of faculty and/or students. The Peabody Museum does not provide training and/or registration services for other Harvard units. Approval for Harvard faculty and/or students to undertake XRF analysis on Peabody Museum collections does not constitute approval or certification of training and/or registration requirements. Approval for such requests only extends to permission to undertake analysis on specified Museum collections.

Use of the Peabody Museum’s Bruker pXRF Analyzer

The Museum’s Bruker S1 Tracer III-IV T3V+1093 Hand-held XRF Analyzer and its accessories are managed by the Conservation department. The Conservation department is responsible for ensuring good operation of the analyzer and its component parts, maintaining the calendar for usage, and assisting and supervising use of the analyzer. Only trained personnel may use the device.

Requests to use the PMAE pXRF analyzer, either by external researchers or by Museum staff, should be submitted as part of the research proposal as outlined above. Priority will be given to the study of treated collections related to repatriation activities. Once use of the Museum’s unit is approved by the Conservation department, the assigned collections steward will schedule the research visit in consultation with the conservator, who will schedule use on the XRF Outlook calendar.

The Conservation department will advise on the amount of time required for the proposed project and determine whether the researcher may operate pXRF analyzer independently based on the fragility of the object(s), complexity of the project, and number of objects being analyzed.

As required by EH&S, any user of the PMAE’s pXRF unit must have current training in the unit’s use and appropriate certification from Bruker and EH&S (see above). Additionally, they will be required to wear a dosimeter provided by Harvard. The dosimeter log is maintained by the conservator. The Peabody Museum does not provide Bruker training. The researcher is required to obtain appropriate training and certification from Bruker prior to use and provide documentation of such to the conservator, in addition to undertaking the required EH&S training outlined above.

During analysis, all data documenting pXRF capture methods must be logged. All pXRF sampling must be appropriately documented in TMS and a final report submitted for inclusion in both the TMS Event record and the designated folder on the PMAE server as outlined above. In most circumstances, researchers are provided with the data but not its interpretation.

For additional information, see the Conservation department documents XRF Usage and Maintenance and Assessment Checklist and Orientation Form.

Approved Locations for XRF Analysis

In order to limit exposure of staff to radiation and comply with EH&S dosimeter requirements, XRF may only be undertaken in the following locations:

  • Conservation Laboratory (604)
  • Conservation Library (601)
  • Object Viewing Room (B8)
  • Annex Casting Laboratory

Harvard faculty and students may also undertake XRF analysis in the Archaeology Program Research Laboratory (room 563) and the New England Archaeology Laboratory in the Vanserg building (room 213) in accordance with the policy on Use of Collections on the 5th Floor and at Vanserg. A sign indicating x-rays are in use must be posted at the entrance to these spaces while analysis is undertaken.

Requests for Off-Site Usage of the Peabody Museum’s Bruker pXRF Analyzer

In certain cases, the Museum will consider requests from Peabody Museum staff to use the Bruker pXRF Analyzer in an off-site location. EH&S will also be notified if the pXRF is to be used off-site. Requests must be submitted in writing and include the information required above. If approved, the following policies apply:

  • The Peabody staff member is responsible for obtaining training from Bruker, arranging access to, and securing funding for the use of any approved off-site research facility.
  • Any permits required to bring the pXRF analyzer off campus and/or to other states and countries are the responsibility of the requestor.  Ample time must be given to obtain appropriate permits from EH&S for off-site use.
  • The borrower must insure the analyzer for its replacement value and provide proof of insurance.
  • The requestor must provide copies of all research results, including summaries and raw data, and a final report on all analysis conducted on PMAE collections as described above.
  • Captured XRF spectra files should be left on the pXRF laptop in one named folder (last name and 1-2 word project description). The conservator will move the data to the appropriate storage location once the NIA Event record has been created in TMS.
  • The conservator will record the request in a TMS Event record as outlined in the Memorandum on TMS Steps for Non-Invasive Analysis Events Records.
  • Heavy metal treatment detected on PMAE collections objects must be reported to the senior collections manager immediately for labeling of treated collections in storage and in TMS.


Osteology/Paleoanthropology Collections

In certain cases, researchers working with the Osteology/Paleoanthropology Collection may be granted permission to transport approved objects to the Harvard Center for Nanoscale Systems (CNS) or other facility within a ¼-mile radius from the Museum to undertake CT scanning. Facilities located outside that radius (e.g., the Harvard Medical School, Mt. Auburn Hospital, etc.) require staff supervision.

Researchers are expected to abide by Peabody policies and procedures at all times when objects are in their custody. This work must be conducted within departmental research access hours and all collections must be returned to Osteology/Paleoanthropology staff by the end of each work day.  Researchers will be provided with a Temporary Custody Receipt and object handling instructions.

While off-site, Peabody collections cannot be left unattended and material must remain in a secured area at all times. Not all objects are approved for transport by researchers and if approval is not granted, researchers will be accompanied to and from CNS by an Osteology/Paleoanthropology department staff member. In these cases, transport times must be arranged in advance and researchers must have objects ready for return transport at the scheduled time.

For additional information, see the document CT Scanning Osteology/Paleoanthropology Collections at Harvard Facilities.

Archaeological and Ethnographic Collections

Requests for CT scanning of archaeological and ethnographic objects must be made through PMR. If approved, objects will be transported and accompanied by a collections steward at all times. Objects cannot be released to researchers for transport off-site for analysis purposes.


Researchers may occasionally request permission to play musical instruments in the Peabody’s collections. Such requests, which may include the mechanical forcing of air through a fragile object or pressure from percussive movement, create risk of damage to the object. Such requests are forwarded to the Conservation department for initial evaluation. If the Conservation department determines that the request poses no possible risk of damage to the object, a conservator will be assigned to work with the Collections Management department to create handling and use protocols for the specific object. The use is tracked via TMS Events as part of the research visit and is not assigned a separate tracking number. In the event that such a request places the object at risk, the request will be considered by the Collections Review Committee in accordance with the evaluation process in place for analytical sampling requests.

Analytical Sampling Policies and Procedures

The Museum supports the judicious sampling of its collections in situations determined to afford significant information not available through non-destructive examination. Analytical sampling includes any procedure for which a sample of any size is removed from an object or any procedure that permanently alters an object macroscopically. The Museum is always mindful that analytical sampling requests require the removal of original materials, which, once removed, are no longer available for further study.

Analytical sampling requests are reviewed by the Collections Review Committee (CRC) and a recommendation made to the Director. Only the Director has the authority to approve or decline analytical sampling requests. Permission for the analytical sampling of Peabody Museum collections must be sought by all researchers, including outside researchers, Peabody Museum curators and staff, and Harvard University students and faculty.

In general, approved sampling of Osteology collections is undertaken by the Associate Osteologist and sampling of Archaeological and Ethnographic collections by the PMAE Conservation and/or Collections Management departments.

Material sampling and analysis that occurs in the course of conservation treatment is performed by the Museum’s in-house conservators according to current Standards of Practice (SOP-IILA.2; SOP-ITI.AA) of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.

The Peabody Museum does not grant approval for analytical sampling of human remains and associated funerary belongings from North America as defined under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA) without permission from Tribal representatives.

Prior to submitting a written request for permission to conduct analytical sampling, researchers are encouraged to schedule a visit to the Museum. This visit will enable the researcher to conduct a collections assessment and to select the specific items for which sampling permission is sought. For information on arranging research visits, please contact pmresearch@fas.harvard.edu.

The research request should include the following information:

  • Date of request.
  • Requestor’s name, institutional affiliation, address, telephone number, and e-mail address. For joint projects, the requestor is defined as the principle investigator(s), however, all individuals/institutions participating in the project to whom data will be released must be listed as well.
  • Description of the project, including its significance (i.e., the research question being investigated), research methodology, and expected results.
  • Type(s) of analysis proposed, why they are appropriate to the nature of the research, and complete information about who will perform these analyses, including names of each institution/laboratory and full contact information.
  • Justification if requestor is seeking permission to take samples of the objects directly.
  • Explanation of available non-invasive or non-destructive approaches and a clear justification as to why a non-invasive technique cannot be used to address the proposed research questions.
  • Discussion of other possible sources of objects and explanation of why the Peabody Museum’s collections represent the only or best source for sampling.
  • List of specific items requested for sampling, including complete Peabody Museum numbers. The PMAE is not able to review blanket requests that do not list specific object numbers.
  • Sample size and/or weight requested for analysis and when applicable a description of the location on the object from which the sample will be taken (e.g., an image of the object with an arrow pointing to the sample location). Justification for amount of sample requested.
  • Date by which return of un-analyzed and remnant samples is expected.
  • If the requestor is a student, the request must be accompanied by a letter supporting the project from the faculty member supervising the student.

The CRC cannot review incomplete proposals. In the event that information is missing or not provided with sufficient detail for review, the Registrar will inform the requestor and CRC consideration will be given at the next available monthly meeting after a complete proposal has been submitted.

Requestors must thoroughly and compellingly justify the need for invasive sampling. The PMAE may decline a request if it determines that a non-invasive technique not addressed in the proposal is available and can be effectively substituted for the proposed destructive technique.

Any subsequent changes to project descriptions (e.g., additional analyses, change of testing laboratory, change in sample size, etc.) require additional permissions that must be formally requested in writing.

All analytical sampling requests are considered in committee and require approval by the Director. In reviewing requests, the Museum will consider the following criteria:

  • Soundness of the research proposal, potential for significant scientific impact, and plans for the dissemination of results.
  • The appropriateness of the Museum’s collection to the project.
  • The ability of the proposed analytical methodology to generate results applicable to the research question.
  • The number of objects requested for sampling and the time required to prepare requested objects for sampling.
  • The size of proposed samples and the degree to which samples will damage or impact the future study of the object(s).
  • The uniqueness of the object(s) within the Peabody’s collection and the impact sampling will have on the future use of the object(s).
  • The history of requests for similar sampling methods on the requested objects or comparable objects and the results of those testing efforts.
  • The availability of non-destructive techniques that might produce the same results.
  • The history of the requestor’s previous proposals and the likelihood based on past experience that remnant samples and data results will be returned for future use.

The PMAE reserves the right to limit sample quantities based on, but not limited to, factors such as the nature of the requestor’s research question or the ability of Museum staff to properly prepare objects for sampling. In some cases, the Museum may require a pilot project comprised of a smaller number of samples and consider a request for access to a larger number of collections objects only after the outcome of the test sampling has been evaluated and results are determined to be attainable.

As Museum procedures require thorough documentation of approved analytical sampling projects, objects are not immediately available for sampling and a minimum of eight weeks from the time that approval is granted and a final list of samples has been determined is required prior to actually conducting the sampling. Larger quantities may take longer to prepare for sampling.

If the request is approved, the researcher will be required to complete a Permission to Conduct Analytical Sampling form and agree to the following conditions:

  • No alteration, sampling, or testing of items in the Museum’s collection is permitted without prior written permission through a completed Permission to Conduct Analytical Sampling form. Under no circumstances is sampling permitted in the absence of the form, including on the basis of verbal discussions with Museum staff or administrators.
  • All costs of analysis, including packing, round-trip shipping, and staff processing costs, are the responsibility of the researcher. If the Museum determines that the request requires additional documentation prior to sampling via CT or laser scans (e.g., when the visible appearance of collections will be appreciably altered by sampling) or if the request presents a burdensome effort to prepare the objects for sampling in excess of standard preparation time, the researcher may also be assessed additional costs of imaging and/or staff time. The Senior Registrar will notify the requestor of these costs prior to the preparation and signing of the Permission to Conduct Analytical Sampling form.
  • Requestors will be required to sign outgoing receipts and may also be required to sign loan forms depending on the terms of the project.
  • It is the responsibility of the requestor to inform any sub-contractors (e.g., testing laboratories) of Museum policy and to ensure that samples are returned to the Museum’s Registrar and data is reported to the coordinating Museum Collections Steward. Samples and data may not be returned to any other Museum staff member.
  • The researcher will provide the Peabody Museum with a complete copy of analytical outcomes, including raw data, resulting from the sampling within one year of the date on which the researcher signed the Permission to Conduct Analytical Sampling form. The document provided should be a spreadsheet and must include Peabody Museum numbers, laboratory numbers, and both positive and negative data results.
  • The Museum will, in the majority of cases, withhold these results from other researchers for five years from the date on which the researcher signed the Permission to Conduct Analytical Sampling form; thereafter, they will be generally accessible. The Peabody Museum reserves the right to release data before expiration of the five-year moratorium period under extraordinary circumstances and in consultation with the researcher. Requests for the early release of data will be reviewed by the CRC and approved by the Museum Director prior to distribution.
  • The researcher agrees to donate one copy of any article, thesis, or other written or visual results of this research to the Peabody Museum upon completion.
  • The researcher must agree to return to the Museum any unanalyzed/unprocessed remnant samples, including powders, thin sections, or sample blocks, within one year of the date on which the researcher signed the Permission to Conduct Analytical Sampling form.
  • The researcher is not permitted to retain samples, unprocessed remnant material or residues, or sampling products for additional future testing (e.g., mounted petrological slides, polished metal sections, resin-mounted teeth, etc.). Should additional testing be required to verify results, a new analytical sampling request must be made to the Museum.
  • In cases where the Peabody instructs the researcher to dispose of processed samples and their residues, rather than returning them to the Museum, the researcher is responsible for this disposal in accordance with the policies and procedures of their home institution and all applicable laws.
  • Requests for new sampling cannot be reviewed for researchers with outstanding remnant samples and/or data.
  • Failure to follow Museum policy or guidelines may jeopardize future privileges for the researcher.

Museum Loans

To focus efforts on ethical stewardship of the collections, the Peabody Museum is currently only accepting requests for outgoing loans from Harvard University museums and Indigenous communities. If you would like to submit a loan request for consideration, please contact the Registration Department for assistance at PMRegistration@fas.harvard.edu

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Collections Online Database

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