Collections Policies


The Beaty Biodiversity Museum (BBM) is dedicated to preserving, enhancing, interpreting, and communicating its collections, which document the natural diversity of British Columbia, Canada, and the world. The purpose of the collections policy is to establish the BBM’s guidelines for:

  • The methods of acquiring specimens for accession, including biological and paleontological materials, and artifacts (hereafter collectively referred to as specimens and artifacts) for the collections.
  • The care of the collections.
  • The establishment and maintenance of a comprehensive, accessible system of record‐keeping for all specimens and artifacts placed in the custody of the BBM.
  • The deaccessioning of specimens and artifacts.
  • The lending of specimens and artifacts to, or borrowing of specimens and artifacts from, other museums, collections, institutions, and private sources.

The BBM may accept loans or donations of non‐accessioned specimens and artifacts for purposes of research, teaching, and public programming and every effort will be made to maintain the same level of safeguards as for accessioned specimens and artifacts; the following policy applies only to specimens and artifacts that have been accessioned.


The BBM will actively establish, maintain, and expand the accessioned collections according to two tiers of priority: Research areas and Education and Teaching areas. Collections may move from one area to another as new opportunities for significant acquisitions and curatorial research arise or new specimen data becomes available. Collection development and the setting of priorities will be guided by the specialized knowledge and research expertise of qualified curatorial staff and faculty.

Research Collections

The BBM’s research collections are of regional, national and/or international significance and are supported by recognized programs of curatorial research. These research areas are central to the BBM’s mandate and the BBM is committed to them on a long‐term basis. The following collections are currently considered engaged in research:

  • UBC Herbarium (vascular plants, bryophytes, algae, lichens, fungi)
  • Spencer Entomological Collection
  • Fish Collection
  • Marine Invertebrate Collection
  • Cowan Tetrapod Collection
  • Fossil Collection

As the BBM’s priorities for collecting and research change over time, the above listing may be subject to periodic review and change.

Teaching and Education Collections

Teaching and Education Collections are those that include specimens and artifacts of educational value and significance and/or those of particular display and aesthetic value that have few or no data associated with them (e.g., no time or place of collection)  or are otherwise unsuitable for research purposes. These collections are an essential part of the exhibits, education and outreach functions of the BBM.

Conditions of Acquisition

Objects will be accessioned into the BBM’s collections only under the following conditions:

  • The specimens and artifacts must be consistent with and relevant to the BBM’s mission.
  • The BBM must be able to provide proper care and storage for the specimens and artifacts. No specimen should be considered for acquisition if its physical condition exceeds the BBM’s ability for its proper care and preservation (i.e., in terms of financial or other resources required).
  • The specimens and artifacts should be accompanied by a record of provenance. Exceptions will be reviewed on a case‐by‐case basis.
  • Collections staff and faculty will demonstrate due diligence in proposing acquisitions whose provenance records are incomplete.
  • The specimens and artifacts should be accompanied by valuations, where (if) appropriate.
  • Objects can be accessioned into a collection only by curatorial staff who have expertise in the area.
  • Donations must be free and clear of conditions and restrictions imposed by the donors regarding the BBM’s use of the specimens and artifacts.
  • All donations to the BBM’s collections are irrevocable upon the formal transfer of title to the BBM.
  • The BBM is satisfied that any specimen to be acquired, whether by donation, exchange, purchase or collection, is not stolen or otherwise illegally acquired or collected.
  • The acquisition of biological material must comply with regional, provincial, national and international collection and possession regulations. This includes but is not limited to the British Columbia Wildlife Act, International Migratory Bird Protection Act, Species at Risk Act, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora , Cultural Property Export and Import Act and the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

Care of the Collections

The BBM will allocate an annual budget for funding the continuing care and preservation of specimens and artifacts in its collections. Proper storage and exhibition facilities along with adequate environmental control systems are top priorities for the BBM at all times.

The BBM will ensure that the collections are adequately protected against fire, flood, pests, theft, vandalism, and natural disaster. These issues are addressed further in the Risk Management and Emergency & Disaster Planning policies. The BBM will establish and maintain a comprehensive system of records that will include the following information where applicable:

  • Documentation pertaining to the provenance and where legality of a specimen.
  • All correspondence, documents, and other materials pertaining to an accessioned specimen.
  • Accessioning and cataloguing data.
  • Photographic documentation.
  • Condition and conservation history.
  • Insurance records.
  • Current location and loan records.
  • Deaccessioning information.

Duplicate copies of all essential records pertaining to the BBM’s collections will ideally be made and stored off museum premises in a secure and appropriate location.


The BBM faculty and curatorial staff reserve the right to deaccession any specimen under any of the following criteria:

  • A specimen is no longer relevant within the collection, exhibition, or research programs of the BBM.
  • A specimen was acquired illegally or unethically.
  • A specimen has failed to retain its physical integrity or authenticity and cannot be properly preserved, stored, and used.
  • For the purpose of upgrading the BBM’s collections and their care (e.g., the condition of one specimen compromises the integrity of others or unduly takes resources from the museum.)

The scientific and public relations impacts must be carefully assessed curatorial staff and faculty prior to any deaccession. The BBM will continue to maintain all records pertaining to deaccessioned specimens and artifacts.


Disposal of deaccessioned specimens and artifacts will be made by one of the following means (listed in order of preference):

  • Exchange with another museum or charitable institution.
  • Donation to another museum or charitable institution.
  • Sale to another museum or charitable institution.
  • Sale at public auction outside the BBM’s immediate location without listing of the BBM’s name or accession number.

As far as possible, deaccessioned specimens and artifacts will be disposed of in a manner that keeps them in the public domain. A deaccessioned specimen may be destroyed if exchange, donation, or sale is not feasible.

No employee or volunteer, or their representative or immediate families may be given, sold, or otherwise knowingly obtain deaccessioned specimens and artifacts. Deaccessioned specimens and artifacts may not be directly sold to private individuals and corporations.

All monies realized from the sale of any specimen or collection will be used by the BBM only to upgrade the BBM’s collections and their care within the collection from which the sold specimens and artifacts were deaccessioned.


The BBM collections exist to be available for the advancement of knowledge, an aim that is achievable only if specimens and artifacts are made available for research, teaching, exhibition and loan. At the same time, it is essential to recognize that the BBM holds collections in trust for the public, and their use must be monitored carefully so as to protect them from misuse, and to maximize their future usefulness. It is the policy of the BBM to make its collections as available as possible within the constraints imposed by available resources and conservation.

Access to the collections consists of providing access to physical specimens as well as their informational content. Access to the collections is determined by appropriate faculty and staff and must take into consideration the care and management of the collections. Generally, access will be limited to regular business hours. Informational access to collections is concerned with providing information about specimens and artifacts through catalogues and publications, manual and electronic. Electronic informational collections data are publicly available online while physical records are accessed through the appropriate faculty or curatorial staff.

Generally, access or use of the collections is free of charge. In some cases, however, where access or use is required for commercial purposes (e.g., photography or filming) the BBM reserves the right to levy charges. In some cases, access to particular objects or specimens, which are of significantly high value or fragility, will be restricted to research workers only.

The level of supervision is at the discretion of the faculty and curatorial staff and will vary from visitor to visitor. Only authorized research workers, at the discretion of the directors of collections and curatorial staff, may work unsupervised. A member of staff must supervise all other visitors at all other times.


The BBM may borrow specimens and artifacts from other museums, galleries, and private sources for the purposes of research, exhibition, or public programming and education. The BBM may also lend specimens and artifacts from its collections to responsible institutions for the purposes of research, exhibition, or public programming and education. Outgoing loans are an important aspect of the BBM’s mandate and allow the BBM’s collections to be used and enjoyed more widely in Canada and elsewhere.

  • All loans are subject to a formal written agreement between the lender and the borrower, which ensures appropriate coverage of all insurance obligations. The borrower will comply with all restrictions and conditions imposed on borrowed specimens and artifacts.
  • Loan agreements will specify the purpose and time period of the loan.
  • Loan agreements will address copyright and reproduction rights.

Approval Levels

Decisions regarding BBM acquisitions, deaccessions, disposals, and incoming and outgoing loans will follow the approval levels set by the pertinent faculty and curatorial staff. Refer to the appropriate function for the current approval policies.

Explanation of Terms

accessioning: the formal process or procedure of recording an addition to the collections; the status assigned to the specimen.
acquisition: a specimen or a collection of specimens and artifacts.
collections: objects including biological and paleontological specimens and artifacts, sound and video recordings, and any other movable natural or cultural property that has been formally accepted and accessioned by the BBM.
deaccession: the formal process or procedure that records the permanent removal of an accessioned specimen or group of specimens and artifacts from the collections.
disposal: permanent physical removal from the collections of any catalogued object or specimen, usually by exchange, donation, sale, or destruction.
loan: a specimen or artifact that is lent or borrowed; the act of furnishing a specimen or a collection to another party for temporary use, for an agreed specific purpose, with specific conditions regarding the handling and care of the specimen, and on the condition that the specimen is returned by a specified date.
safeguarding: includes the conservation, preparation, and preservation of specimens and artifacts; collections management; and security.

Contact information for the six major collections can be found under Curatorial Staff.