Loan Program

Due to pandemic-related restrictions resulting in limited staff access to collections, the National Museum of American History (NMAH) is unable to accept and consider new loan requests at this time. Inquiries can be forwarded to the NMAH Loan Program but NMAH is unable to review and act on requests until staff access restrictions are lifted and additional staff can return to work on site at the Museum.  Please contact the NMAH Loan Program for additional information.

The National Museum of American History (NMAH) is committed to providing access to its collections through the loan of objects to non-profit, educational institutions for educational and scholarly purposes. The Museum’s collections total approximately two million objects and represent material evidence of the nation’s heritage in the areas of science, technology, and culture.

Loans of collection objects to qualified institutions for exhibition and research are an integral part of NMAH’s mission to make the national history collections accessible to the widest possible audience. Working with curators and professional staff, the NMAH is committed to arranging and processing loans in a timely manner. In order to do this and to provide a Loan Agreement at the earliest possible opportunity, we have structured an application process that requires as much information as possible at the point of the Loan Request, enabling quick and reasoned evaluation of the proposed loan.

Requesting a Loan

The NMAH has an 8-month lead-time for processing outgoing loan requests. A formal loan request constitutes the following and must be submitted directly to the Loans Program at least 8 months before expected shipment:

  • NMAH Loan Application
  • Formal loan request letter
  • Object information sheets (provided by NMAH curatorial staff)
  • Completed AAM facility report
  • Available exhibition information and designs.

A complete application with all compulsory information is required before we can consider a requested loan. Our loans team reviews requests on the first Wednesday of every month and will review completed requests at the soonest possible opportunity. If the loan is approved, the NMAH will offer the potential borrower a Loan Agreement for review and approval. Processing the loan will proceed only when the borrower has agreed to the conditions provided. We endeavor to have the loan agreements approved and in place six months before the beginning of all loans. This provides ample time for borrowing institutions to plan for and complete exhibition production and for us to provide deliberate processing and care for collections.

The NMAH maintains a policy whereby borrowing museums must bear all costs incurred by a loan, including costs for conservation surveys, conservation treatment, exhibit preparation, framing, bracketing, mounting, handling, rigging, crating, packing, shipping, courier travel, and insurance coverage. More information about our average costs for loans can be found in the Supporting Documents below.

Preliminary inquiries on object availability should be made well in advance of the 8-month lead-time. You can find detailed information about our loans platform in Supporting Documents below. Please contact the NMAH Loan Program with questions or for additional information about our loan policies and procedures.

Supporting Documents

NMAH Loans Policy
NMAH Loan Application Form
NMAH Average Loan Costs
NMAH General Preservation Guidelines
NMAH Sample Loan Agreement

NMAH Collections Management Policy
NMAH Outgoing Loans Procedure
NMAH Incoming Loans Procedure

Contact Information

If your institution has reviewed the NMAH Outgoing Loan Policy and Procedures and wishes to make an inquiry about a loan, please contact the Museum. Please note the 8-month lead-time on formal requests for Outgoing Loans.

For general information on loan policies and procedures:

Margaret Grandine, NMAH Loans Manager
Smithsonian Institution
P.O. Box 37012
National Museum of American History
Room 1230, MRC 667
Washington, DC 20013-7012
Email: Loan Program Contact Form

For inquiries on object availability:

Visit the NMAH Office of Curatorial Affairs page, where you may find contact information for divisions devoted to topics related to the Museum’s collections. Details about collections can be found by searching our online collections database.

If you know the curatorial division you wish to reach, you may also use the points of contact below.

Archives Center: Bob Horton
Armed Forces History: Molly Horrocks
Cultural and Community Life: Christine Klepper
Medicine and Science: Mallory Warner
Political History: Bethanee Bemis
Work and Industry, Numismatics, and Graphic Arts: Hillery York
Office of Curatorial Affairs: Tim Nolan

Members of the Smithsonian Affiliations Program please contact:

Meagan Smith, NMAH Affiliations Program
Email: Contact Form

Please note that though changes are infrequently made to this website, it is important to check back before submitting an application to the Loan Program Office to ensure you have the latest version of all application materials.

This page was last updated on August 31, 2020.