Loan Program

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 a 12-month lead-time for processing outgoing loan requests of up to 10 objects.  A formal loan request constitutes all the following documents and information and must be submitted directly to the Loan Program at least 12 months before expected shipment:

  • NMAH Loan Application
  • Formal loan request letter addressed to the NMAH Loan Program
  • Object information sheets (provided by NMAH curatorial staff)
  • Completed AAM facility report
  • Recent environmental and light level readings from the exhibit gallery
  • Available exhibition information and exhibit designs

A complete loan request package with all necessary information is required before NMAH can consider a requested loan. The NMAH loans team will review completed requests at the soonest possible opportunity and provide the borrower with a summary of the estimated costs and loan requirements. Processing the loan will proceed only when the borrower has agreed to the conditions provided. The NMAH endeavors to have loan agreements approved and in place six months before the beginning of all loans. This goal provides ample time for borrowing institutions to plan for and complete exhibition production and for the NMAH 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 the 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 12-month lead time. Potential borrowers can find detailed information about the NMAH loans platform in the Supporting Documents below. Please contact the NMAH Loan Program with questions or for additional information about NMAH 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 12-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.

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 January 26, 2023.