The Department of Invertebrate Zoology (IZ) collections are housed in two locations in the Greater Washington DC area. Most of the dry preserved collections (Corals, Echinoderms, Mollusks and Sponges) are housed in the Natural History Building (NHB) centrally located on the National Mall in the District of Columbia. The fluid preserved collections and selected dry preserved collections are housed in the Museum Support Center (MSC) located in Suitland, Maryland, approximately 8 miles from the Natural History Building. The MSC is accessible via a scheduled shuttle bus. By advance arrangement, access to these collections may be provided to qualified scientists and their students and others with a demonstrable academic interest in our collections. All requests for access to the collections must be submitted to a Department of Invertebrate Zoology curator for review. See the Section “Arranging Your Visit”, below, for instructions on scheduling your visit.
Identification Badges for Visiting Researchers
Collection storage areas in both the Natural History Building (NHB) and the Museum Support Center (MSC) are secure areas with controlled access. Upon arrival at either NHB or MSC you will be issued an electronic badge that has been pre-programmed to give you access to specific collection storage areas, libraries and laboratory facilities during specific hours. Arrangements for a temporary Visiting Researcher ID Badge will not be initiated until the Department of Invertebrate Zoology staff sponsor has approved the visitor request and the visitor has returned the completed “Visitor Registration and Emergency Contact Information” form.
Hours of Access for Visiting Researchers
Hours of access vary between NHB and MSC but as a guideline for planning your visit, you may anticipate having access to the collections Monday-Friday between the hours of 8:30 am and 4:30 pm, excluding Federal holidays. Subject to the availability of departmental staff, it may be possible to extend the hours of collection access at NHB beyond the 8:30 am to 4:30 pm period. The 8:30 am to 4:30 pm access schedule is strictly observed at the MSC. Research visitors who require greater flexibility in workdays and work hours, research visitors who expect to stay longer than 30 days in any one 12 month period, and frequent research visitors should consult with their Department of Invertebrate Zoology staff sponsor regarding the possibility of a formal academic appointment.
Permission to Take Tissue Samples or Use Destructive Techniques
Permission is required before any permanent alteration of a specimen for purposes of dissection, clearing and staining, SEM, TEM, or tissue sampling is allowed. You must obtain written permission from the curator in charge of the corresponding collection. If, during your visit, you need to take a tissue sample, make a permanent preparation or dissect a specimen, you must refer to the Destructive Sampling Policy and Procedure and the Loan Request Form for detailed information about our sampling policies and procedures.
Arranging Your Visit
- Plan Ahead
- For short visits (less than 2 days) arrangements must be made at least two weeks in advance of the desired start date.
- For longer visits (more than 2 days, less than 30 days) arrangement must be made at least 1 month in advance
- For visits longer than 30 days, and for researchers applying for an academic appointment, arrangements must be made at least 8 weeks, and preferably 12 weeks, in advance of the desired start week to ensure sufficient time to process your application and complete the mandatory background investigation. The Smithsonian Institution Academic Appoint Form is available as a pdf.
- Contact the Department of Invertebrate Zoology scientist responsible for curatorial oversight of the collection your wish to visit. In your initial e-mail please tell them when you would like to visit, what your academic background and professional qualifications are, what collection(s) you want to examine, and what you hope to accomplish while you are here. Though not required at the time of your initial contact, you may chose to include the “Visitor Registration and Emergency Contact Information” form.
- If your visit is approved, your IZ staff sponsor will forward your original e-mail and any additional correspondence to the staff member responsible for submitting an application for a visiting researcher ID badge on your behalf.
- If your visit includes access to the collections at the MSC you will be contacted by one of the collection staff stationed at the MSC. If not already submitted you will be asked to submit a completed “Visitor Registration and Emergency Contact Information” form. In addition to providing you with specific information related to your visit, they may ask you to provide additional information to help plan your transportation from NHB to MSC. Please submit all requested information promptly – preferably within 2 business days of receiving a request for additional information. Until all requested information is received the application for a visiting researcher badge will not be processed.
- When your visit has been confirmed an IZ staff member will be assigned as your primary point-of-contact. Your point-of-contact will send an e-mail with information on who to contact on your first day. Please bring a photo ID with you when you check in the first day. A driver’s license or university ID card is acceptable – passports are not. For planning purposes, all visitors to the collections at the MSC who wish to use the “MSC Shuttle” from NHB to MSC should be aware that they will be asked to report to NHB at either 7:30 am or 8:30 am on their first day.
NHB: The NHB is located at 10th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W. in Washington, D.C. Metered street parking near the museum is extremely limited and daily rates at commercial garages may not be feasible for visitors on a strict budget.
MSC: The MSC is accessible by car and a limited amount of free visitor parking is available on campus.
Driving directions to MSC
- Public Transportation
NHB: Visitors are encouraged to use the local subway system, METRO. In addition to stops throughout the city and close-in suburbs of Maryland and Virginia, there are subway stations at National Airport and Amtrak’s Union Station, with stops at Archives, Federal Triangle, and Smithsonian all within a short walk from the Museum.
MSC: The MSC is accessible via METRO. The Suitland subway station is about a 15 minute walk from MSC.
Walking directions to MSC from Suitland Metro Station
- Smithsonian Staff Shuttle
The Smithsonian also provides free, regular shuttle bus service between MSC and NHB to all visitors with proper Smithsonian credentials. The shuttle departs from the Mall entrance of the museum on Madison Drive on the hour, arriving at the Museum Support Center 30 minutes later. The shuttle operates during regular business hours.
Routine curation supplies including jars, gaskets, closures, boxes, preservatives and label paper are available for visitors’ use. Visitors must provide their own research-related supplies including forceps, dissecting tools, tissue sampling tools, tissue sample preservatives (other than 95% EtOH) and tissue sample containers.
Visitors who are working with special chemicals need to declare them at the time their visit is scheduled so we can review the request. Ethanol (95%), isopropanol (100%), full strength formalin, and anhydrous glycerin are available in the labs for visitor use. Visitors must provide any other preservative, fixative, stain or other chemical need to support their research activities as well as a copy of the corresponding MSDS.
- Wifi Access:
Wireless network connections are available at NHB and MSC in most lab and collections areas. Secure log-in instructions will be provided during visitor orientation.
A limited number of basic, student-grade compound and dissecting microscopes are available for visitor use. Camera lucida and camera C-mount attachments are not typically available for these microscopes. If your research requires access to professional quality optical equipment you should make special arrangements with the host curator or plan to bring your own microscopes.
A copystand for macrophotography is available but visitors must bring their own cameras.
Other Helpful Information
- Personal Collections:
All specimens brought into the Museum are subject to international wildlife import and export laws. International visitors are responsible for obtaining any necessary export permits from their home country and are expected to comply with all permit, customs clearance and transport requirements, including completing and filing the FWS (Fish and Wildlife Service) 3-177 form to declare your specimen imports and/or exports. Please contact us well in advance if you are planning to bring corals or other CITES regulated specimens to the Museum. Please note that there are restrictions on carrying alcohol preserved specimens in carry-on or checked baggage. It is your responsibility to check with your airline well before your flight dates regarding restrictions on hand-carries of preserved specimens. If your airline will not permit the hand-carry of your preserved specimens you must be prepared to pack and ship your specimens at your expense (FedEx, UPS, etc.).
- Food and Beverage:
NHB offers public dining facilities and areas for staff to eat. Limited food service is usually available at MSC. MSC also provides snack and beverage vending machines. Visitors with special dietary requirements may wish to pack their breakfast and/or lunch when they work at MSC.
Long-term visitors can find a directory of dormitories, residential rentals, and house-share opportunities through the NHB Research Training Programor SI Fellowship Office Housing Guide. A variety of hotel accommodations are available close to NHB and MSC or accessible via the local subway system, METRO. Visitors are encouraged to work with their travel agent to locate appropriate accommodations within their budget. Neighborhoods near NHB and the subway’s Orange/Blue line include Chinatown, Penn Quarter, L’Enfant Plaza, Rosslyn and Crystal City. Neighborhoods near MSC and the subway’s Green line include National Harbor, Suitland, and the Navy Yard.
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