Sample Scope of Collections Statement

126 FW 2
126 FW 2, Exhibits 1 - 6, FWM 325, 10/07/1997
Amended By
Amended by Decision Memorandum, “Approval of Revisions to ~350 Directives to Remove Gender-Specific Pronouns,” 6/22/2022
Originating Office
Division of Visitor Services and Communication


 I. Purpose of Scope of Collection Statement

This Region 3 Scope of Collection Statement (SOCS) is intended to provide a framework under which present and future museum property that contributes directly to the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), as well as those additional holdings that the Service is legally mandated to preserve, is to be maintained and operated as directed by Federal law, and complies with the policies and standards required by the Department of the Interior (DOI). This Regional SOCS is designed to ensure that all museum property is clearly relevant to Region 3 and the Service, and to prevent the arbitrary growth of the museum property collection. This SOCS supersedes any previous SOCS for the Region.

II. Department of the Interior Mission

The Department of the Interior protects and manages the Nation's natural resources and cultural heritage; provides scientific and other information about those resources; and honors its trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and affiliated island communities.

III. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mission

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's mission is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

IV. Natural and Cultural Heritage in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Service has responsibility for migratory bird management; threatened and endangered species; certain marine mammals; the management of national wildlife refuges, national fish hatcheries, and research stations; and financial and technical assistance to states, trust territories, Native American tribes, and individuals.

In addition, as a bureau under DOI, the Service also has a responsibility to protect and manage natural and cultural heritage. A history of maintaining museum property collections in the Service can be traced to the creation of the Section of Economic Ornithology in the Department of Agriculture in 1885. This section evolved into the Bureau of Biological Survey, which was transferred from Agriculture to the Department of the Interior in 1939. In February 1940, the Wildlife Division of the National Park Service was transferred to the Biological Survey, and on June 30, 1940, the Bureau of Biological Survey and the Bureau of Fisheries were merged to create the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

During its tremendous growth and diversification, the Service has assumed the responsibility for managing many important museum property collections of artwork, archaeological and historical materials, and scientific objects and specimens. Currently, the Service has eight Regional offices and over seven hundred field stations, offices, and research facilities, which manage over 150 million acres of land.

Region 3 (often called the Midwest Region) is an administrative division of the Service. The Region currently oversees 116 offices and field stations covering 1,443,096 acres in eight states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin). Region 3 manages more than 200 collections at its field stations across the Midwest. Region 3 also has nearly 900 collections stored at outside university and historical society repositories. All totaled, the number of accessioned museum property items in Region 3 is likely over 2 million.

V. Laws and Regulations affecting Museum Property

Authorities regarding acquisition and preservation of museum objects can be found in the following laws and regulations:

• Curation of Federally Owned and Administered Archeological Collections, found in 36 CFR Part 79
• Antiquities Act of 1906, in 16 U.S.C. 431-433
• Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA), as amended in 16 U.S.C. 470aa-470mm, regulations in 43 CFR Part 7
• National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA), as amended in 54 U.S.C. 300101, regulations in 36 CFR Part 800
• Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA), as found in 25 U.S.C. 3001-3013, regulations in 43 CFR Part 10
• Paleontological Resources Preservation Act of 2009 (PRPA), as found in 16 U.S.C. 470aaa
• Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, as amended in 16 U.S.C. 703-712
• Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940, as amended in 16 U.S.C. 668
• Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended in 16 U.S.C. 1531
• The Lacey Act of 1900, as amended in 18 U.S.C. 42 and 16 U.S.C. 3371-3378
• Federal Records Act of 1950 found in 44 U.S.C. 3101 et seq.
• Federal Records in 35 CFR Part 1220
• Subchapter C of Title 27 of the CFR: The National Wildlife Refuge System-Prohibited Acts, Subpart F: Disturbing Violations: Against Non-wildlife Property
"The destruction, injury, defacement, disturbance, or the unauthorized removal of any public property including natural objects or private property on or from any national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

Learn more about national wildlife refuge
is prohibited." (50 CFR 27.61)
“No person shall search for or remove from national wildlife refuges objects of antiquity except as may be authorized by 43 CFR Part 3." (50 CFR 27.63)

VI. DOI Manual and Directives and Service Museum Property Policy

Department of Interior Museum Property Manual and Directives

The Service follows guidance established by DOI's Museum Property Management Office. The DOI Museum Property Manual and Directives are policy and procedural documents that pertain to specific aspects of the management, preservation, and documentation of DOI museum collections. Project Leaders and staff are encouraged to consult these sources, particularly those that concern the storage, care, maintenance, and acquisition of museum property held at field stations. Following is a link to those policies and Directives:

The Museum Property Management Manual at 411 DM, provides technical guidance, advice, and information to assist bureaus and offices in achieving the standards and implementing the policies and Directives that the DOI Museum Property Management Office has established.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Museum Property Policy

126 FW 1-2 are the Museum Property policies for the Service. These documents establish policy and standards that ensure proper management of the Service’s museum property consistent with Federal laws, regulations, and DOI policy.

VII. Definition of Museum Property

Museum property is defined as items of Service personal property acquired according to some rational plan (e.g., a SOCS, such as this one) and preserved, studied, or interpreted for public benefit. Museum property is distinctive from other personal property because it has at least one of these additional unique characteristics: specifically identified by the Service as museum property; commissioned by the Service; generated by research, resources management, or exploration; acquired from Federal or Indian land; likely to increase in value; associated with a significant event, resource, or person; or significant due to its age or rarity. Museum property has scientific, historic, or artistic transcendent qualities not found in other personal property. Thus, it should be preserved for the long term. The Project Leader is the official custodian of the museum property at their station and is responsible for following the handling, monitoring, and preservation requirements in 126 FW 1-2. Museum property is inventoried and tracked separately from regular personal property and is not entered into the Financial and Business Management System (FBMS).

Items generally not considered museum property include: official records as defined by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); books only collected for their content; commercially mass-produced posters, booklets, or paintings/reprints; expendable working research collections of items or samples; teaching/interpretive collections (especially replicas); animal mounts with no scientific, historical, or artistic value; photographs for short-term use; or items only necessary to display a collection. Note: While these items may not currently be regarded as museum property, the passage of time and their increasing age or rarity may make them museum property at some later date. As a result, the Project Leader should use reasonable caution to protect them from unauthorized destruction.

VIII. Types of Museum Property


Artifacts and Other Specimens. Archaeological collections are generated by research authorized by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, and the Antiquities Act of 1906. There are also some materials resulting from unauthorized collections.

Associated Records. All records associated with archaeological collections must be retained as part of the museum property collection. These records include project-generated documentation (e.g., field notes, maps, drawings and photographs, collections inventories, computer documentation and data, and conservation treatment records).

We expect additional archaeological materials will be collected from lands in Region 3 as a result of future contracts, permits, and recoveries. To the extent possible under contract provisions and other stipulations, materials that are not of archaeological interest as defined in the regulations should not be collected.

Collections generated from undertakings on state or private lands must be curated only if donated to and accessioned by the Service. Archaeological materials that are not acquired from scientific research likely will not qualify as museum property, but may be used for educational or interpretive purposes. However, the use of the materials in this way must be approved by the Regional Historic Preservation Officer.

Ethnography  (Native American)

Ethnographic materials are associated with cultural or traditional life-ways of Native Americans and other indigenous groups. Examples include basketry, pottery, rugs, jewelry, and other cultural items.


Artistic materials include paintings (e.g., watercolor, wash, oil, etc. on various support media, including canvas, artist board, and paper); prints and drawings (e.g., pen and ink, pencil sketches, chromolithographs); sculpture; antiques; and tapestries. If artwork meets one or more of the following characteristics, it should be considered museum property:

• Associated with an eminent Service (or predecessor agency) employee or commissioned, donated to, or purchased by the Service;
• Limited edition or rare prints;
• Associated with or commemorates an important Service event or program; or
• Documents or is used to interpret an extinct, endangered, or threatened species.


Archival materials do not include official records, but rather refer to commissioned photographs; correspondence or documents related to Service programs or lands; diaries, books, manuals, maps, or other similar documents associated with an important event or person in Service history; or audio and visual images and electronic documents. Additionally, documentation meeting the definition of "associated records" for another museum property type should be accessioned under “Archives.”


Historic materials are those related to the history of the Service and its preceding agencies, the history of its lands and facilities, or management functions and programs. Such objects may include, but are not limited to, well-preserved or representative examples of early scientific equipment or tools, uniforms, boundary signs, books autographed by or belonging to Service employees or other individuals, historic firearms, waterfowl decoys, furniture, collections of materials associated directly with historic sites on Service lands (not archaeologically collected), or scale-models of agency structures.


Biological materials include botanical collections (e.g., herbariums) generated from research on Service lands or accessioned by the Service as a result of research and not consumed in analysis; or zoological collections, such as prepared biological specimens, type specimens (which serve as the basis for the original descriptions of species and subspecies taxa), voucher specimens (document research activities and results), or animal mounts that have primarily scientific (rather than artistic or historic) value. If a species is designated as extinct, endangered, or threatened, the specimen or mount will likely be considered museum property.


Geological materials include geophysical specimens and soil, sediment, and rock samples maintained by stations to document landforms or support engineering studies. Organic, water, and ice core samples would be accessioned under “Geology” as well.


Paleontological materials include vertebrate and invertebrate fossils generated from scientific research, sampling, and collection on Service lands.

IX. Region 3 Advisory Policy for Museum Property

Region 3 will only acquire, manage, and track Museum Property (MP) when it meets one or more of the following conditions:

• MP is collected during a field survey on Service-owned lands regardless of who does the collecting (generally must be either a Federal professional employee or someone with a permit). However, it is our policy that the agency or group initiating the survey would pay for any upfront costs associated with curation in a Federal or non-Federal repository unless the Service has a curation agreement with the repository stating otherwise.

• MP is collected during a Service-led field project off Service-owned lands in which the landowner (e.g., local government, tribe, or private entity) explicitly donates them to the Service. Without this explicit written agreement, it is the policy of the Service that the owner of the land is also the owner of any MP collected from it (barring any interference with Federal, tribal, state, or local laws). However, our policy is not to take on these collections unless the Regional Historic Preservation Officer (RHPO) deems them to be significant and there is a real danger of the MP being destroyed or trafficked.

• MP is accumulated from Service day-to-day operations (generally reserved for Service personal property that has achieved MP status over time, such as interpretive display items or artwork).

• MP is either donated by or seized from an outside party and there is explicit written documentation that the Service supported the donation or that materials from the seizure meet the definition of museum property. As described above, our policy is not to take on these collections unless the RHPO deems them to be significant and there is the real danger that the MP will be destroyed or trafficked.

• MP is collected on land owned by another Federal agency and transferred to the Service, provided that a written agreement explicitly states that the Service is responsible for the management and tracking of the MP generated on that land owned by the previous Federal agency.

• MP is within a collection from both Service and non-Service lands previously accessioned by the repository under one accession number. The Service will decide on a case-by-case basis whether it will manage and track the entire collection under that accession number.

Associated issues:

• While it is Service policy that Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)-related items fitting the above categories are MP and can be accessioned by the Service or its affiliated non-Federal repositories, they are considered to be temporary to the Service and not destined for long-term storage. These collections must be treated with the utmost care and sensitivity within secure and climate controlled repositories until they are deaccessioned and repatriated.

• If cultural artifacts not fitting the age criterion of the definition of an "archaeological resource" (i.e., they are less than 100 years old) were collected during a professional field survey and have already been accessioned into a repository, the Service will accept responsibility for their management and tracking.

• Finally, the Service will not accept the management and tracking of MP collected before or after the Service has owned the land unless the MP can be reasonably shown to fit one or more of the above conditions.

X. Purpose of the Museum Property Collection

Museum property, whether cultural or natural history, is inherently valuable for the information it provides about processes, events, and interactions among cultures, individuals, and the environment. Placing objects and specimens within a broader context, through research, analysis, and documentary records, provides for the greatest benefit and enjoyment by the public. Natural and cultural materials provide baseline data, serving as scientific and historical documentation of the station's resources and the purposes for which the station was established.

XI. Mandated Systematic Collections

Flowing from the Service and each station's research missions is the responsibility to maintain scientific materials that document research activities, sometimes with paper or other records, but often with physical specimens that meet the definitions of museum property. These are demanded by the written and unwritten standards that govern the conduct of research and are intended to provide for the repetition or verification of research findings. Written standards include the Good Laboratory Practices Act (regulations at 40 CFR 160), which, although primarily concerned with maintenance of raw data files, may require retention of museum materials.

Generally accepted purposes of museum materials maintained in support of research include providing a way to verify the identity of taxa on which data are collected, and providing the opportunity to reanalyze materials that have been measured, examined, or subjected to other forms of analysis. Another purpose for maintaining scientific collections is to aid in investigations by providing preserved biological materials with which living materials can be compared for purposes of identification. Most scientific collections generated at a site have been or will be consumed in analysis, and do not qualify as museum property.

Certain other types of museum property must be retained in the station's museum property collection as required by legislative mandate (i.e., archeological collections systematically recovered from Federal lands, and associated field data, records, and reports). Scientific specimens and samples not consumed in analysis and determined to be appropriate for long-term preservation, and associated field data, records, and reports resulting from research conducted on Federal lands, must be retained in the station's museum property collection.

All objects deemed appropriate for inclusion in the museum collection must be maintained according to the museum standards stipulated by DOI. Use of objects from the collection for display, loan, and research purposes will depend on the condition of the object and its ability to undergo such uses without risking its damage or loss.

XII. Acquisitions

DOI policies allow the acquisition of museum property through gift, donation, purchase, exchange, transfer, seizure, or field collection. Acquisition of museum property in Region 3 is governed by the Regional Advisory Policy (see Section IX) and the station's ability to manage and preserve it according to DOI's Standards for Documentation, Preservation, and Protection of Museum Property and applicable bureau/station policies, guidelines, and manuals (see 126 FW 1 and 2). The Project Leader, as the station's Custodial Property Officer, represents the Secretary of the Interior in accepting title to and responsibility for all objects formally accessioned into the Service from that station.

Any object that station staff acquire could be accessioned as museum property, but only if it is relevant to the station's purpose, vision, or interpretive themes and an integral part of the natural or cultural history of the station or the Service. The Project Leader must contact the RHPO when considering collecting potential museum property to get guidance concerning the accessioning, care, and storage of museum property.

Before considering collecting an item/document as museum property or contacting the RHPO, Project Leaders and staff should refer to the following questions and guidelines:

• Does the object relate or directly contribute to the mission, programs, history, or interpretive themes of the Service or station? The Project Leader should consult the Comprehensive Conservation Plan or other guidance documents to determine if an object is relevant to the station's purpose, vision, or history.
• Is the object legally mandated for preservation (even if it is not directly related to the vision or programs)? (See Section XI.)
• Is the object associated with an eminent figure of the station or Service?
• Is the object associated with a significant event that happened at or refers to the station or Service?
• Was the object commissioned by the station or Service to commemorate an event, person, or historic, scientific, or artistic theme?
• Does the object illustrate some form of technology or method once used that was important to station operations, but is no longer used or has been replaced with a newer form of technology or method?
• Is the object more than 50 years old, or is it rare? The object does not have to be 50 years old to qualify as museum property, but this may help narrow down its historical significance.

In the end, all acquisitions of museum property must receive unanimous approval from the ad hoc Region 3 Accessioning Committee, consisting of the Project Leader, the Regional Visitor Services Chief, and the RHPO, before being accepted into the Service. The Committee must make sure all appropriate paperwork related to the acceptance or rejection of objects offered to the station has been completed.

Unless there are compelling reasons otherwise, Region 3 has no desire to collect or accession any ethnography objects in the future.

If an artifact or other specimen is found by station staff or visitors, we recommend leaving the object in place or putting it back in place and reporting the location to the RHPO. If an artifact or other specimen is found and collected without proper documentation and has lost its provenience (e.g., a visitor brings in an artifact or collection), the station must retain the item and notify the RHPO to determine if it should be accessioned as museum property. All associated paper records related to archaeological research, such as field and lab notes, should be retained and accessioned under the archival documentation museum property type. Paleontological specimens, similar to archaeological collections, should be left in place or returned if found and the location reported to the RHPO.

XIII. Outgoing/Incoming Loans

Outgoing loans of museum property may take place between the Service and the borrower (agency, museum, university, other institutions, etc.). The RHPO should be notified when an outgoing loan is being proposed. During the term of the loan, the borrower agrees to keep the museum property in safe and secure storage in its facilities at no cost to the Service. The borrower must maintain the museum property to the same storage standards that pertain to its own museum property. The borrower agrees to assume full responsibility for insuring the museum property and/or for providing funds for the repair or replacement of objects that are damaged or lost during transit and while in the borrower's possession. Any actions that involve the repair and restoration of any of the museum property must be approved in advance in writing by the Project Leader in consultation with the RHPO.

Incoming loans refer to any loan of museum property from an outside repository (agency, museum, university, other institutions, etc.) to the Service. When processing an incoming loan, the Project Leader must follow a similar procedure as for an outgoing loan—a list of the museum property must be created and the objects assigned a unique incoming loan number. This loan number is not a Service accession number and is merely given for accountability of the transaction between the Service and outside repository, as well as for tracking purposes. As with an outgoing loan, the Service must maintain the museum property according to the repositories’ standards and assume full responsibility for insuring the museum property.

There are short- and long-term loans. Short-term loans should have a specific termination date and are made for a period not to exceed 3 years, though they may be renewed. Renewals of short-term loans should be in writing. A long­term loan is longer than 3 years and often applies to a loan made by a station (lender) and received by another station (borrower) for purposes of long-term curation and/or storage. Incoming long-term loans are discouraged for purposes other than curation and storage, although there may be occasions when it is deemed necessary.

XIV. Reclassifying: Accessioned in Error and Non-Museum Property

Reclassifying is the procedure where objects and/or specimens are temporarily relabeled as either non-museum property or accessioned in error while remaining in the MP collection. Objects and/or specimens can be reclassified and labeled as non-museum property if there has been an exchange, transfer, or loss. Museum property may be reclassified as accessioned in error if it is found to be outside of the SOCS. Acceptable reasons for reclassification include: returning objects to the rightful owner, loss or involuntary destruction of museum property, the objects are outside of the SOCS, or they must be reclassified to maintain compliance with NAGPRA.

All reclassification actions must be recorded in writing and reviewed, approved or disapproved, signed, and dated by all the members of the ad hoc Accessioning Committee. The written document should list the museum property being reclassified, including the accession numbers, descriptions of the objects, current condition, and last known location. The document must indicate whether the objects and/or specimens were accessioned in error or are non-museum property. They will remain in the MP collection and continue to be managed, tracked, and included in the annual inventory until they are formally deaccessioned.

XV. Deaccessioning Museum Property

At this time, the Service and Region 3 do not have authority to deaccession museum property for any reason except to maintain compliance with NAGPRA (see Section XVII).

Deaccessioning is the formal procedure where objects and/or specimens are permanently removed from the MP collection. MP should be deaccessioned when it is exchanged, transferred, or lost. Common reasons for deaccessioning museum property include: returning objects to the rightful owner, loss or involuntary destruction of museum property, the objects are outside of the SOCS, or to maintain compliance with NAGPRA.

Each deaccession is assigned a unique number and documented on an appropriate deaccessioning form. All deaccessioning forms must be reviewed, approved or disapproved, signed, and dated by all the members of the ad hoc Accessioning Committee. The written form should list the museum property being deaccessioned, including the accession numbers, descriptions of the objects, last known location, and proposed final destination.

Project Leaders should consult with interested or affected parties prior to initiating a deaccession action as a matter of courtesy and in compliance with the requirements of NHPA, ARPA, and NAGPRA.

XVI. Uses and Restrictions

A primary consideration in all uses of museum property is the conservation of each object or specimen in question and the collection as a whole. Museum property, except that which may be excluded under NAGPRA, may be exhibited, photographed, or otherwise documented and studied. The destructive or intrusive analysis of museum property must follow guidelines established by DOI, which holds the right to deny requests for such analysis. Restrictions may be placed on the publication of images or manuscripts in the museum property collection if these materials are subject to copyright, and this right has not been signed over to the Service. We will not consider offers of donations where the donor has set conditions that violate this SOCS. Long-term loans, either into or out of the collection, are discouraged.

Objects in a museum property collection must be made available to people for use in religious rituals or spiritual activities in accordance with 36 CFR Part 79, "Curation of Federally Owned and Administered Archaeological Collections" and other laws, regulations, and DOI/Service policies.

XVII. Collections Affected by NAGPRA

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA) and its regulations (43 CFR Part 10) address the rights of lineal descendants, tribes, Native Alaskan, and Native Hawaiian organizations (parties with standing) to Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony (cultural items). The statute requires Federal agencies and museums to provide information about Native American cultural items to parties with standing and, upon presentation of a valid claim, ensure the item(s) undergo disposition or repatriation.

Any human remains and Native American religious and sacred objects in the collection must be handled with special care, attention, and respect. Access restrictions must be placed on such materials to ensure the dignity and respect accorded to all human remains and religious objects. Any proposal to study, exhibit, photograph, or otherwise document NAGPRA items must get the written approval of the station's representative and the RHPO. A consistent effort should be made to repatriate and/or deaccession any remaining NAGPRA items in the care of the station and held by its repositories.

The Service does not want to collect any NAGPRA-related items in the future. However, if artifacts are brought to or found at a field station or on Service land, it is the responsibility of the Project Leader to contact the RHPO to discuss what steps should be taken to repatriate or deaccession the items.

XVIII. Management Actions

This SOCS must be reviewed by the RHPO, at a minimum, every 2 years and, when necessary, revised to remain supportive of and consistent with any changes in laws, regulations, and policies. As part of the review process, the RHPO should ensure that specialists from the appropriate discipline(s) review and comment on the SOCS.