The Field Museum releases its collections data under the CC0 public domain waiver. This waiver places our biodiversity collections data in the public domain, and we decline to enforce any intellectual property rights we may have in it. The Museum also makes its multimedia based on collections items and specimens publicly available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC) license. This allows for the distribution, publication, and remixing of media for any non-commercial purpose, as long as you credit the Field Museum and follow the other requirements of the Creative Commons license.  

Sharing our collections with the world

By adopting the CC0 waiver and CC BY-NC license, we follow the lead of GBIF, Europeana Foundation, Canadensys, VertNet, and Open Data Commons—organizations who invest similarly in data sharing, ethics, and copyright. When using and publishing Field Museum data, please follow our recommended data practices. By doing so you join a global effort to increase the discoverability of data and unlock their potential. You help make the biodiversity data world an easier and more equitable place to work.

With open data, we encourage scientific inquiry and debate by providing resources that foster collaboration and innovation. We also promote data standards by crediting researchers, reducing the duplication of data, and maximizing transparency and accountability. Explore the Field Museum's biodiversity data on aggregators like GBIF and VertNet.

Media agreement

The Field Museum may require a signed agreement with media creators in order to allow us to use the media in our collections management system. This agreement applies only to visiting researchers accessing, using, and/or borrowing collections items.

Members of culturally affiliated groups, e.g., Native American and Indigenous communities, can amend the terms of the media agreement based on their practices or protocols. For more information, contact members of our Repatriation Team at

Artistic work falls outside the agreement, though artists should contact the Field Museum to discuss what they can do with the work once completed. 

The media agreement applies to any media created from Field Museum collections items and specimens, including but not limited to:

  • Photographs
  • CT scans
  • 3D models
  • Image sets
  • Moving image records
  • Sound records
  • Scientific illustrations
  • Photogrammetry 

Factual data, e.g. measurements, place and date of origin, about collections items and specimens, is exempt from the agreement. 

Review the media agreement

Norms for data use and publication

Cite the data you use. Credit our staff, volunteers, and collaborators for the work they do collecting, digitizing, maintaining, and publishing the information you find online. 

We provide citation formats for using datasets, specimens or objects, images, and image stacks.

See citation formats

You are welcome to use other citation methods; however, please include a link to the original source.

Do not use the data or media in any way that is unlawful, unethical, harmful, or misleading. Understand that they are subject to change and may contain errors or sampling biases. Protect the reputation of the data publisher(s) by clearly indicating any changes you make to the data or media. 

Abide by the license or waiver. The data is dedicated to the public domain via the CC0 waiver, and media is freely available as CC BY-NC. Do not remove the public domain mark or provide misleading information about the copyright status.

Let us know if you use Field Museum data and media. If you have comments about the data or media, notice errors, or want more information, contact the data publisher(s). This information is included in the dataset metadata and online.

Learn more about datasets

We currently only publish data and media about Field Museum collections. If you wish to publish your data under the same code of openness, then we encourage you to join one of the growing communities of data aggregators.


In some cases, access to data and media is restricted and only available upon request. Contact the data provider(s) for more information. All requests are considered on a case-by-case basis. If granted, access may be subject to additional restrictions. 

The Field Museum reserves the right to restrict access due to resource limitations, legal obligations, and security, ethical, privacy, and preservation concerns. 

Provenance data may be restricted to respect the privacy, safety, and/or security of staff, collectors, donors, and their families. 

Records or fields may be restricted due to:

  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Restrictions agreed to by the Field Museum as part of accepting a collection (accession agreements)
  • Documented restrictions due to intellectual property rights, collecting permits, distribution agreements, or similar contractual restrictions
  • Ongoing research by Field Museum staff and associated scientists (This limits the availability of some data and media for a period not to exceed five years unless extended after internal review.)

Collection location data may be restricted in order to protect:

  • Collections of high monetary value
  • Commercially traded items (especially of biological species regulated under CITES or other international conventions to which the U.S. is a party, including anthropological, rock or mineral, and paleontological specimens)
  • Endangered or threatened species
  • Cultural objects or information from archaeological sites and other culturally sensitive properties
  • Specimens or objects collected on private property

Exclusions to waivers and licenses 

The CC0 waiver and CC BY-NC license and associated norms apply only to Field Museum collections data and media served through our collections management system. They do not apply to any third-party content used by the Museum. 

For data, images, and other media that appear on the Field Museum’s website and social media channels, or in exhibitions and publications (and whose record system is not the Field Museum’s collections management system), please refer to the Museum’s general copyright statement for the terms of use. Certain content may be available under different terms, including under Creative Common licenses.

The Field Museum makes every effort to acknowledge the source of material that is not its own. If you find that we have misattributed something, let us know at  

Learn more about copyright

Scope of datasets

Our publicly available datasets are a work in progress. We continue to add, update, and modify records to account for data quality.

Spatial data

We georeference our geospatial data to the best of our abilities. Users should be aware that georeferenced localities may not be the actual point locality of the specimen but represent polygon centroids instead. This may introduce errors for certain types of spatial analysis. Take care when using the data for this work. 

Negative information and bias

With collections data, it is common to misinterpret gaps or uneven distributions in records as absences of the organism or object of interest. Our data represent only positive information: a record of something found in a particular place at a particular time. The absence of a record could mean that it was not collected, that it is not our collections, or that the data have not been captured electronically.

Accuracy and Completeness

Publicly available Field datasets are as accurate as we can possibly make them. The accuracy of records varies across geographic areas, object types, temporal spans, or taxonomic groups due to a number of reasons (e.g., research interest).

Learn more about our collections

Staff across the Museum—from science to information technology, legal and web—alongside collaborators from sister-institutions and collections devised these recommended practices. Together we are continually adding to, refreshing and re-evaluating both the information in our datasets and the documentation of their custody. If you believe that data you are examining are not correct, contact us at