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Nature to You Loan Program

Enrich your programming and interests with museum specimens.

The Nature to You Loan Program has an extensive library of specimens—plants, mammals, reptiles, insects, birds, and more—that people can literally check out, just like a real library. Our selection of flora and fauna is great for artists, teachers, scholars, school groups, home school, or anyone with an interest in the natural sciences. Become a member of the Nature to You Loan Program to access these incredible resources.

To join, learn more, or ask a question about our collection, please drop in during open hours, call 619.255.0236, or email

Visit the Loan Library

We're open Wednesdays from 2 - 5 PM* and are located in the northwest corner of the Museum on Level 1. Please note, these hours are different from the museum's public hours, and you can enter from the sidewalk along Village Place, across from the Casa del Prado theater.

Drop in to learn more about the program, borrow a specimen, or return a loan.

*Upcoming Nature to You Closure Dates:
September 2 (Labor Day)
School Year Hours (resume on September 3): Open Monday - Thursday from 2 - 5 PM

Peruse our shelves—virtually

Specimens range from taxidermy (snakes, small mammals, birds, and more) to fossils and skeletons to touchable pelts, animals in jars, puppets, plant pressings, and pinned insects. We also have teacher kits, complete with lesson plans, books, specimens, and other materials. Search our specimen database.

Are You a Title 1 School?

Museum Access Funds are available to fund annual Nature to You memberships for qualified Title I schools. Applications for the '24-'25 school year will open on Monday, August 5. If you have any questions, please email us at or call us at 619.255.0236.

Become a member

Join the Nature to You Loan Program and gain access to more than 1,300 specimens and over 15 different teacher kits. Our collection represents the biologic and geologic diversity of the southwestern United States, Baja California, and the world!

Membership is annual and valid for one calendar year from the date of registration. Loan duration is two weeks, and there is no limit to the number of loans permitted per year. There is a specimen limit of one per loan for birds of prey, mammals, and reptiles.

There are three easy ways to become a member: drop in during open hours, call 619.255.0236, or pay for a membership in advance by selecting the membership level below. You do not need to be a member of the Museum to join the Loan Program.

The Loan Library is open year-round, but closed on most school holidays, and summer hours are limited.

Membership Levels

One primary member only. Loan duration is two weeks and is limited to two specimens selected at the time of pick up. Join now.

One primary member with up to four authorized users. Loan duration is two weeks and is limited to seven specimens. Up to three specimens can be placed on hold up to 30 days in advance of pick up. Includes one free Teacher Kit annually, additional kits are $30. Join now.

Primary member with up to seven authorized users. Loan duration is two weeks and is limited to 14 specimens. Up to six specimens can be placed on hold up to 30 days in advance of pick up. Includes two free Teacher Kits annually, additional kits are $30. Join now.

This opportunity allows for a one-time loan of up to four specimens from the program. Loan duration is one week. 

Do you know a teacher who might be looking to add some nature to their curriculum? Membership makes a great gift for teachers! To gift a membership, select the level you would like to give and be sure to check the “This membership is a gift” box on the registration page.

Frequently Asked Questions

A collection of museum specimens that can be checked out for personal use—for use by artists, teachers, scholars, school groups, families, or anyone interested in the natural world.

Yes, most of the specimens we have were once aliveexcluding the few models we have in the collection. Now, thanks to the support of NTY members and Museum donors, they have a second life as museum displays. 

Many of these specimens were collected between 1920 and 1960.

Most of the specimens in the Loan Library are from old exhibits. Today, the Museum does not kill animals for display but will mount animals that have died by accident or due to natural causes. We also receive specimens from private donations as well as local organizations like Project Wildlife. 

When you see wildlife in nature, it doesn’t stay still or let you get close to stare at it. Sometimes, it’s not safe to get too close. And it won’t stop and pose for a picture, either! Here, the wildlife doesn’t run away. We can get up close, stare at, and study it. You can learn a lot about how an animal lives just by looking at it. 

Skilled artists, called taxidermists, train in doing this. They remove all the gushy parts of the animals (eyes, organs, tongues, etc.) and replace them with replicas. They then mountfill with a body form or other materialsand pose the animals so they look like they would if they were alive.

No, the Museum no longer has taxidermists on staff. However, our scientific departments still collect specimens for research purposes and are typically stuffed flat, not mounted and posed.