Accession and Deaccession of Skulls


The Atkinson Collection contains over 2400 accessioned human skulls, crania and mandibles. The majority of these individuals were acquired by Dr. Spencer R. Atkinson, an eminent orthodontist and craniofacial researcher, from 1919 to 1963. The University of the Pacific received his private collection in 1963. Subsequent additions have resulted from the dental school's human gross anatomy course during the early 1990s. More recently, a number of dental school alumni have donated skulls that they had purchased from biological supply houses during their dental school days.

The Center for Dental History and Craniofacial Study (CDHCS) makes every effort to ensure the continued security and preservation of donated skulls. Museum-quality cabinets and archival-quality trays house the Atkinson Collection. Specimens are handled minimally. During research studies involving examination of the skulls, curator assistance is mandatory.

Acquisition Guidelines
  1. Skulls donated to CDHCS must be recognizable as originally purchased from a biological supply house (i.e., specimen obviously prepared under laboratory conditions, with tissue removal, degreasing, and bleaching having resulted from standardized preparation techniques) or designated as non-Native American in ethnicity. Subsequent to receipt of a specimen, CDHCS staff may request a 30 day examination period if the specimen's derivation seems questionable.
  2. All acquisitions are to be outright and unconditional. Skull donations must be made with the understanding that, while the donor's preference may be taken into consideration, CDHCS staff will determine whether to accession the specimen into the main research collection or into the smaller teaching collection. This determination will be based on the unique features of the individual as a potential research or teaching asset.
  3. Federal law prevents CDHCS from providing identification services or appraisal values for donated skulls. Donors are responsible for appraisals of value. Please contact biological supply houses or internet companies specializing in human osteological remains to determine approximate values. CDHCS is in no way affiliated with these organizations.
Accession Process
Accession Record

Upon receipt, the donation will be examined and described for accessioning purposes in an Accession Record. The donor will receive a copy of the Accession Record containing the following:

Acquisition information: date recorded, CDHCS recorder's name, method of delivery of specimen to CDHCS;

  • Donor information: donor's name, address, phone number and email address;
    Donation information: description of specimen, documentation relating to specimen, accession number and catalogue number(s) assigned;
  • Donor Release statement: "The objects listed above, when accepted by the Museum Committee, become the sole and permanent property of CDHCS of the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. This gift is subject to no restrictions or conditions. Objects may be photographed or otherwise reproduced, exhibited or studied solely at the discretion of CDHCS. Determinations of value for tax purposes is the responsibility of the donor;"
  • Donor signature and date;
    Acceptance information: indication of Museum Committee action to accept or reject donation;
    Name of recipient and date of return, if specimen is returned from CDHCS to donor.

All donations to CDHCS are irrevocable upon the formal and physical transfer to CDHCS. Subsequent to accession, if a specimen is later deemed to fall outside CDHCS guidelines for acceptance, the donor will be contacted and the specimen deaccessioned and returned to the donor.