Donating Archival Materials
The Special Collections Research Center carefully preserves collections of written, visual, and audio material created by private citizens, university departments, and organizations. Our goal is to ensure that these personal, family, and organizational papers will be available for research.
Special Collections accepts donations as small as a single item and as large as dozens of boxes. Generally, however, we are more interested in a coherent body of material rather than individual items. We request that historical material itself not be mailed or dropped off without first consulting with the staff. We need the opportunity to evaluate all materials offered and ask the donor to sign a deed of gift agreement which formally signifies that the papers become the property of the library. Because the research value of records may be diminished if items are removed or if the records are rearranged, donors are encouraged to contact library staff before weeding, discarding, or reorganizing their papers and records. Sensitive materials should not be removed by the donor. Instead, the donor should discuss with library staff the possibility of restricting part of the collection to protect the privacy of the donor or others. While the library desires to make all papers freely accessible to researchers, we normally will agree to reasonable and equitable restrictions for limited periods of time.
Although the library cannot accept everything that is offered (whether due to staff and space constraints or because the papers are not within the collecting mission), we welcome the chance to review material. If it is not appropriate for our repository, there may be another place to which we can refer you.
Please contact Special Collections at email@example.com or 202-994-7549 to discuss a donation of material.
Donating Rare Books
The Special Collections Research Center welcomes the opportunity to consider donations of rare books and codex (bound) manuscripts. As with archival materials, we request that books not be mailed or dropped off without first consulting with the staff. We need the opportunity to evaluate all books offered and ask the donor to sign a deed of gift agreement which formally signifies that the books become the property of the library. For more information about what is considered a rare book, please see this helpful guide created by the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL): Your Old Books. This guide addresses some frequently asked questions about rare and older books and their values. Please contact Special Collections at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-994-7549 to discuss a donation of rare books.
Monetary Appraisals for Tax Deductions
In certain circumstances, it may be possible for a donor to take a tax deduction for the donation of a manuscript collection to a repository. Donors are encouraged to speak with their tax accountants or attorneys about this possibility. Library staff cannot give tax advice, nor are they permitted to appraise the monetary value of a collection. Library staff may be able to provide donors with a list of local manuscript appraisers who can (for a fee) make monetary appraisals for the donor. It is up to the donor to arrange for and bear the cost of any such appraisal, although the repository will make the collection available to an appraiser hired by the donor.
Most repositories are non-profit organizations. Preparing papers for use by researchers is the most expensive operation in a repository. Although such grants are rarely a prerequisite for the acceptance of a collection, donors who are able to assist repositories by making grants toward the arrangement, cataloging, and conservation of their donations of papers are encouraged to do so. We also welcome contributions from other individuals seeking to support the important work of the Special Collections Research Center.
(Adapted from “Donating Your Personal or Family Papers to a Repository” and "Donating your Organizational Records to a Repository," brochures produced by the Society of American Archivists.)