Donate Artifacts

How do I donate an artifact to the society?

The SCHS is actively collecting artifacts as we strive to grow and strengthen our collections. Your donation will help us create more robust exhibits, education programs, and scholarly research opportunities. In order to maintain professional museum standards and adhere to the scope of our mission, we have adopted specific policies and procedures to manage and sustainably grow our collections of artifacts. As a result, we cannot accept all offers of artifacts.

Please note that the following processes and procedures apply only to donations of artifacts to the museum. Donations of archival materials (maps, books, documents, etc.) go through the SCHS Archives and may have different procedures. To find out about donating archival materials, please contact the director of archives and research.

If you have artifacts that you believe would add to the collections of the SCHS Museum, please contact the museum curator to discuss the artifact. All artifact donations go through the following steps:

  • First, contact the SCHS Museum and tell us what artifact(s) you have and any information you know about them.
  • If approved by SCHS staff, bring item(s) to the SCHS Museum at 100 Meeting Street and fill out a temporary receipt form. Your signature gives the SCHS Museum permission to evaluate the artifact(s) for our collections. Ownership is not transferred at this time.
  • All donations are reviewed by the museum curator and/or appropriate staff using specific criteria.
  • All objects accepted for the collections are listed on a Deed of Gift which requires the donor’s signature. The donor will receive one copy of the Deed of Gift, and the SCHS Museum will keep one on file in our permanent donor files. This process is usually done via mail.
  • Once this form is signed, the donation is complete. At this time, unrestricted ownership of the artifact is transferred to the SCHS Museum. After this transfer, the artifact is cataloged into the SCHS Museum’s collection and database for use in exhibits, educational programs, and research.

Please note that the object(s) will be evaluated and the potential donor contacted by the museum curator regarding the status of the donation. If you choose to bring the proposed donation directly to the SCHS Museum, a temporary receipt must be filled out with the donor’s contact information so that the museum may contact the donor regarding the status of the object. There is no transfer of ownership at this stage.

How are potential donations reviewed?

Proposed donations are reviewed by the museum curator and staff knowledgeable in both the scope of the society’s collections and issues associated with the preservation of museum artifacts. We take into account the object’s context within the society’s mission as well as the criteria specified in the society’s collecting policies and the society’s current collecting goals. We consider the condition of the object as well as the availability of SCHS Museum resources to properly display, store, and care for proposed objects. If you have questions about the society’s collection policies or scope, please contact the museum curator.

What happens to objects not accepted for the museum’s permanent collection?

On the temporary receipt form is a section where the donor can select whether he/she wants the donation returned if the museum does not accept it or if the museum is free to transfer or otherwise dispose of objects that are declined. If the donor would like the artifact returned, we make arrangements for the donor to pick up the donation. If the donor does not want the potential donation back, the item will be transferred to another institution, disposed of, or destroyed at the discretion of the SCHS. Preference will always be given to transferring the artifact to another museum or appropriate institution.

Does the museum purchase artifacts?

On very rare occasions, the SCHS Museum may purchase an artifact that is of particular significance. However, there is no regular funding for this purpose. As a result, the SCHS Museum will only purchase artifacts in extraordinary circumstances. These pieces are still required to meet the same criteria as donated objects.

Does the museum accept objects on loan?

Due to insurance and liability issues as well as space constraints, loans to the SCHS Museum collections are only accepted under limited circumstances, such as when requested for a specific exhibit. Loan items will never be kept in permanent storage.

Does the museum do repair or conservation work?

The SCHS Museum staff consults with trained conservators for work that needs to be done on artifacts. While we are able to provide advice on how to care for objects within the home and can recommend resources for more information and archival supplies, people who need an object repaired or conserved should speak with a professional conservator.

Will my donation be exhibited?

The SCHS Museum cannot guarantee that donated artifacts will be put on display. Artifacts are rotated within our Permanent Exhibit and in temporary exhibits as appropriate, but only a small percentage of the entire collection can be displayed at a given time. Long-term exhibition can cause damage and can shorten the life of many types of artifacts. Donations that are not on display are well cared for and used for research purposes.

Can the museum appraise my artifact?

The SCHS Museum cannot provide appraisals of the monetary value of artifacts proposed for donation or for any other reason. If an appraisal is desired, you may contact a professional licensed appraiser in your area. Donated artifacts must be appraised prior to donation. Once ownership of an item has been transferred to the museum, the donor cannot request an appraisal.

Can I take a tax deduction for my donation?

The SCHS Museum is recognized as a qualified charitable organization and so the fair market value of artifacts donated to the museum is usually tax deductible. We recommend you consult with an accountant, attorney, or the Internal Revenue Service for more information.

Will my artifact be returned to me at my request?

Once an object is donated and a deed of gift is signed by the donor, the SCHS Museum becomes the legal owner of the artifact. A donated artifact cannot be returned to the donor upon request.

Can objects be removed from the collection?

The SCHS Museum is an educational institution that serves the public. The objects within our collections must support that goal and our overall mission. Most of the objects given to the museum will remain in our collections for the rest of their lives. The museum recognizes that retention of each and every object in a collection involves an ongoing expense. The museum may, after a cautious and detailed process, remove artifacts from the Permanent Collection through a process called deaccession. Deaccessioning is a way to improve and strengthen collections by refining, upgrading, and focusing them. Deaccessioned items are first considered for placement in another educational institution but may also be moved to our Education Collection, sold, or discarded. Any funds gained from the sale of deaccessioned items are placed in a restricted fund to be used only for care and preservation of the Permanent Collection and will not be used for general operating expenses. If you have any concerns or questions regarding the deaccession process, please do not hesitate to contact our museum curator.

If you have further questions regarding the donation process or wish to discuss a past or future donation, please contact our museum curator. Thank you to all members and donors who support the SCHS Museum’s collections, both financially and through artifact donations!