Donating a Piece of History

By Maureen A. Taylor

Now that Yvette LaGonterie knows that the mystery photo discovered in her grandparents’ house doesn’t show her family members, she asked me for advice on donating the image.

The man in the family portrait LaGonterie found is Rev. George Frazier Miller, one of the founding members of the Niagara Movement, the predecessor of the NAACP.

This is a question I’m asked on a fairly regular basis. If you decide you’d like to pass on a photographic bit of history, first find an appropriate facility. Yvette wondered if she should donate the image to Howard University. Rev. Miller graduated from Howard.

It’s a good idea to call a library, historical society or archive first to see if it would be interested in your donation. So I called and spoke with woman who works with prints and photographs at the university. She would love to have the photo in the university collection, but there’s a gift process that’s pretty typical when an organization considers accepting donated material:

  • Staff would like to meet with Yvette, either over the phone or in person (if she’s in the area). It’s important to discuss all the details of the prospective gift.
  • Archivists and librarians want to see the condition of the original. This can also be done virtually using a scan of the photo.
  • The next step is for the library to draw up a deed of gift that outlines everything discussed.
  • Once the parties sign the deed of gift, the university receives a copy and so does the donor.

It looks like Yvette’s picture will have another home. <smile> Have you ever donated items to a historical or genealogical society? Please share your experiences in the comment section below.

Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album