Q. Why would someone consider donating family materials to an archive?
A. One person always seems to be the caretaker of the family treasures. It gets to the point where he or she realizes something could happen to these documents. You want them to be in a place where they can be preserved and shared.
Q. What types of materials do repositories accept from everyday people?
Q. How does someone choose an archive?
A. If you have items such as textiles, tea sets or silver spoons, you may want to give them to a museum that specializes in decorative arts. It also depends on any relationships you’ve had with museums or historical societies over the years. Often, if a person has volunteered for an organization or she’s a longtime member, she’ll choose that society.
Q. Will my donation still be accessible to me and my family?
A. At NEHGS, we make the donation accessible to the donor and immediate family members, but in a deed of gift—the legal agreement that accompanies the donation—they transfer all rights to us. That means we own the item, as well as any copyrights and literary rights. We may choose to digitize it and put it on our website, allow its publication in our quarterly magazine or use it in lectures.
Q. Is my donation tax-deductible?
A. In order for an item to be tax-deductible, you need a letter from a licensed appraiser. We don’t do appraisals here, but recently we had some Civil War letters come in, and the donor got those
appraised before donating them.
Q. Will anyone ever want to see my papers, or will they languish in a vault?
A. Even just a few years ago, only one or two of our collections were used regularly. But since the collections have been cataloged online and descriptions of the items can be searched, usage has gone up. These days, I’ll catalog material, and within weeks someone will come in to use it. More and more, people are turning to unpublished material to supplement their research.
Q. Any last words on encouraging people to donate?
Gaylord, (800) 962-9580
Light Impressions, (800) 828-6216
Gaylord, (800) 962-9580
For more detailed instructions, visit Guidelines for the Care of Textiles.
The pewter contained lead, but probably rarely poisoned infants. To leach the lead out of the metal, the bottle would have had to come in contact with an acidic liquid such as tomato juice—not milk.