FAQs: Acquisitions, Donations, & Appraisals
What sort of material does the Archives Division accept?
We are interested in collecting the following types of material that
document air and space flight: diaries, journals, scrapbooks, flyers and
pamphlets, annual reports, correspondence, technical manuals, trade catalogs,
reports, minutes from meetings, newsletters, engineering drawings, maps
and charts. Non-print media such as photographs, negatives, film, videotapes
and audiotapes are also valuable in documenting the history of aerospace.
Why should I make a donation to the Archives?
Placing your papers in our secure archival environment with a
professional staff ensures that your papers will always be a resource
for aerospace historians. Making important papers available to future
historians is a wonderful tribute to the individual who created the documentation.
Can I take a tax deduction on the material I donate?
Donations may be tax deductible. Please consult your tax advisor
and refer to IRS publications 526 and 561 and form 8283.
Can you tell me how much my material is worth?
No, we are not able to make appraisals. For more information,
please see Can
the Smithsonian provide appraisals of objects? However, we may be
able to provide you with some additional historical information if you
require it. Please send a written request to the Archives Division's Reference
Can I make a loan instead of a donation?
No. We cannot invest our resources, including staff time, supplies
and space, to process, house, and provide reference to materials that
do not belong to the Museum.
Do you purchase collections?
Unfortunately, the NASM Archives Division does not have funds
available to purchase items for the collection. Instead, we rely upon
the generosity of the public to donate archival material that supports
the mission of the Museum - to chronicle the history of aviation and space
What if I'm contacting you about someone else's
If you're contacting us on behalf of a friend or relative, we will need
to communicate directly with him or her regarding the donation process.
How will you acknowledge my gift?
Shortly after we receive your donation, we will send you two copies of
a Deed of Gift for your signature. After you sign, date, and return
both copies to us, we will return an executed copy for your records.
How will people learn about and use my collection?
We receive thousands of reference requests every year. When someone
asks questions that can be answered from your collection, we will tell
them about it. Also, an online catalog of many of our collections is maintained
by SIRIS, the Smithsonian
Institution Research Information System (select Search Archives
& Manuscripts, then National Air and Space Museum Archives).
Our website also features finding aids and online exhibits. Researchers
will use your materials to enhance their understanding of aerospace history,
and that knowledge will be used in their books, articles, and reports.
Can some items be restricted?
If the collection includes sensitive materials, it may be restricted
for a period of time but there must be a date at which the restriction
What about copyrights?
Copyright refers to ownership of the contents of a document rather
than ownership of the physical item itself. Thus, copyright resides with
the creator of the document unless he/she has legally transferred it to
another person or institution. When you sign the Deed of Gift,
you will be transferring any copyrights you hold to the Archives. This
transfer of copyright is important in terms of making the documents fully
available to researchers.
Will I still have rights?
While you relinquish your rights of ownership and copyright, you
have the same right to use the materials that everyone else enjoys.
How can I contact you regarding my collection?
If you believe that you have material that might be of interest
to the NASM Archives, please contact the Acquisition Archivist by email
via our Donation Inquiry Form. Please
describe what you have as clearly and specifically as possible, and remember
to include your full postal mailing address in your e-mail. Please do
NOT bring or send any donations of material without first contacting the
Please note – In order to prepare for our move to our new facilities at the new wing of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, we will suspend accepting donations to the Archives Division collections beginning August 1, 2010 For further information and updates, please see the Archives Division’s main page.
How do you review proposed donations?
In some cases, especially if the material is located near Washington,
D.C., the Archives staff will review the collections on site. In most
cases, we will not be able to review the material in person; therefore,
we will ask that you to provide a general description of the material
in your collection so that we can make our assessment.
Do I need to go through the collection before I
We prefer to make the final decision on what to keep by evaluating
items within the context of the entire collection and our other holdings.
Please keep the collection's original arrangement intact.
What will happen when my collection is received
by the Archives?
Once we receive your material, the collection will be accessioned,
rehoused in acid-free folders and boxes, and a preliminary inventory of
the collection will be completed as an initial finding aid. The level
of further arrangement and description will be determined based on a variety
of issues, including the size of the collection, and any preservation
problems inherent in the collection.
Will you keep all of the material?
Not necessarily. For example, books will be transferred to the
Museum's Library Division.
What happens to the material you do not want?
We will contact you and offer to return any duplicate or inappropriate
items that we find while processing your collection.
Is there a fee for donating material?
No, there is no charge. However, we gladly accept donations that
help support the cost of processing and preserving the collections.
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