Donating to the Archives

We accept donations of objects and archival materials that are of particular significance to the history of aviation and spaceflight. While we appreciate the personal value placed on these items, we must give special consideration to such gifts before we can accept them to ensure they meet our specific collection goals and rationale.

You can find answers to frequently asked questions about donating below. When you're ready, tell us more about the objects you're considering donating by filling out this form

Frequently Asked Questions


If you believe that you have material that might be of interest to the Archives, please tell us about your material. Describe what you have as clearly and specifically as possible. Please do not bring or send any donations of material to the Museum without first contacting the Archives staff.

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 Reference Desk.

Can I make a loan instead of a donation?                  
No. Unfortunately, we don't have the resources to process, house, and provide reference to materials that do not belong to the Museum.

Do you purchase collections?
Unfortunately, the 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 flight.

What if I'm contacting you about someone else's collection?
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 available and our website 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 is lifted.

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 do you review proposed donations?
In some cases, especially if the material is located near Washington, DC, 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 send it?
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.