Collecting Policy

Conditions of Acceptance

Materials may be collected by gift, bequest, or in some cases, purchase. All collections being offered as gifts or purchase must have a clear provenance (chain of custody) and the donor or seller must have clear title to the collection. Collections will not be accepted if these two conditions are not met.

Generally, collections are not accepted with restrictions. However, privacy issues may require the archives to accept or impose restrictions on parts of a collection. Donor restrictions will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

It should be further noted that the department is prohibited by law from making monetary appraisals of collections donated. The donor is strongly urged to have the collection appraised by a knowledgeable appraiser. The donor is also urged to consult IRS tax law regarding gifts to non-profit organizations to determine if their donation is tax deductible.

For University Archives transfers, please see the policy on University Archives.


Evaluation of Donated Materials

All collections should be evaluated to determine the following:

  • Does the collection fit into the areas in which we collect?
  • Condition of the collection being offered:
    • Insect infestation
    • Moisture damage
    • Mold
    • Rodent droppings
    • Odors such as strong evidence of cigarette smoke, mildew, etc.
  • Date range
  • Arrangement
  • Size in linear feet
  • Does it duplicate collections we currently hold?

If an in-person appraisal cannot be conducted, then the donor or seller must provide a detailed inventory of the collection, including how many boxes there are. Very large collections will be referred to a committee to determine if the collection should be accepted.


Types of Materials We Accept

The following list is general in scope. Items not listed may be considered based on uniqueness or context to the collection.

  • Documents related to the areas in which we collect.
  • Images:
    • Photographic still images to include photographs, negatives, lantern slides, positive transparencies.
    • Microfilm
    • Video (VHS and DVD)
  • Oral interviews
    • Electronic media: Must be PC compatible using Windows 97 or newer.
    • Compact Disks
  • Ephemera
  • Artifacts (limited to size, uniqueness, and context to collection)
  • Maps
  • Newsletters
  • Books
  • Periodicals
  • Journals
  • Newspaper clippings


Types of Material We Do not Accept

  • Loaned collections.
  • Restricted collections (only considered after review and what is restricted. If accepted, there must be a reasonable limit on the duration of the restriction).
  • Collections that do not fall within our collecting scope.
  • Collections that are in poor condition (see above).
  • Collections that duplicate other collections.
  • Magazines/periodicals that are not strictly related to our collecting scope, in poor condition, or are duplicates.
  • Books that are not strictly related to our collecting scope, in poor condition, or are duplicates.
  • Moving picture film.
  • Aircraft manuals.
  • Large artifacts (may be determined on a case-by-case basis).
  • Electronic media:
    • Not PC compatible
    • Older than Windows 97
    • 3½” and 5½” floppy disks
    • Video disks
    • Blue Ray DVDs and HD DVDs


Donor Recognition

Once a collection is accepted, it is accessioned by a staff curator. An inventory is made and a letter of thanks and a deed of gift along with the inventory is sent to the donor for signature. The deed of gift transfers all physical and intellectual ownership, i.e. copyright, to the university. Any agreed upon restrictions or special conditions are noted in the deed of gift.


Disposition of Items

Items donated to Special Collections are greatly appreciated, but the Department is under no obligation to keep everything in the entire collection. Any items discovered to be duplicates, not appropriate to the collection, or items of a personal nature will be removed and discarded in the following manner:

  • Items of personal nature will be returned to the donor or destroyed as per the donor’s wishes.
  • Duplicate items will be offered to other archives, sold, or sent to surplus to be sold by auction.
  • Items found in poor condition or with preservation problems beyond this department’s ability to remedy will be discarded.



Materials physically and legally transferred to a repository as a unit at a single time.


  1. Materials created or received by a person, family, or organization, public or private, in the conduct of their affairs and preserved because of enduring value contained in the information they contain or as evidence of the functions and responsibilities of their creator.
  2. An organization that collects the records of individuals, families, or organizations; a collecting archives.

A man-made physical object. Often used to distinguish three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional materials.

The process of identifying materials offered to an archives that have sufficient value to be accessioned.


  1. A group of materials with some unifying characteristic.
  2. Materials assembled by a person, organization, or repository from a variety of sources.

Deed of Gift:
An agreement transferring title to property without an exchange of monetary compensation. Deeds of gift may be for real, personal, or intellectual property.

Information regarding the origins, custody, and ownership of an item or collection. Provenance is a fundamental principle of archives.

Materials, usually printed documents, created for a specific purpose, and intended to be discarded after use. Examples include advertisements, posters, tickets, brochures, and receipts.

Lantern Slide:
A transparent image in glass, approximately 31/2 by 4 inches, that is intended to be viewed by projection.



The Australian Society of Archivists, Inc. Keeping Archives, 2nd ed. Edited by Judith Ellis. Port
Melbourne, Victoria Australia: D. W. Thorpe, 1993.

Cleveland Colby Colgate Archives. “Colby-Sawyer College Collection Policy.” Cleveland Colby Colgate Archives, (accessed March 25, 2010).

New Mexico State University Library. “Gifts Policy, 2008.” New Mexico State University
Library, (accessed April 16, 2010).

Pearce-Moses, Richard. A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology. Chicago: The
Society of American Archivists, 2005.

Page Last Updated: October 25, 2019