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Since the 1950s, the Center has actively sought and collected artifacts and documents that chronicle the history of the Sacramento region. While our holdings include the records of city and county government, the Center's collections also include the generous donations of individuals, families, businesses, and community organizations. The Center ensures that these materials will be available for generations to come by providing donated materials with secure, environmentally-sound storage, thus enabling patrons to study and enjoy Sacramento's history as comprehensively as possible.

Donations Accepted

The Center accepts artifacts and documents in any format that relate to the history of the Sacramento region. Materials need not be monetarily valuable, organized, “old” or related to a prominent entity or event in order to be historically significant. Because the exhibition and research value of artifacts and documents may be diminished if items are restored, removed or rearranged, donors are encouraged to contact the Center before repairing, discarding or reorganizing materials.

Examples of historical material sought by the Center include:

  • textiles
  • personal artifacts
  • toys
  • furnishings
  • domestic wares
  • tools, equipment, & machinery
  • manufactured goods
  • memorabilia
  • letters
  • memoirs/reminiscences
  • diaries
  • scrapbooks/photo albums
  • professional papers
  • genealogical information
  • speeches/lectures
  • business records
  • subject files
  • legal documents
  • minutes/reports
  • brochures and flyers
  • photographs (labeled)
  • films/videos/audio tapes (labeled)

While the Center cannot accept everything that may be offered, it welcomes the opportunity to review material. If it is not appropriate for CSH, there may be another organization to which our staff can refer you. Some material, though, may be of more sentimental than historical value and should be kept by the individual or family.

Considerations Before Donating

The Center accepts only permanent donations of materials. Donors are asked to sign a donation agreement, called a Deed of Gift, which formally signifies that the materials become the property of the City of Sacramento and the Center for Sacramento History.

Once materials are donated, researchers, museum patrons, and other users will be able to access them by visiting the Center or wherever the Center's exhibitions are displayed. Any formal use of the Center's holdings, in exhibits, publications, websites, or visual and audio productions is accompanied with a credit line to those who donated the items. Exhibited materials are displayed under stringent security and preservation standards. Research materials are used on location and under supervision, in order to ensure security and long-term preservation. Prospective donors should become familiar with Center policies on access and use and discuss any special needs or concerns with the curator/archivist before completing the donation agreement.

Sensitive items that may exist in the collection should not be removed by the donor. Instead, you should discuss with the curator/archivist the possibility of restricting part of the collection to address privacy concerns, trade secrets or similar matters. While the Center desires to make all items accessible to users, it can agree to reasonable restrictions for limited periods of time.

Assignment of copyright is often complex, and donors should work with Center staff to clarify issues of copyright ownership prior to completing a donation agreement. Generally, copyright belongs to the creator of writings and other original materials (such as photos and music) but can be legally transferred to heirs or others. Moreover, ownership of copyright is separable from ownership of the physical item (the letter or photo). The Center asks donors to donate not only the physical materials but also any copyright that the donor might own. This makes it easier for the Center to respond to requests from researchers to use the documents.

In certain circumstances, it may be possible for a donor to take a tax deduction for the donation of a collection. Donors are encouraged to speak with their tax accountants or attorneys about such arrangements. Center staff cannot give tax advice, nor are they permitted to appraise the monetary value of a collection. The Center can provide donors with a list of local appraisers who can (for a fee) make monetary appraisals. It is a donor's responsibility to arrange for and bear the cost of appraisal.

Monetary and In-kind Donations

The Center accepts monetary gifts through its non-profit foundation, the Sacramento History Alliance. These tax deductable gifts can be earmarked for specific purposes and programs at the Center. Donations of appropriate office and computer equipment/furniture are also welcome. It may be possible to take a tax deduction for the donation of equipment and furniture.

Preparing materials for use in exhibits and by researchers is the most expensive operation in any historical repository. Although monetary grants are not a prerequisite for the acceptance of a collection, donors who are able to assist the Center by making grants toward the arrangement, cataloging and preservation of their donations are encouraged to do so.

Beginning the Donation Process

Please contact the Center at (916) 808-7072 to discuss your donation. Staff will inform you of the process and first ask you to complete an Acquisition Information Record form if you plan to donate artifacts or documents. The completed form assists staff in determining if the item adheres to the Center's mission statement, relates to the history of the Sacramento region, is in good condition, and is not duplicative of material already held at the Center. Donations can only be accepted after approval of the Center's Collections Committee, which meets at least four or more times a year. Please do not mail or drop off items without first contacting the Center.

For potential donations of archival records, documents, and photographs, please use the Archival Acquisition Information Record

For potential donations of museum artifacts and objects, please use the Artifacts Acquisition Information Record

This page was modeled after the Society of American Archivists' A Guide to Donating Your Personal or Family Papers to a Repository.