Donating Materials

What to Donate

Archivists on the staff of Manuscripts and Archives work closely with donors to identify those materials of research interest which should be preserved. Although not all papers and records fall within the collecting scope of the department, the types of materials listed below are often valuable. These lists are suggestive but not definitive.

Personal and Family Papers (paper, analog, and/or digital):

Letters, diaries, speeches/lectures, albums/scrapbooks, memoirs/reminiscences, photographs, professional files, genealogical information, films, videotapes and audiotapes.

Organizational Records: (paper, analog, and/or digital):

Articles of incorporation/constitution/bylaws, correspondence, planning documents, architectural records, legal documents, diaries, minutes of meetings, reports, memoranda, newsletters and other publications, directories, financial documents, press releases, membership records, and research and subject files.

Offering Materials to Manuscripts and Archives

  • If you have materials you would like us to consider for our collections and have a deadline in mind (for example, an upcoming move), please contact us as soon as possible to allow us time to adequately make our evaluation. MSSA staff will respond to offers of collection materials in a timely manner.
  • Any information you can share with us about your materials is helpful. We are particularly interested in the volume/amount of materials, what formats are present, the condition of the materials and the context of the materials – i.e., who created the materials, for what purpose, where, and when. If you have an inventory or summary of the materials, please share it with us.   
  • If you are interested in bequeathing materials to MSSA upon your passing, please contact us to discuss the materials and the language to include in your will.

The Donation Process

  • Please do not reorganize materials before MSSA has an opportunity to review them, as the original order of a collection can provide key context for researchers.
  • MSSA will guide donors through the process of completing a deed of gift and delivering the materials to the library. As part of the deed of gift process, we will discuss (if applicable) your preferences for the transfer of intellectual property rights and any restrictions on access.
  • Due to IRS regulations, MSSA cannot provide monetary appraisal of materials. However, we can provide a list of professional appraisers in the New England region and – for donors outside of New England – guidance for locating an appraiser in their area.

What to Expect After Your Donation

  • You will receive a scan or copy of the signed deed of gift and a letter acknowledging your gift.  
  • The materials will be described in a publicly available online finding aid (example), which is a guide to an archival collection. The finding aid can be found in a search of the library catalog, the Archives@Yale portal, or via a simple web search of the collection name.
  • In most cases, materials donated to MSSA are ready for access within two years of receipt. Arrangement and description may take more or less time depending on the presence of audiovisual materials, conservation concerns, the original arrangement of the materials upon arrival, and other factors.
  • During arrangement and description, items that are duplicative or out of scope will be separated from the collection. Unless you wish to have such materials returned to you, these materials will be disposed of at our discretion.   
  • Researchers can access publicly available collections in the MSSA reading room in Sterling Memorial Library or request digital copies for remote research use.  
  • Materials are generally only digitized to meet researcher needs and to address preservation concerns.
  • Both analog and digital collection materials are stored using state-of-the-art preservation facilities and tools to ensure their stability over time.

For Further Information

To discuss donating a collection of personal papers or organizational records to Manuscripts and Archives, please email library staff at:

Last modified: 
Thursday, June 29, 2023 - 10:44am