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.

Because the research value of papers and records may be diminished if items are removed or rearranged, donors are encouraged to contact the staff of Manuscripts and Archives before selecting materials for donation.

The Legal Agreement Necessary for Donation

Donors are asked to sign a deed of gift, the legal document that governs a donation of materials to Yale University.  Manuscripts and Archives staff will supply sample deeds and will work with donors to define the terms of the gift.  The deed addresses physical ownership, ownership of intellectual property rights, and access to the materials.

The Transfer of Materials to Manuscripts and Archives

Manuscripts and Archives staff will determine the best method for delivery of the donation to the Yale University Library.

Monetary Appraisals for Tax Deductions

In certain circumstances, it may be possible for a donor to take a tax deduction for the donation of a manuscript collection to Manuscripts and Archives.  Donors are encouraged to speak with their tax accountants or attorneys about this possibility.  By law, Manuscripts and Archives staff cannot give tax advice or appraise the monetary value of a collection.  They are able to provide donors with a list of manuscript appraisers, but it is the donor's responsibility to arrange for and bear the cost of any appraisal.

Description and Preservation of Collections

Collections are arranged and described by professional archivists. They prepare descriptive guides and inventories which are used by researchers to select materials to study; these guides, known as finding aids, are available online:

Collections are kept in environmentally-controlled, secure, closed vault areas, and do not circulate outside of Manuscripts and Archives. Materials are used in a supervised reading room. When the department is closed, the facility is protected by an electronic security system and by the security staffs of the library and university.

Collections may contain materials that have physically deteriorated and are in need of treatment to ensure their long-term preservation. Staff consult with conservators in the library's Preservation Department to decide upon appropriate treatment.

Providing physical and intellectual control of valuable collections is expensive. Donors who are able to do so are encouraged to provide financial support for the arrangement, description, and preservation of their papers or records.

For Further Information

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

Last modified: 
Thursday, February 27, 2014 - 4:14pm