Artifact Donation FAQ
Artifact Donation Frequently Asked Questions
Click on a question below to learn the answer to a frequently asked question.
- How do I donate artifacts or documents to the Chicago History Museum?
- Can I mail or drop off a donation?
- How are potential donations reviewed?
- How long does it take for the Chicago History Museum to review proposed donations?
- Will the Chicago History Museum appraise my donation for its monetary value?
- Can I take a tax deduction for my donation?
- Will the Chicago History Museum exhibit the artifacts or documents in my donation?
- If I donate artifacts or documents to the Chicago History Museum, will they be returned to me at my request?
- Can artifacts and documents be removed from the Chicago History Museum collection?
- Does the Chicago History Museum accept long-term loans?
- How do researchers access artifacts and documents in the Chicago History Museum's collection?
Due to the volume of offers the Chicago History Museum receives, it cannot accept donated materials unless you first submit a completed donation form online or send one by fax or regular mail. If you have artifacts or documents that you believe would add to the Chicago History Museum's collection please use the donation form on this website to transmit a description of your proposed donation. If you are unable to complete the online form, please call the Chicago History Museum receptionist at 312.642.4600 and request that a copy of the donation form be mailed to you. Please try to include a photograph and measurements of the object or document with your form. You may mail back your completed form to the address below or send it via fax.
Chicago History Museum
1601 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614-6038
Once the form is received, your proposed donation will be assigned to a curator who will evaluate it as a new addition to the collection and contact you within four weeks. You may also be contacted by volunteer curatorial assistants for additional information about your donation. If the curator chooses to accept your donation, the donated material will be recommended to the Collection Committee for consideration at its monthly meeting. Following the meeting a curator or collection manager will contact you regarding next steps. If you have questions, concerns, or issues or you wish to check on the status of your proposed donation, please contact us.
The Museum cannot accept unsolicited donations through the mail or in person without your submission of an Artifact Donation Form and follow-up communication from the Museum staff.
Donation offers are reviewed first by the curatorial staff that makes recommendations to the Museum's Collection Committee. The committee is made up of staff knowledgeable in both the scope of the Museum’s collection as well as the conservation issues associated with artifact and document care.
The committee uses the criteria specified in the Museum collecting scope, as well as its current collecting goals, to guide its decisions. It also takes into consideration the condition of the object and the availability of Museum resources required to store and care properly for the artifact or document as well as cataloging the material to make it accessible. The sensitive nature of materials or ownership of copyrights may also factor into acquisitions decisions.
Typically, the process takes about three months. If a curator accepts your donation, it will be submitted to the Collection Committee, which meets monthly, to review donations proposed during the previous month. However, regular reviews may be postponed when staff time is otherwise committed to the development of exhibitions or special programs. If your proposed donation is accepted by the Collections Committee, you will be contacted by the curator or a collections manager to arrange to have the donated materials shipped, picked up, or dropped off at the Museum. The final step is issuing a Deed of Gift for the donation, which legally transfers the property to the Museum.
The Museum does not provide appraisals of the monetary value of materials proposed for donation or for any other reason because the Internal Revenue Service regards museums and libraries as interested parties. Monetary appraisals prepared for donors by such institutions are subject to question or disqualification.
However, professional appraisers will perform this service for a fee. To find a licensed appraiser in your area, contact one of the following organizations for a referral.
American Society of Appraisers
International Society of Appraisers
Appraisers Association of America
The Chicago History Museum is recognized as a qualified charitable organization, thus the fair market value of your donated materials is generally tax deductible. To take advantage of your deduction, you must file tax form 1040 and, depending on the value of your donation, tax form 8283.
To ensure that you receive the maximum tax benefit, it is recommended that you consult with your own accountant, attorney, and/or the Internal Revenue Service. You may also consult Internal Revenue Service Publication No. 526, Charitable Contributions, and Publication No. 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property.
The Museum cannot guarantee that any objects or documents donated to its collection will be exhibited unless expressly collected for that purpose. Only a small fraction of the collection is on view at any given time. Documents are typically made accessible for research purposes in the Museum's Research Center.
However, the Museum does allocate a significant portion of its annual budget to maintaining optimal conditions in its storage areas and galleries to insure the long-term preservation of all collection materials.
Objects from the collection are occasionally loaned to other institutions for temporary exhibitions, and many artifacts and documents in the collection are made available for research purposes.
If I donate artifacts or documents to the Chicago History Museum, will they be returned to me at my request?
The Museum cannot return accessioned collection materials to the donor. Once the Collection Committee accepts your donation for the collection, you will be asked to sign a Deed of Gift, which legally transfers ownership of the materials to the Museum.
The Museum may, with approval from the Board of Trustees, remove objects and documents from the collection through a process called deaccessioning. Artifacts or documents that are damaged beyond repair, have a condition that puts other parts of the collection at risk, are duplicative of other items in the collection, or are outside the scope of the collection may be considered for deaccessioning. Deaccessioned material may be donated to another museum or cultural or educational organization, destroyed, or sold. Any proceeds from the sale of deaccessioned material are placed in a restricted collection acquisition fund.
The Museum does not accept long-term loans. While it does accept loan materials on a short-term basis in conjunction with exhibitions and other programs, the Museum prefers to commit its resources to the storage and preservation of materials in the collection.
The Museum makes most of the prints, photographs, archives, manuscripts, architectural drawings, and published materials in its collection available to the public for research through its Research Center. Viewing copies of films and listening copies of sound recordings are limited in number.
Access to other artifacts, including architectural fragments, paintings, sculpture, works-on-paper, costumes, textiles, and household and industrial objects is extremely limited and is available to researchers by appointment only.