Donating Materials

Donating to Western Reserve Historical Society

WRHS Collection Policy

WRHS Gift Acceptance Policy


Do you have items to offer? Here are some Frequently Asked Questions to help!

In order to maintain the integrity of the permanent collection, and to ensure the safety of the object until it has officially been accepted into the collections, the Western Reserve Historical Society has provided these FAQ’s and procedures for handling possible donations and/or purchases.

Q:  What is the collecting mission of the Western Reserve Historical Society?
A:  The Society exists to collect, preserve, interpret and exhibit the possessions and to collect and make available for scholarly research the documentation of the diverse peoples who have made the Western Reserve and northeastern Ohio their home.  In addition, the Society acts to preserve and interpret historic properties within the same region.

Q:  What does the Historical Society collect?
A: Our collecting interests are varied but all objects we seek to collect share the characteristic of documenting the Western Reserve. These objects include but are not limited to:

Account books
Administrative and financial records
Audio recordings
Board and committee minutes
Conference and seminar proceedings
Cultural memorabilia
Domestic artifacts
Domestic textiles
Family histories
Fine and decorative arts
Grant files for approved and declined projects
Ledgers and receipts
Membership lists
Military documents
Naturalization papers
Newsletters and newspapers
Oral history tapes and transcripts
Organizational programs
Publications (annual reports, pamphlets, programs, etc.)
Record books
Steamship tickets
Studies and surveys
Unpublished manuscripts
Video recordings

Q: What are the advantages to donating materials to the Historical Society?
A:  There are many reasons, including:

  • Removal of papers, records and memorabilia to the WRHS Library frees space in the work place or residence, and saves storage costs
  • Papers, records and memorabilia, while always remaining fully accessible to the donor, are kept in a secure area preventing any unauthorized use or loss
  • Only authorized personnel and verified researchers have access to the collections; limitations are set by the donor in consultation with the curator
  • Collections are kept under correct environmental conditions with temperature and humidity controls
  • Papers, records and memorabilia remain close at hand at University Circle, Cleveland’s educational and cultural center
  • Papers, records and memorabilia will become part of the broad spectrum of historic documentation for greater Cleveland’s community
  • The Historical Society ensures perpetual care and access to donated material
  • Papers, records and memorabilia are processed and cataloged by professional archivists who create detailed finding aids to provide easy reference to topics or specific document location within the collection
  • Records are housed in acid-free (chemically neutral) folders and containers to extend the useful life of the paper
  • Records are kept under correct environmental conditions with temperature and humidity controls
  • Reference and file retrieval services are provided to the donors in a timely fashion
  • There is no cost to the donor

Q:  How do I offer historic materials to the Historical Society?
A:  Since the Historical Society is so large and collects in so many different areas, certain curators or archivists can serve as contacts. Please write to the appropriate person at the Western Reserve Historical Society,

10825 East Boulevard,
Cleveland, Ohio 44106

Or call (216) 721-5722. Please do not drop-off or send objects without first contacting the appropriate person.  We want to make sure that your potential gift is properly identified and cared for.

  • *For all manuscript and/or archival materials please contact Archives & Special Collections Manager, Margaret Roulett at x 1519 or
  • *For all furniture, decorative and fine arts including clothing and textiles, and domestic artifacts contact Senior Registrar, Danielle Peck at x1517 or
  • *For all transportation and industrial objects contact the Crawford Collection Manager Larry Davis at x1533 or
  • *For all books and published materials contact Archives & Special Collections Manager, Margaret Roulett at x 1519 or
  • *For all other questions regarding donations and/or tax deductions contact Senior Registrar, Danielle Peck at x1517 or

Q:  What happens then?
A:  The Curatorial Council, which comprises all appropriate Directors and Curators meets to review all potential donations.  If accepted, the donor will be contacted and arrangements made for delivery of the objects and formal Deed of Gift paperwork issued which transfers legal title of the gift to the Historical Society.  If declined, the donor will be contacted and given the reasons for denial.  Limited storage space, duplication of objects, and condition of the offered piece as well as relevance to our mission affect the decision to accept an object.

Q:  Does the Historical Society accept all donations?
A:  We cannot accept everything.  Organizing, cataloging, and preserving historical materials for the future takes so much space, time and money, that donations must be selected very carefully.  The Historical Society staff review each offer.  Normally, objects and artwork need to be seen before a decision can be made.

Q:  Will my materials be put on display at the Historical Society or outlying properties?
A:  Unless we designate your materials for a specific exhibit, they will not be put on display immediately. What you see at the Historical Society and other sites is only a small part of the collections.  The rest are carefully stored so that they will be available for future exhibits, for loan to other museums, or for on-going research and reference.

Q: How can I see my materials if they are not on display?
A:  Documents, photographs and published materials are available for research and reference in the Library/Archives at the Historical Society during regular hours (Thursday through Saturday 9:00am to 5:00pm).  Requests to see History Museum artwork and objects should be made with the appropriate curator or Senior Registrar.  Please give at least two weeks notice, although staff availability may be a determining factor.

Q:  Is my donation tax deductible?
A:  Yes. The donor is responsible for determining and documenting the value of donation.  As a matter of ethics, staff at the Historical Society cannot appraise materials. A list of appraisers is available through the Appraisers Association of America or your local Yellow Pages.

Q:  Can I lend, rather than donate, my historic materials?
A:  The Historical Society does not accept materials on long-term loan, nor does it agree to return items to heirs.  Short term loans for specific exhibits are accepted.  The Deed of Gift, signed by every donor, gives the Historical Society clear, unrestricted ownership of the materials.

Q:  Can I leave materials to the Historical Society in my will?
A:  Yes. Please contact Glenn Anderson, Jr.,  Senior Vice President of Advancement, (216) 721-5722 ext. 1401. Please note that bequests must meet collections requirements.