How do I donate objects, images, or documents to the Chicago History Museum?
Due to the volume of offers the Chicago History Museum receives, we cannot accept donated objects, images, or documents unless you first submit a completed donation form for review. If you have material that you believe would add to the Chicago History Museum’s collection, please use the Online Collection 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 objects, images, or documents with your form. You may mail back your completed form to the address below or send it via fax.
Curatorial Affairs Department
Chicago History Museum
1601 North Clark Street
Chicago, Illinois 60614-6038
Once the form is received, your proposed donation will be assigned to a curator or collection staff member who will contact you within four weeks. If we are interested in accepting your donation, Museum staff will work with you to receive the objects, images, or documents. A curator will present your historical materials along with a recommendation for acquisition at the Staff Collection Committee, which meets every two months (please note, regular reviews may be postponed when staff time is otherwise committed to the development of special exhibitions or special programs). Following acceptance by the Staff Collection Committee, you will be issued a deed of gift to document the transfer of objects, images, or documents to the Museum. If you have questions, concerns, or wish to check on the status of your proposed donation, please contact us.
Can I mail or drop off a donation?
The Museum does not accept donations through the mail or in person unless prior arrangements have been made with the appropriate curatorial or collection staff member. All unsolicited donations sent via the mail will be returned to sender.
How are potential donations reviewed?
Donation offers are reviewed first by the curatorial staff who make recommendations to the Museum’s Staff Collection Committee. The committee is composed of staff knowledgeable in both the scope of the Museum’s collection and the conservation issues associated with object, image, 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 objects, images, or documents and the availability of Museum resources required to store and care for them as well as making them accessible. The sensitive nature of the objects, images, or documents or ownership of copyrights may also factor into acquisitions decisions.
How long does it take for the Chicago History Museum to review proposed donations?
Typically, the process takes about three months. If we are interested in accepting your donation, Museum staff will work with you to receive the objects, images, or documents. A curator will present your historical materials along with a recommendation for acquisition at the Staff Collection Committee, which meets every two months (please note, regular reviews may be postponed when staff time is otherwise committed to the development of exhibitions or special programs). Following acceptance by the Staff Collection Committee, you will be issued a deed of gift to document your transfer of the objects, images, or documents to the Museum.
Will the Chicago History Museum appraise my donation for its monetary value?
The Museum does not provide appraisals of the monetary value of proposed donations 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.
Professional appraisers, however, will perform this service for a fee. To find a licensed appraiser in your area, contact one of the following organizations for a referral: the American Society of Appraisers, the International Society of Appraisers, or the Appraisers Association of America.
Can I take a tax deduction for my donation?
The Chicago History Museum is recognized as a qualified charitable organization; thus your donation of historical materials to the Museum’s collection is generally tax deductible. To take advantage of your deduction, you must file tax form 1040 and, depending on the total value of your non-cash charitable donations for the year, you may also be required to submit 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.
Will the Chicago History Museum exhibit the materials in my donation?
The Museum cannot guarantee that any historical materials donated to the collection will be exhibited unless expressly collected for that purpose. Only a small fraction of the collection is on view at any given time.
Objects, images, and documents from the collection are occasionally loaned to other institutions for temporary exhibitions, and many historical materials in the collection are made available for research purposes.
If I donate materials to the Chicago History Museum, will they be returned to me at my request?
The Museum cannot return accessioned collection objects, images, and documents to the donor. Once the Staff Collection Committee accepts your donation for the collection, you will be asked to sign a deed of gift, which legally transfers ownership of the historical materials to the Museum.
Can donated materials be removed from the Chicago History Museum collection?
The Museum may, with approval from the Board of Trustees, remove historical materials from the collection through a process called deaccessioning. Objects, images, or documents that conform to our deaccessioning criteria as described in the Museum’s Collections Management Policy (e.g., historical materials that are determined to be outside the scope of the Museum’s collections; inauthentic, misidentified, or misattributed; pose a risk to other objects in the collection; or have deteriorated beyond reasonable repair) may be considered for deaccessioning. Deaccessioned historical material may be donated to another museum or cultural or educational organization, destroyed, sold, or disposed in another manner that the Museum deems fit. Any proceeds from the sale of deaccessioned historical material are placed in a restricted collection acquisition fund.
Does the Chicago History Museum accept long-term loans?
The Museum does not accept long-term loans. While it does accept loan items 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 historical materials in the collection.
How do researchers access historical materials in the Chicago History Museum’s collection?
Museum holdings (Architecture [fragments and models], Costumes and Textiles, Decorative and Industrial Arts, and Paintings and Sculpture) are available to researchers on a limited basis. Please see the Museum Collections page for information on accessing these historical materials.
The vast majority of the Museum’s research holdings (Architecture [drawings and records], Archives and Manuscripts, Books and Other Published Materials, and Prints and Photographs) are available to researchers through the Museum’s Research Center. Please see the Research Collections Page for information on accessing these historical materials.