Tuesday, February 17, 2009

If your organization accepts gifts (items), then it needs a Deed of gift form

I mention the Deed of Gift form in every digitization workshop that I give. The Deed of Gift form is what an institution uses to know:
  • What is being donated to the institution
  • Who is giving the donation
  • What rights the institution is being given (e.g., copyright)
  • The provenance of the items
Every institution has received gifts without any accompanying documentation. In those instances, the institution has no idea what it really owns and what it can do with it. A well thought out Deed of Gift form takes the mystery out of a donation. Now the institution understands what items have been donated and what it might do with them.

There are not too many examples of good Deed of Gift forms on the Internet; however, the form available from the Navarro College Archives is a very good example this form is a good example -- http://blog.lib.umn.edu/extmedia/centennial/assets/deedofgift.pdf. In fact, it likely has sections in it (e.g., appraisal value) that others might not have. Notice that it asks that the donor consider giving the archive copyright to items where the donor controls the copyright. If the archive is going to digitize the materials, it needs to have this. (Updated 4/3/2009)

The Society of American Archivists has a web page that explains the Deed of Gift form to potential donors. If you are creating or modifying your Deed of Gift form, you may want to consult this page in order to read SAA's information.

If you have taken in recent donations without a Deed of Gift, consider going back and asking for one. Tell the donor that this paperwork will help to ensure that there are no questions (or problems) in the future. In addition, if you have a valuable donation without proper documentation and you can find the donor (or the donor's heirs), consider working to get a Deed of Gift completed. Doing so could be helpful to you and to your successors.

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1 comment:

Sally J. (Practical Archivist) said...


Thank you for spreading the word about about Deeds of Gift and how important they are!

Waaay back in 1997 (when I was just a wee baby archivist, heh) I created manuals about collection development for local historical societies and public libraries in Wisconsin. This was part of a project to share Best Practices about archiving with non-archivists who are caretakers of archival records.

The two manuals are similar, but tailored to each audience. One of the sections in each manual is devoted to Deeds of Gift, and it includes a sample Deed.

The great news is that these manuals are now available as free PDFs from the Wisconsin Historical Records Advisory Board (WHRAB) and the Wisconsin Historical Society.

You can find links to the PDF files here.

Hope this helps!

-Sally J.