The Thomas & Katherine Detre Library & Archives actively collects a wide variety of materials that document the lives Western Pennsylvanians, both past and present. Some examples of these unique items include personal correspondence, diaries, business and organizational records, photographs, moving images, sound recordings, and digital material. Also collected are publications, such as books, magazines, sports programs, newsletters, reports, music, and maps that have a connection to Western Pennsylvania.
How do I offer historic materials?
In order to offer historic materials to the Detre Library & Archives, please write, call, or email Matthew Strauss, chief archivist, at the Senator John Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman Street, Pittsburgh, PA, 412-454-6362, firstname.lastname@example.org, and describe the materials you wish to donate and anything you may know about them.
Please do not bring materials or send materials to the History Center without an appointment or speaking to the archivist first.
You may also click here to fill out an online form.
Are all donations accepted?
We cannot accept everything. Organizing, cataloging, and preserving historical materials for the future takes so much space, time, and money, therefore donations must be selected very carefully. These decisions are made by a committee of History Center staff members.
How is the decision to accept or decline a donation offer made?
Each item or collection is different, but factors that contribute to the decision include, but are not limited to, its historical or cultural significance to the Western Pennsylvania region, physical condition, whether or not the Detre Library & Archives already owns a similar item or copy, and its ownership history.
How can I tell if the Detre Library and Archives already owns an item?
With limited space and resources, our interest is in building the collection where gaps exist or in area of particular interest. In general, we are not interested in adding items that duplicate those already in the collection. You may wish to search the collection prior to submitting an online form. You can search the Library & Archives holdings here.
What happens to my collection after it is donated?
Each item or collection that is donated is assigned a unique number and entered into the online catalog. Depending on the size of a collection, more work might need to be done prior to it being accessible to the public. This includes, but limited to, organizing, re-housing materials in acid-free folders, addressing minor preservation needs, and writing a finding aid to the collection.
Does the Library and Archives ever purchase items?
Very rarely does the Detre Library & Archives purchase a collection. On these occasions, we cannot suggest or set a purchase price. This must be set by the seller.
Is my donation tax deductible?
Yes. The donor is responsible for determining and documenting the value of a donation. Staff at the History Center cannot appraise or assign a monetary value to a collection or item. They can give you a list of certified appraisers.
Will my materials be put on display at the History Center?
Unless we designate your materials for a specific exhibit, they will not be put on display immediately. What you see at the History Center is only a very small percentage of the collections. That is because we have limited gallery space and because long-term display can have negative effects on preservation. The rest are carefully catalogued and stored in a temperature controlled environment so that they will be available for future exhibits at the History Center, for loan to other museums, or for research and reference for generations to come.
Can I lend, rather than donate, my historic materials? Or, can my heirs get things back if they are not displayed?
Materials are not accepted on long term loan, nor can agreements be made to return materials to heirs. Occasionally, short term loans for specific exhibits are accepted. The Deed of Gift, signed by every donor, gives the Historical Society clear ownership of the materials. The History Center accepts responsibility for preserving each donation for generations to come.
Can I bequeath materials in my will?
Yes. Please contact us and let us know of the planned bequest. We appreciate having the opportunity to learn the story behind the materials. We can also explain in further detail the appropriate phrasing for your documents. Please note, bequests must meet collections requirements.