How to Donate Items
Q. How do I offer historic materials?
A. Call, write, or e-mail Emily Ruby, curator, at the Senator John Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, 412-454-6350, email@example.com , and describe the materials you wish to donate. Tell us anything you know about the history of the materials. For example, you might explain who owned them and when or how they were used, or why they were produced. Snapshots of the materials are very helpful. Please do not bring materials to the History Center without an appointment.
You may also click here to fill out an online form.
Q. What is collected?
A. Materials that document the lives of Western Pennsylvanians and the history of the region up to and including, the present. Historic materials can take many forms, such as personal letters, business records, uniforms, tools, local souvenirs, paintings of Western Pennsylvania, published books or family scrapbooks, hand-made quilts, and Pittsburgh manufactured products. The most important criterion for donation is that the materials say something about this region.
Q. Are all donations accepted?
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. 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 History Center?
A. 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 part of the collections. The rest are carefully catalogued and stored in a temperatured 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.
Q. What should I do to get my donation ready?
A. Please do nothing to the items. We prefer to see them in their original condition. Do not clean, repaint, refinish, or "spruce up" historical materials before giving them to us. Please provide as much related historical information as possible. For example, if you plan to offer your grandfather's report card, you might also offer photographs of him as a student, samples of his school papers and the cap he wore at school.
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 Reading Room of the Library & Archives on the Sixth Floor of the History Center during regular hours (Thursday - Saturday, 10 - 5). Requests to see artwork and objects should be made to the Museum Registrar at (412) 454-6434. Please give the Registrar at least two weeks notice.
Q. Is my donation tax deductible?
A. Yes. The donor is responsible for determining and documenting the value of a donation. Staff at the History Center cannot appraise materials. They can give you a list of certified appraisers.
Q. Can I lend, rather than donate, my historic materials? Or, can my heirs get things back if they are not displayed?
A. 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.
Q. Can I bequeath materials in my will?
A. 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.