Frequently Asked Questions

How do I offer historic materials?

Please do not bring materials to the History Center without an appointment.

  • To donate three-dimensional artifacts or artwork, call or e-mail Emily Ruby, curator, at 412-454-6350 or and describe the materials you wish to donate. You may also fill out an online form.
  • To donate archival materials such as papers, film, or photographs, please contact Carly Lough, archivist, at 412-454-6367 or

Tell us anything you know about the history of the materials and their connection to Western Pennsylvania. For example, you might explain who owned them and when or how they were used or why they were produced. An attached image and inventory of the material you wish to donate is appreciated. The material will then be assessed by our Collections Committee and you will be notified of their decision.

What is collected?

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. It is important to provide as much detail as you can about the articles you wish to donate, this will help the Collections Committee make a more informed decision.

Are all donations accepted?

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 and compare it with what we already have in the collection, they assess its condition and determine what it tells us about life in Western Pennsylvania. Normally, objects and artwork need to be seen before a decision can be made.

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 part of the collections. 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.

What should I do to get my donation ready?

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. If you have photographs it is helpful to make copies and identify the people and locations in the images.

How can I see my materials if they are not on display?

Documents, photographs and published materials are available for research and reference in the Reading Room of the Detre Library & Archives on the Sixth Floor of the History Center during regular hours (Wednesday – Saturday, 10 a.m to 5 p.m.; other times possible by appointment). Requests to see artwork and objects should be made to the collections manager at 412-454-6434. Please give them at least two weeks advance notice.

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 materials. They can give you a list of certified appraisers.

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 History Center 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 our collections manager at 412-454-6434 and let them 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. Leave as much information as possible with the items you wish to bequest, what the items are, what is their significance to local history, who used them, when and where. Make sure it is clear in your will that you have bequeathed the material to the History Center.

Please note, bequests must meet collections requirements.