Contribute to Our Collections
The Heinz History Center actively seeks collections and archival materials related to the history of Western Pennsylvania and the experiences of its people, both past and present.
If you have objects, photographs, artwork, digital material, or documents that you believe would be of potential interest to our collection, we would like to hear from you. To start the donation process, please tell us about your materials by filling out an Collection Donation Form.
The more information provided about the history of the materials and their connection to Western Pennsylvania, the easier it is for our Collections Committee to assess. An attached image and inventory of the material you wish to donate is also appreciated.
For additional questions or information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frequently Asked Questions
Please use on our online form to offer historic materials.
Please do not bring materials to the History Center without an appointment.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Documents, photographs and published materials are available for research and reference in the Detre Library & Archives at the History Center during regular hours. Requests to see artwork and objects should be made to the collections manager at 412-454-6434. Please give our curators and archivists at least two weeks advance notice.
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.
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.
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.
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 museum already owns a similar item or copy, and its ownership history.
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 can search the Library & Archives holdings here.
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.
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.