The Miami County Museum appreciates your interest in donating to our institution. Though the Museum has over 150,000 items in our collection already, we are always looking for more exciting and unique donations. Before giving us your donation, however, it is important for you to understand and be comfortable with our process for accepting and handling new collection items.
The first step after you arrive with a new donation is an initial assessment. Depending on the nature of your donation, either the Curator or the Archivist will come to talk with you about the item. They will want to know what the item is, where it came from, what ties it has to Miami County, and anything else you can share about the nature or background of it. Based on that conversation, the Curator or Archivist will either turn down the donation or take it into temporary custody.
If the item is accepted into temporary custody, it means that the Museum has recognized the outstanding local historic significance of your donation, and is considering adding it permanently into our collections. During this time, the Museum will hold onto the item, but you will still retain all rights of ownership. Given our restraints on staff time, available space, and preservation materials, the Museum has to be very selective about which items are added in. Within 30-60 days of the Museum taking custody, the Curator or Archivist will review the item being donated and determine if it would be a good fit for our permanent collection.
The donation will be evaluated on several criteria:
- Does it have a Miami County connection?
- Is it safe to handle?
- Is it clear that you own this item and all rights pertaining to it?
- Does the item tell us something new and unique about Miami County?
- Is it in as good or better condition than similar items already in the collection?
- Is the item of a size and condition that allows the Museum to provide storage, protection, and future care for it?
If the potential donation sufficiently passes these conditions, it will be formally accepted into the Miami County Museum collection. At this point, we will send you a Deed of Gift, a legally-binding document which states that you “…do hereby irrevocably and unconditionally give, transfer, and assign to the Miami County Historical Society, Inc. and Museum, by way of gift, all rights, title, and interests (including copyright, trademark, and related interests) in to, and associated with the objects.” By signing the Deed of Gift, you are transferring all rights of ownership and possession to the Museum; in return, we are agreeing that, as long as the item is in our collection, we will preserve it and make it accessible to the highest degree possible.
It is important to note that the Miami County Museum manages a vast collection of items that rotate between our storage spaces and exhibits. Donating an item to the Museum does not guarantee that we will put it in an exhibit, either now or anytime in the future. This does not make your item any less important to the Museum or to our mission.
Regardless of where the item is kept in the Museum, our staff will preserve it to the best of our ability and available resources. Our staff members have been professionally trained in museum best practices, and keep up to date with new developments through conferences, seminars, and scholarly journals. Whenever possible, we store items in safe, appropriate containers, and endeavor to protect them from environmental hazards like light, pests, and climate variations. Our storage and exhibit areas are constantly monitored so that we can quickly detect any problems and enact solutions.
As we bring new items into our collection, we are also considering which items may no longer be necessary to keep. This process, known as deaccessioning, is an important step in maintaining our collections. Items may be deaccessioned because they have deteriorated in quality, they have become unstable or unsafe to handle, they cannot be properly preserved or used anymore, or they are no longer relevant or useful to the purposes and activities of the Museum. Deaccessioning any item is a lengthy process that requires permission from the Museum staff, the Board of Directors, and a representative sampling of the membership. It is not a process that can or would be taken lightly.
If an item is deaccessioned, a record of its time at the Museum will be maintained permanently within our files. It is our policy to try to return deaccessioned items to the original donor or their family. If it is unwanted by the donor or is no longer possible, we may attempt to give or sell the item to another nonprofit institution which may have a more pressing need for it. If neither of those options is feasible, the Museum will pursue the best remaining course of action, which may include putting it up for sale, placing it in a public auction, or disposing of the item.