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Image courtesy of the Society of American Archivists

Recently, I was asked to think about how I would react to a particular work situation and I thought this would be a great opportunity to educate you dear Reader on Deeds of Gift.

Sometimes, often without prior notice, a potential donor walks into Special Collections wanting to donate their work. Awesome! Yet, what is the expectation when giving a collection?

First and foremost, the gift should be unconditional, meaning you are giving your work to the institution with the knowledge that it will now be their property. And it’s ok not to feel completely comfortable with this! A majority of gifts happen during estate planning and you have the option to parse out your donation over time. This is exactly what Mr. Blank did. He gave a select portion of his work to the Diehn Composers Room while alive, then gifted everything else upon his passing (that’s the collection I’m working on right now).

After a successful meeting with an Archivist, you decide to donate your collection. The staff member made you feel comfortable and you trust that your gift is in good hands, on to the next step: transfer of ownership.

“The deed of gift is a formal and legal agreement between the donor and the repository that transfers ownership of and legal rights to the donated materials. A legal agreement is in the best interest of both donor and repository.” – Society of American Archivists

A good deed of gift should make both the donor and institution feel confident. A deed should include the following:

  • Needs name of donor and institution
  • Title of collection and description of items
  • Transfer of ownership
  • Separations (weeding)
  • Copyright and fair use
Donor Name:      
123 Sesame St.
Norfolk, VA 23508
Contact Information:

3023 Patricia W. and J.
Perry Library
Contact: 757-683-5350
Accession Number:  
Collection Name:
The Alice Blankenship Papers,

Description: Donated by composer Alice Blankenship, the gift includes personal documents, music scores, music sketches, programs, photographs and audio-visual ephemera. The collection currently encompasses ten bankers’ boxes of materials.

Transfer of Ownership: I, Alice Blankenship hereby irrevocably donate and convey to the Archives for the benefit of the Library, all rights, title, and interest that I possess all materials described in the Deed of Gift. By signing this Deed, I understand and agree that the location, retention, cataloging, preservation, and disposition of the “Materials” by the Library will be conducted in its discretion, in accordance with policy and with applicable law. Common discretionary uses by the Library include, but are not limited to, exhibition, display, digitization for preservation and access purposes, and making works available for research and scholarship. I acknowledge that the Library may dispose of any Donated Materials not selected for permanent retention.  

Additional Terms and Conditions:  

  1. I, Alice Blankenship, control some of the copyrights in the Donated Materials (i.e., some of the Donated Materials were created by me, or I acquired the copyrights in some of the Donated Materials, but the Donated Materials also contain works for which other individuals or organizations control the copyrights.)
  2. I, Alice Blankenship, retain full ownership of any and all copyrights I currently control in the Donated Materials, but I grant the Library a nonexclusive right to authorize all uses of these materials for non-commercial research, scholarly, or other educational purposes pursuant to a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial license.
  3. It is understood that all gifts are outright and unconditional unless otherwise noted upon this gift agreement.
  4. Gifts to Archive may be deductible in accordance with provisions of federal income tax laws.

Then usually there is also a page to sign your name

*note* This is just an example and is in no way legally binding! Also, this in no way reflects Old Dominion University, or its gifting policies.

In the end, I want the potential donor to feel excited about giving their gift, as I am in receiving the materials (which is really, really excited…almost to the point of jumping up and down!)

So, I want to thank everyone who has donated their life’s work to an Archive…looking at you Allan! However, I also want to encourage anyone thinking about donating to an Archive to at least set up a meeting to explore the process. Who knows, your work could be vital to a researcher right this minute.