Artifact Donation FAQ

Artifact Donation FAQ

As we strive to maintain professional museum standards and strengthen our collections, we have adopted specific policies and procedures to manage and sustainably grow our collections of artifacts. We continue to accept donations of artifacts into the Museum’s Permanent, Library and Education collections to help us tell the stories of Swedish immigration and Swedish Americans, however, due to space and preservation considerations, we cannot accept all offers of artifacts.

If you have artifacts or documents that you believe would add to the collections of the Swedish American Museum, please contact the curator by phone or email to discuss the artifact. All artifact donations go through the following steps:

  • Contact the Museum and tell us what artifacts you have and any information you know about them.
  • Bring item to Museum and fill out a temporary receipt form. Your signature gives the Museum permission to evaluate the artifact(s) for our collections. Ownership is not transferred at this time.
  • All donations are reviewed by the Curator and collections committee using specific criteria.
  • All objects accepted for the collections are listed on a Deed of Gift which requires the donor’s signature. The donor will receive one copy of the deed of gift and the Museum will keep one on file in our permanent donor files. This process is usually done via mail.
  • Once this form is signed, the donation is complete and unrestricted ownership of the artifact is transferred to the Museum. After this transfer, the artifact is cataloged into the Museum’s collection.

The object(s) will be evaluated and the potential donor contacted by the Curator regarding the status of the donation. If you choose to bring the proposed donation directly to the Museum, a temporary receipt must be filled out with the donor’s contact information, so the Museum may contact the donor regarding the status of the object. There is no transfer of ownership at this stage.

How are potential donations reviewed?

Proposed donations are reviewed by the Curator, collections committee, and staff knowledgeable in both the scope of the Museum’s Collection and issues associated with the preservation of museum artifacts. The proposed donation will be reviewed based on historical significance, uniqueness, mission relevance, its fit within the collection, and the museum’s ability to care for the object[s]. We take into account the criteria specified in the Museum’s collecting policies and the Museum’s current collecting goals. We consider the condition of the object and availability of Museum resources to properly display, store and care for proposed objects. If you have questions about the Museum’s Collection policies or scope, please see the Collections Policy or contact the Curator.

What happens to objects not accepted for Museum’s permanent collection?

On the temporary receipt form is a section where the donor can select whether they want the donation returned if the Museum does not accept it, or if the Museum is free to transfer or otherwise dispose of objects that are declined. If the donor selects the return option, we make arrangements for the donor to pick up the donation or for the Museum to ship it back at the donor’s expense. If the donor does not want the potential donation back, the first consideration is to transfer it to another museum or appropriate institution.

Does it cost anything to donate an object to the Museum?

The Museum does not charge donors a fee to donate objects. However, there are many ongoing costs associated with the preservation and care of our collections, such as archival storage supplies, building space, climate control, conservation equipment, professional personnel, insurance, display equipment, etc.

Does the Museum purchase artifacts?

On very rare occasions, the Museum may purchase an artifact, but has no regular funding for this purpose. As a result, the Museum will only purchase artifacts in extraordinary circumstances. These pieces are still required to meet the same criteria as donated objects.

Does the Museum accept objects on loan?

Due to insurance and liability issues as well as space constraints, loans to the Museum collections are only accepted when requested for a specific exhibit.

Does the Museum do repair or conservation work?

The Museum staff consults with trained conservators for this type of work. We are able to provide advice on how to care for objects within the home and can recommend resources for more information and archival supplies. People who need an object repaired or conserved should speak with a professional conservator.

Will my donation be exhibited?

The Swedish American Museum cannot guarantee that donated artifacts will be put on display. We rotate objects within our Permanent Exhibit and in temporary exhibits as appropriate, but only a small percentage of the entire collection can be displayed at a given time. Long term exhibition can cause damage and can shorten the life of many types of artifacts. Donations that are not on display are well cared-for and used for research purposes.

Can the Museum Appraise my Artifact?

The Museum cannot provide appraisals of the monetary value of artifacts proposed for donation or for any other reason. The Internal Revenue Service regards museums and libraries as interested parties. If an appraisal is desired, you may contact a professional licensed appraiser in your area.

Can I take a tax-deduction for my donation?

The Swedish American Museum is recognized as a qualified charitable organization and so the fair market value of artifacts donated to the museum is usually tax-deductible. We recommend you consult with an accountant, attorney or the Internal Revenue Service for more information.

Will my artifact be returned to me at my request?

Once an object is donated and a deed of gift is signed by the donor, the Museum becomes the legal owner of the artifact. A donated artifact cannot be returned to the donor upon request.

Can objects be removed from the Collection?

The Swedish American Museum is an educational institution that serves the public. The objects within our collections must support that goal and our overall mission. Most of the objects given to the Museum will remain in our collections for the rest of their lives. The Museum recognizes that retention of each and every object in a collection involves an ongoing expense. The Museum may – after a cautious and detailed process and upon approval of the Board of Directors – remove artifacts from the Permanent Collection through a process called deaccession. Deaccessioning is a way to improve and strengthen collections by refining, upgrading and focusing them. Deaccessioned items are first considered for placement in another educational institution but may also be moved to our Library and Education Collection, sold or discarded. Any funds gained from the sale of deaccessioned items are placed in a restricted fund to be used for care and preservation of the Permanent Collection and will not be used for general operating expenses. If you have any concerns or questions regarding the deaccession process, please do not hesitate to contact our Curator.

If you have further questions regarding the donation process or wish to discuss a past or future donation, please contact our Collection Manager at or call 773-728-8111. Thank you to all members and donors who support the Museum’s collections financially and through artifact donations!