Before you Donate to our Archives, Here’s What You Need to Know

By Lisa Crunk, Lead Photo Archivist, and Katie Delacenserie, Accessioning Archivist, Navy Archives, Naval History and Heritage Command

Image from the Michele Lee Bordelon Collection. Collection includes images from USS Helena (CA 75) from California to Japan in 1951.

“I’ve got something you’ll really be interested in!”

“I’ve got photographs you’ve never seen before”

As the Accessioning Archivist and Lead Photo Archivist, we are the point people for accepting textual and photographic donations into the Navy Archives. We hear the above statements quite frequently either through email messages, phone calls, or written letters. Many times, people have contacted us offering various treasures they’ve inherited, found, bought, or came across. We’re always fascinated by the stories of what people have and how it came to be in their possession. This is one of our favorite part of our jobs and each offer is unique in its own way. Ultimately, some items make their way to the Navy Archives, others are routed to other archives or collecting institutions as a more appropriate home, others still are best kept in families where the personal connection to the materials is the most valuable.

While every Navy story is important, the Naval History and Heritage Command is taking a more proactive approach at preserving every Sailor’s history. As such, we are working to actively document traditionally under represented areas in the collection, especially women and minorities. Our goal is to have a collection that reflects the wide ranging and diverse face of the Navy whether it be during war or peacetime.

If you have a unique document, manuscript collection, photograph collection, or scrapbook in your possession, consider contacting the Navy Archives. You’ll be able to speak with an archivist about what type of item or collection you have, and options for donation. The Navy Archives is only interested in accepting original items in good condition with a clear background and we do not accept unsolicited materials. With that in mind, here’s some questions you should be prepared to answer:

  • Provenance – we need to know the source of the material(s) you’d like to donate.
  • Where and how the material(s) came to be in your possession
  • The condition of the item(s)
  • The quantity of items in the collection
  • The date range of the item(s)
  • Why you think the items(s) of historical significance.

After speaking with someone on our staff, the donor and Archives can settle on the best home for the materials. If it deemed appropriate for our collection, the donors can mail the materials or drop them off if they are in the vicinity of the Washington Navy Yard. In addition, donors will need to fill out a deed of gift form, a legal document formally transferring custody of the material to the archives. It will then be processed, rehoused into archival containers, cataloged, and preserved to be made available to researchers.

We receive so many offers of donation every year and some of them are truly one of a kind. That’s one of the wonderful aspects of our jobs in the archive; we get a chance to be the first persons to see materials that may not have been viewed for over a hundred years (or more!). If you’re interested in donating to the Navy Archives, please email us at archives@navy.mil.

Visit the Photo Archive’s webpage here: https://www.history.navy.mil/our-collections/photography.html 

 

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