The Deed of Gift Form (Part I)

There are various aspects to archives and to the donation process that are unfamiliar to many people.  One of those involves the donating of ones historical materials to an archives and what type of paperwork that actually entails.  The form most people will be required to fill out is called a Deed of Gift.

The Deed of Gift may appear different at different institutions, but there are basic elements that are universal.  Since the deed is a binding legal contract, it is important to familiarize youself with the various elements of the form.

The next few posts will provide further information regarding the Deed of Gift and hopefully make the donation process a more straightforward one.

For more information regarding archives and Deeds of Gift email the Society of American Archivists at or visit

The Elements of a Deed of Gift *

Various elements are essential to a deed of gift; others may be specific to the repository to which the materials are donated. The typical deed of gift identifies the donor, transfers legal ownership of the materials to the repository, establishes provisions for their use, specifies ownership of intellectual property rights in the materials, and indicates what the repository should do with unwanted materials. If you have any questions about the language of the deed of gift, ask for an explanation from the repository representative or from your attorney.

Name of the Donor and the Recipient

If you created and/or collected the materials you are donating, all that is needed in this section is your full legal name. If you are acting on behalf of someone else who created and/or collected the materials, include information on your relationship to that person or entity.

You might note, for example, sister, niece, son, or business agent. If you are not the creator of the materials, the repository may ask you to explain how you have the authority to donate them. The repository will provide its full name as the recipient.

Title and Description of the Materials Donated

This is generally a summary, such as “John Doe Personal Papers,” or “Records of the First Baptist Church of Detroit,” and is written by the reposi-tory staff in consultation with you. The repository may wish to be more specific in describing the materials, or append a more detailed listing of the materials to the agreement.

Transfer of Ownership

In this section, the donor formally agrees to transfer legal ownership and physical custody of the materials, including future donations, to the repository. The deed will specify a point in time (usually upon signing the deed or upon physical transfer of the material to the repository) when the materials become the legal property of the repository. It will manage and care for them, employing the best professional judgment of its staff and according to accepted professional standards and its mission and objectives.

Repositories prefer to accept materials through transfer of ownership. The cost of storing, preserving, and making collections available for research is so high that repositories generally can only afford to do so for materials they own.

As the professional staff of the repository reviews the materials you donated, there may be reason to reformat some or all of them. Long-term preservation of fragile materials, for instance, is a primary reason for microfilming or copying papers for use by researchers. Unless you note to the contrary in the gift agreement, when you transfer legal ownership of your materials to the repository, you agree that the staff may make reformatting decisions.

The repository representative will discuss with you the means by which your collection can be transported to the repository.

*Copied from The Society of American Archivists brochure “A Guide to Deeds of Gift” c. 2002.

Published in: on January 19, 2010 at 8:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

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