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How-to guide for making a gift to Special Collections


Donating archival or other special materials can seem like a daunting task. This guide provides practical information about how to propose a donation to Concordia University Library’s Special Collections and how to prepare your gift if it is accepted.

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Where to start

Special Collections accepts donations of all types of documents, from rare books, to textual records like correspondence, manuscripts, diaries, and articles; photographs, negatives, and slides; video and audio recordings; and anything in between. Almost any type of document has the potential to interest researchers, so please do not take any steps to reorganize or destroy any records before contacting Special Collections. Even a post-it note may have value and provide important context.

When proposing a donation, the first step is to contact the Special Collections Archivist by phone or email so that we may learn more about your gift and provide you with guidance on how to prepare your records for donation.

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Information to provide when proposing a donation

When contacting Special Collections about a potential donation, it is helpful to provide the following information by email to the Special Collections Archivist. If you are unable to provide all these details, please tell us what you can about your proposed gift.

Books and other published items

When proposing books or other published materials for donation, please provide a list detailing the title, author, publisher, date and place of publication, and condition note for each book. This list provides crucial information about the donation and allows the Library to properly assess the materials. We also ask that you provide a short note about how you came to own the materials (for instance, were the documents purchased, inherited, or found?).

Archival materials

When proposing archival materials for donation, please provide the following information in order to help us understand what types of materials are in the archive and how, when, and why they were produced.

Name of the creator
  • Let us know who created or compiled the records. This could be one or more individuals, a family, or an organization. Provide us with the full name(s) of the creator(s), if known.
Administrative or biographical history
  • For archives created by an individual, provide their date of birth, date of death (if applicable), education history (schools attended and degrees achieved), and a brief summary of their professional experience.
  • For archives created by organizations, provide the date the organization was established, date of dissolution (if applicable), and a summary of the organization’s mission, activities, and notable projects.
  • For family archives, provide a brief family history. If a family tree is available, this can also be provided for additional context.
Size of the donation
  • Is it a small donation or a large one? Help us understand how much material you are hoping to donate by providing an estimated size of the gift. This estimate can be very general (i.e. number of boxes) or more specific (i.e. cm of textual records; number of photographs; number of audio recordings, etc.).
Types of records
  • Let us know what types of records are included in the archive. These records might be text on paper or in other analog formats, or they might be born digital or digitized.
  • While every archive is different, the archive of an individual or family might include correspondence, journals, diaries, photographs, slides, negatives, maps, drawings, and audio and video recordings, among other documents.
  • The archive of an organization might include correspondence, calendars, certificates, ledgers, meeting minutes and agenda, reports, newsletters, job postings, financial documents, and human resources files, among many other types of records.
  • When were the records created? While it can be challenging to determine when all the documents in an archive were created, please provide us with an approximate date range for the materials in question. For example: materials in this archive were created between 1942 and 1968; the materials in this archive were created and compiled in the 1940s and 1950s.
Topics covered and context
  • Please provide a brief description of the topics covered in the archive. This does not have to be an exhaustive list; it is simply to allow us to better understand the records and the stories they might tell.
  • If known, tell us a bit about how the records were created, accumulated and stored.
  • If the records were created by an organization, please tell us about what functions and activities are documented in the records.
  • Tell us a bit about the provenance of the records in the archive, including a brief overview of how you came to have the materials (for example, are you the creator, a family member or an employee? Did you purchase the records? Inherit them?). Please also provide a note about how long you have been in possession of the records
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What's next

Should the donation fall within the scope of current collecting priorities, the Special Collections Archivist will present the offer to the Special Collections Acquisitions Advisory Committee for discussion at its next meeting. The information that you provide about your donation is essential to helping the committee understand the scope of your donation and whether or not it supports teaching and research at Concordia University. Proposed donations are brought forward to the Special Collections Acquisition Advisory Committee twice per year, in the fall and winter semesters.

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Donation agreement

Should the proposal be accepted, a donation agreement will be negotiated. Once prepared, the agreement will be signed by the donor and a representative of Concordia University. This agreement will outline the terms of the donation, including the transfer of ownership, terms of use, access, preservation, and copyright, among other pertinent information. Once the donation agreement has been signed, arrangements will be made regarding the transportation of the gift to the Library.

For more information about tax receipting, please consult Concordia’s Policy Concerning Gift Acceptance and Receipting (VPA-1) and the Library’s Gifts-in-Kind Policy (T-1).

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Preparing materials for donation

Ideally, the records will be transferred to Special Collections in the same order that they were stored at your home or business. Please do not reorganize or remove any records without first speaking to Special Collections. If you are worried that certain documents might contain sensitive or confidential information, let us know. It is possible to restrict access to this material for a set time period. Note, as well, that we restrict confidential information as required by law.

There is no need to put records into new file folders or enclosures before donating them. We will rehouse all your records, no matter the format, once they have been donated. Please do make sure that all records are in folders, however, and be sure to name the file folders before the time of donation. These names provide us with important contextual information about the contents of the folders.

It is best to transfer your records to Special Collections in sturdy boxes. If you do not have boxes and you are local, we might be able to provide some. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

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Delivery of materials

Delivery of the materials to Special Collections is normally the responsibility of the donor. The date and time of delivery will be discussed at the time of donation. Please do not bring your records to the Library before the necessary arrangements have been made.

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