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Donating to Special Collections

Rows of materials in boxes on the shelves of Special Collections.

The Julian Edison Department of Special Collections is grateful for the support received through gifts and donations.

Giving to Special Collections

Gifts to the Washington University Libraries play an important role in strengthening our collections. Each year, a substantial amount of material is offered to the University Libraries to enrich our holdings. Such gifts often include rare or out-of-print materials that would otherwise be difficult to acquire. Several of the most treasured works in the University Libraries have been obtained through the generous gifts of donors. 

If you are interested in making a gift of material to Special Collections, please contact us at or (314) 935-5495 so that we can assist you. Please see the Special Collections Collection Development Policy for more details on how materials are selected for Special Collections.

If you would like to make a financial contribution, please see the Support the University Libraries page for additional details.

Gifts can be an important addition to the University Libraries’ collections, but we must weigh their potential usefulness against the costs associated with the processing and retention of gifts.  Additional factors to consider include potential restrictions or limitations on their use.

Gifts are accepted with the understanding that they become the property of the University Libraries upon receipt and that the University Libraries must make the final determination concerning their retention, location, cataloging, use, and disposition. If a gift does not meet our needs, we will attempt to refer the donor to a more appropriate recipient. Income from the sale of gifts is used to purchase other items needed for our research collections. 

As a matter of policy, the University Libraries cannot accept titles inappropriate to an academic collection, incomplete runs of journals, materials in poor condition or outmoded formats, or titles that duplicate our existing library holdings.  

Gifts to the University Libraries are tax-deductible to the extent provided by the law. Donors are responsible for obtaining a qualified appraisal of the fair market value of their gifts and for paying the appraiser’s fee. IRS regulations prohibit the University Libraries, as interested parties, from appraising gifts. However, the University Libraries can provide donors with a list of local professional appraisers who may be consulted, and a written acknowledgment of gifts. For further information on claiming a tax deduction, contact the Director of Advancement for the University Libraries Rebecca Wagner.

Giving to University Archives

Records and documents are sent to an archive because they are of long-term, historical value, but are not needed for day-to-day administration or use. As a general rule, items placed into an archive are significant and unique records generated or received by you or your office/organization.

University records are usually significant and have enduring value if (for example): they document policy development and precedents, major projects, or university rights and responsibilities; their subject matter caused considerable comment on campus or in the media; or if they have been vital to the operation of your office.

Materials appropriate for transfer to University Archives

  • Correspondence and subject files of the Dean, Director, or Chair
  • Publications, such as newsletters and annual reports
  • Records of program or curriculum development
  • Departmental minutes; committee minutes and reports
  • Self-studies, histories, and accreditation reports
  • Records about symposia and special projects
  • Records about cooperative efforts with other institutions
  • Records about relationships with government, business, or industry
  • Photographs (if identified) (Note: If your office has copies of photographs taken by the university’s Photo Services Dept., you do not need to send these – we already get them from Photo Services / University Marketing & Communications)

Records not eligible for transfer

  • Transactional records such as leave requests and purchase orders are not usually of long-term value.
  • The Archives does not have space for reprints, bulky artifacts, or more than two copies of reports and publications.
  • Routine correspondence (for example, requests for course information and acknowledgments) is generally not valuable.
  • Records related to personnel matters (e.g. applications and supporting material, resumes, evaluations, records of interviews, etc.). Disposition of faculty and staff personnel records should be coordinated with Human Resources.
  • Student records (including applicant files). The disposition of student records should be coordinated with the Office of the University Registrar (formerly known as the Office of Student Records).

For more information about how long to keep non-permanent records, see the WUSTL Records Management Policy (PDF).

Guidelines for packing your records

  •  Include your completed and signed Records Transfer Form in the first box (or send it separately in campus mail). The records transfer form is for use by University offices and departments.
  • Boxes should be letter size on one size and legal on the other. Larger boxes become too heavy. The Paige Company makes a “Miracle Box” which is excellent for transferring records. 1-800-662-6937; ask for the #15 Miracle Box.
  • Records should be in folders (manila folders are fine) and with the contents clearly written on each.
  • Please do not send us records in hanging files – they take up space and add weight (if possible, please do not send files in three-ring binders, for the same reason).
  • Do not use rubber bands on folders; they break and leave stains.
  • Pack the items rather loosely in the box — do not over-stuff.
  • Attach a sheet of your letterhead to the box cover, with the date and name of a contact person, and label it “To University Archives.” If you have many boxes, contact us about special arrangements for pick-up.

Contact Us

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at or (314) 935-9730.

Are you a member or leader of a local or campus organization, civic group, or program?  Don’t let your history be lost!

  1. Document the activities of your group: keep minutes of meetings; save copies of publications and flyers; and take photographs of members, meetings, and events.
  2. Label your materials with full names, dates, and descriptions of events or circumstances.
  3. Keep your records together in one central place. Assign someone to be secretary and have them pass on information to their successor annually.
  4. Develop a straightforward filing system that works for you. There’s no one best way to do this.
  5. Store your records away from dampness, dust, excessive heat, and sun.
  6. Avoid using paper clips and rubber bands. If you have documents that need to be kept together, use stainless steel staples or plastic clips.
  7. Develop a routine of transferring inactive records at the end of the semester, year, or your leader’s term of office.
  8. Consider the fate of your non-paper documents. Digital records can pose software and hardware access problems. Save CDs/DVDs, memorabilia, photographs, posters, sound recordings, and videos, as well as traditional paper documents. Contact us if you have materials on websites or social media pages that we can export and preserve.
  9. Get to know the archive staff of Special Collections and learn more about our collections.
  10. When in doubt, don’t throw it out! Contact Archives staff to discuss a donation or learn more about how to preserve your organization’s records.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at or (314) 935-9730.

Our Sample Deed of Gift gives potential donors external to the University an idea of the procedures involved.