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Home / Making Donations

Making Donations

As part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Agricultural Library’s Special Collections unit acquires, preserves, and makes available rare materials documenting the history of agriculture and USDA. Donations help enrich and grow the Library’s rare book and manuscript collections. If you wish to donate materials to Special Collections, they must meet the criteria detailed in our collection development policy to be considered for acceptance.

You must contact a staff member to discuss whether your materials belong in Special Collections. We reserve the right to discard unsolicited donations, turn away gifts prior to donation, and to dispose appropriately of materials that are deemed unsuitable to the collection following the donation.

What to Donate

Donations might include: rare books; archival materials; personal papers and manuscripts; memoirs, diaries, journals; captioned photographs and scrapbooks; unpublished works; research data; audiovisual and other multi-media materials; and nursery and seed trade catalogs. We use the following criteria to decide if we might accept a donation. Meeting these criteria does not guarantee that your materials will be accepted. Please see the collection development policy for more information.

Manuscript Collections Should:

  • Document significant people, innovations, and programs throughout the history of American agriculture.
  • Establish a new collection in an underdeveloped, agricultural research subject area or add to or enhance a frequently used or requested existing collection.
  • Preferably be related to USDA employees and programs.

Rare Books Should:

How to Donate

You must follow these steps if you’re interested in donating materials to Special Collections:

  • If you are a USDA employee, you must contact your records manager to determine whether the materials are scheduled for disposition at the National Archives and Records Administration.
  • Speak with a Special Collections staff member to determine if materials meet criteria of the collection development policy
  • Tell us why you think the materials belong in Special Collections
  • After an initial evaluation, you may be asked to complete:
    • a collection survey form or provide the equivalent information in writing
    • a deed of gift, a formal agreement which legally transfers the materials to the library

We (Special Collections Staff) Will:

  • Communicate with you about the material, the process of making a donation, and the issues involved
  • Review the collection survey form, if you are asked to fill one out
  • Possibly ask for a sample of the collection (1 cubic foot or smaller)
  • Accept collection, refer you to an alternate repository, or decline the collection
  • Acknowledge donation with a thank you letter and a signed deed of gift if the collection is accepted

Please note that we may refuse materials containing mold or mildew, signs of infestation, large pieces of equipment, and materials that belong with a different organization. Digital materials will only be accepted if we have the software and hardware needed to provide access.


Special Collections staff is prohibited from making monetary appraisals, but you may contact the following organizations to obtain contact information for qualified appraisers:

Society of American Archivists
600 S. Federal
Suite 504
Chicago, IL 60605
American Society of Appraisers
555 Herndon Parkway
Suite 125
Herndon, VA 20170
Appraisers Association of America
60 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10165
The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America
50 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020

Other Resources

Donating Your Personal/Family Papers to a Repository

Donating Your Organization’s Records to a Repository