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 repository
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
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 owner-ship 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.
Access to the Collection
An essential mission of repositories is to make their collections open and
available for research use. They are able to do this because most donors
do not limit access to the materials they donate. There may be instances,
however, when a donor or repository feels it is appropriate to restrict access
to all or a portion of the materials for a limited and clearly stated period
If the materials you donate contain student records, income tax records,
medical records or legal case files relating to third parties (that is, to
individuals other than you or your immediate ancestors, or to organizations
other than the one whose records are being donated), federal or state privacy
laws may apply. If you know that such materials exist, bring this to the
attention of the repository representative. If such materials are discovered
by the repository during cataloging, the repository representative will discuss
them with you.
If your concerns go beyond these types of materials, explain them to the
representative, and be as specific as possible when you discuss the papers
or records you want to restrict. If needed, the representative will work
with you to arrive at language regarding the restriction that is acceptable
to you and which can be enforced by the repository.
Transfer of Copyright
When you sign the gift agreement, you transfer legal ownership of the actual
materials you want to donate. Ownership of intellectual property rights (primarily
copyright, but including trademarks and patent rights) may also be legally
transferred by the deed of gift. Copyright generally belongs to the creator
of writings or other original material (such as photographs and music). Donors
are encouraged to transfer all rights they possess in and to the materials
donated to the repository; this assists researchers in their scholarship
by making it easier to quote from documents. If you wish to retain all or
a portion of the intellectual property rights you own, you may include such
a provision in the deed of gift, but you and the representative should agree
upon a date after which the rights will be transferred to the repository.
You are not able to transfer ownership of rights to the works of others found
in the materials you donate. These works might include such items as letters
written to you by others.
In the course of arranging and describing the materials you donate, the
repository's staff will retain substantive materials of permanent historic
value and separate out those materials that are routine, duplicative, or
outside the collecting scope of the repository. The repository needs guidance
in dealing with these separated materials. You may choose to have the repository
dispose of them in the manner they deem appropriate. This usually includes
shredding or disposing of duplicates or materials of no historical significance,
and transferring out-of-scope materials to another unit within the repository
or to another repository. You may, however, prefer to have the separations
returned directly to you. You should discuss your options with the repository's
representative and arrive at an agreement that can be stated in the deed
Repositories vary widely in the kinds of materials they collect, the users
they serve, and the facilities in which they preserve materials and make
them available for research. As a result, a repository may require or permit
the deed of gift to contain language related to a wide range of other issues.
If you have any questions or concerns about what is or is not included in
a deed of gift, it is important that you raise these with the repository
representative prior to signing the agreement. Although it is possible that
a repository may not be able to accommodate a specific request, it is best
to ensure that all relevant issues are discussed.