Collections and Library Division staff members are often asked: “Where do items in History Colorado’s collection come from?” In most cases, the objects come to us through donation. Many donations are unsolicited, meaning the curators did not purposefully seek out the items as part of a planned collecting initiative.
We receive offers of donation in several ways. Dialog with a potential donor might begin with the receipt of a phone call or e-mail. It can also come through a referral by another museum or library. Some potential donations simply arrive in the mail, byproducts of an individual or institution reviewing their own collection and finding they have no need for items related to Colorado.
Once contact is made, we ask potential donors to provide information about their item(s). The information form requests a basic description and the history of the object and its connection to Colorado. If available, a photograph completes the package of information. Collections and Library Division Coordinator Megan Rose serves as the clearinghouse for the donation process, working with donors to compile information and making sure the information gets to the appropriate curator for review.
Reviewing potential donations can take significant time, as curators must research related material already in the collection and often need to pursue additional research on the subject or context of the item. Curators make decisions about whether or not to add items to the collection based on many factors, including:
Does the item have a Colorado connection?
Does it increase our ability to tell a compelling story?
Does it add to our knowledge of the subject in a meaningful way?
Do we already have similar items in the collection?
Can History Colorado provide appropriate storage and care for the item?
While we are not able to accept all of the donations that are generously offered, we always enjoy the opportunity to visit with folks and learn about their family’s Colorado history. We are currently working on an updated collection plan that will guide and focus our future collecting activities, including deaccessioning, in accordance with History Colorado’s institutional mission and interpretive goals. If you have questions about the collection or the donation process you can contact us at email@example.com.
If you're interested in seeing the collection online, visit our new collection database at h-co.org/collections!
Elisa Phelps Director of the Collections and Library Division September 2014
Contact the Library
Stephen H. Hart Library and Research Center
History Colorado Center
Denver, CO 80203