History Colorado receives donation offers ranging from single objects to large volumes of business or personal records. Deciding what to accept is a challenge, because everything has a history.
When responding to an inquiry regarding a potential donation, curators play the role of history detectives and ask questions to learn about the item or material. In simplified form, the questions include who, what, how, when, where, and why. We ask these questions to discover the history of the object, as well as information about the creator, user, owner, and their connections to Colorado history. In addition, we want to learn the physical characteristics of the material and what resources are needed to document, catalog, preserve, and care for the donation should it be accepted. History Colorado’s collection is property of the State of Colorado, and curators and collections managers have a statutory obligation to care for the collection and hold it in trust for the people of the state.
While curators learn about an object and the people associated with it, they also review the museum’s present holdings, their strengths and weaknesses, and determine if the offered item supports the mission and goals of the institution. Curators and Collection Management staff have created a set of criteria to guide decisions on whether to accept donations and to balance our opportunity for building the collection with the need to provide sufficient resources to care for holdings today and for future generations.
If an item is not accepted, it is usually because it does not meet a sufficient number of collecting criteria, is out of scope for our collecting focus and mission, duplicates present holdings, lacks provenance, or is in poor physical condition. Sometimes a potential donation is better suited for another repository or museum where it would serve to strengthen that organization and find more appropriate, satisfactory use.
When a donation finds its best-match repository, whether it is History Colorado or another museum, everyone wins—donor, museum, and audience.
Curator of Archives
If you are interested in donating materials to History Colorado’s collection, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (303) 866-2306.
Contact the Library
Stephen H. Hart Library and Research Center
History Colorado Center
Denver, CO 80203