What happens after I decide to donate?

Deed of Gift

After you’ve decided to donate your collection and the archives accepts it, the next step is to sign the deed of gift. This is a document that formally transfers ownership to the archives. In addition to transferring ownership of the collection, a deed of gift is an agreement between the creator or the owner of the collection and the archives. The deed of gift should have notice about the original ownership of the collection, which rights are transferred to the repository (physical vs. copyrights), any restrictions on access, and notes about how the repository will hand the collection.

The following sections all contain pieces of the deed of gift that you should discuss with the archivist prior to donation and signing the deed of gift.

Access to the Collections

Each archives has its own policies guiding access to the collections for researchers. These policies include how and when researchers can access the materials, what can be duplicated, whether or not the researcher is allowed to use digital photography in the reading room, and the publication of archival materials. We recommend that, as a donor, you familiarize yourself these policies and discuss questions or concerns about access with the archivist prior to signing the deed of gift.

Please note that the archives may not be able to make the collection accessible immediately after accepting the materials. Most archives have a backlog of collections waiting to be processed and made available while others have a priority list for making items/collections available. Archivists can share their method for determining priority and talk about how long they expect it to take to process your collection. Archivists do appreciate your patience and understanding as they work to make the collection available to researchers.

Restrictions and Conditions

If you are concerned about the information contained in the documents or the condition of the items in the collection, consider discussing restrictions or conditions with the archivist. Items that contain personal or private information may be restricted from use by researchers to protect the privacy of the individual. Additionally, items that are severely damaged or fragile may also be restricted to prevent further damage. You may also discuss the option of digital surrogates in some of these cases if you’d like to maintain access to the collection while still protecting the fragile items. Again, these are good discussions to have, but know that the archives may not be able to provide some of these services, and archives generally like to give as much access to the collection as possible.

For conditional gifts, donations that come with specific requirements or limitations on access, exhibition, or digitization, archives typically are unable to make those promises or meet the requirements and may be unable to accept the donation.


Copyright is a complex issue that deals with the ownership of the intellectual property contained in a collection. This can include the order of organization, the formatting of items, as well as the ideas and words committed to paper or electronic records. Typically, the creator owns the copyrights to the items, but those rights can be transferred to heirs, publishers, or, eventually, the archives that you donate the materials to. A repository will typically ask about who owns the copyright and will have to work with the copyright owner for donation of original materials.

One conversation you will have to have with the copyright owner is how you want to handle the copyright for the items you are planning to donate. Traditionally archives ask that the copyrights be transferred to them so that they can digitize and exhibit (both physically and digitally) the collection. Occasionally a researcher may ask to publish a copy of an item in their work. The copyright owner will have to give permission and it’s easier for the archives when they hold the copyright and can approve/deny the request. However, this can be negotiated, and more archivists are using deeds of gift that allow the owners to maintain copyright while allowing the archives to hold a non-exclusive license to exhibit, digitize, and make collection materials available electronically.

Another aspect of copyright is providing duplicates to researchers. Frequently researchers will ask for copies of materials to complete their works. These copies are given in compliance with Fair Use exemption under the US Copyright Law. While archives typically comply with copy requests, they do limit the number of pages a researcher is allowed to have and what can be done with the copies. The researcher is allowed to use a portion of the materials in their published work, but extensive quoting or inclusion of copies of the material do require the researcher to seek permission to use the materials prior to publication. For more information on copyright, please see https://www.copyright.gov/ or contact your attorney.

Financial Value of the Collection

In some cases, a tax deduction can be taken for a collection donation. This deduction depends on the financial value of the collection (not the historical value). If you think your collection may have financial value, you will want to consider reaching out to an appraiser for a valuation of the collection. Archives and archivists are not able to provide tax advice or a financial value for the collection, however, they may be able to put you in touch with an appraiser who can provide you with the monetary value of the collection (for a fee). If you plan to have your collection appraised, please let the archivist know prior to donation. Not all archives are able to make collections available to an appraiser after they have been transferred to the repository. In these cases, the appraisal will need to be completed before the materials are transferred to the repository.

Monetary Donations

Monetary donations are generally welcomed at all archives as the process of organizing, preserving, and making collections available can be expensive. However, monetary donations are not a requirement of donating your collection materials.

At UNG collection donations and monetary gifts at all levels are appreciated, as are bequests and other planned gifts, endowments, and larger contributions. To learn more about donating, please contact the UNG Special Collections & Archives.

What should I know before donating?

What is a repository?

Pilgrims sign outside of Gainesville plant

A repository, also known as archives or special collections, is a collection of manuscript materials – written, visual, audio, or electronic materials. These materials are carefully preserved for use by researchers like scholars, genealogists, journalists, and students. A repository is managed by archivists who are trained to be stewards of the collection preserving the materials and making them available for research as well as know which items are considered historically valuable.

Archivists typically have a set of policies that help guide their decision to take in a collection of personal, family, or organizational records. This policy will help them to decide if your collection is right for their repository as well as which items should be included in the collection.

Donating your collection or papers to a repository can also have benefits for you. Aside from the space it may free up in your home or office, a repository can provide a stable, controlled environment to house the records. The archivists at the repository can also ensure that your records are protected from wear and tear through use and from potential security threats. A repository also offers the option for your story to continue to be told by opening it up to researchers who may use the materials for their work.

What does “historical value” mean?

Historical value* is a term used to discuss the value of a collection to the historic record and researchers. Examples of items of that may be of historical value are letters/correspondence, meeting minutes, photographs, videos, speeches/lectures, writings, legal documents, military orders, etc.

*Please note, historical value does not always equate to financial value. While some historically valuable collections or items may be financially valuable, this is not always the case.

What should I preserve and what should I toss?

Family or personal papers, business records, institutional records, organizational records may all have historic value. Papers or materials created or collected by famous people, large business, huge non-profit, or a major event are no more important to an archives than materials that may speak to more localized interests. A collection or donation can be a single item or many boxes of materials. Collections aren’t expected to be organized or come to the archives in perfect order. Archivists will consider collections and decide to accept a donation for many reasons. These reasons can include the creator (author, family, organization, etc.), time period covered by the materials, individual items, topics covered by the materials, events, and types of material (print, photos, videos, audio recordings) to name a few.

When possible, the archivist may want to view the collection prior to accepting the collection or transferring it to the repository. In these cases, it is best that the materials not be rearranged or discarded prior to the staff visit. Archivists have experience determining what may or may not be valuable to researchers and sometimes that includes items that give context to the rest of the collection. Removing these items from the collection can diminish the value of the collections. Sometimes the value of the collection lies not only in the materials, but also how they are organized.

Will you take anything or everything I offer?

Unfortunately, we are limited by space and staffing which can affect what types of materials we can take. We do have a set list of types of materials and topics we collect at UNG SC&A. However, we would welcome the opportunity to talk about your collection and review the materials. If we aren’t the right home for your collection, we will do our best to refer you to other repositories or archives that may be a better fit.

Donating to UNG Special Collections and Archives

Thank you for your interest in donating to the Special Collections & Archives of the University of North Georgia! The Special Collections & Archives serve as the institutional memory of the university and its predecessors, Gainesville State College and North Georgia College and State University. In addition to serving as the university’s institutional memory, the Special Collections & Archives seeks to collect, arrange, preserve, and make accessible collections related to the history of Appalachia, Northeast Georgia and the communities surrounding the university’s campuses.

If you have materials that you are considering for donation to Special Collections & Archives, we look forward to working with you! Special Collections & Archives staff likes to work with donors through all stages of the process. Prior to the donation, staff will work with donors to determine what records and documents have continuing interest or value. This initial survey will also help archivists become more familiar with the collection and creator. It is important that the materials remain as they are because the importance of the documents can diminish if the records are rearranged. Staff can offer assistance with the physical transfer of records and will update donors on the processing of the collection.

If you have any questions about historic value or the scope of your collections, please let us know! Staff will work with you and review items to determine if Special Collections & Archives is the best home for your collection.

What we collect

While Special Collections & Archives are always looking for collections of all sizes that are within our collecting scope, we also encourage the donation of single items. Below is a list of types of documents that typically have historic value. Please note that this list is not exhaustive and there may be other types of materials that are also of historic value.

Types of material we collect:

  • Letters/Correspondence
  • Diaries and journals
  • Reports
  • Photographs
  • Video and audio recordings
  • Maps
  • Administrative records
  • Governance and policy documents
  • Financial records
  • Records of student organizations
  • Legal documents
  • Planning documents
  • Scrapbooks/Photo albums
  • By-laws and articles of incorporation
  • Meeting minutes
  • Lecture notes
  • Research notes
  • Press releases
  • Professional files
  • Genealogical information

Subject Areas we collect

  • University of North Georgia History
  • Gainesville State College/Gainesville College/Gainesville Junior College History
  • North Georgia College & State University/North Georgia College/North Georgia Agricultural College History
  • Northeast Georgia History
  • Appalachian History and Heritage
  • Military History
  • Local industry (poultry, manufacturing, etc.)
  • Latino History and Culture
  • Asian History and Culture

Documenting COVID-19

Share your story 

UNG Special Collections & Archives needs your help! As a part of our mission to document the people, places, and events of Northeast Georgia, we’d like for you to share your COVID-19 story with us. Our goal is to collect the stories you share, preserve them and make them available for future generations of students, scholars, and researchers. Your stories offer unique perspectives into life during the 2020 quarantine. All of us have had major changes affect our daily lives, whether you’re a parent who is now working from home and helping you children with school work or a business owner that has had to change your service model to accommodate for social distancing. Nothing is too mundane to share, the little things give us a complete picture of what it’s like for everyone. While we encourage our students, faculty, and staff to contribute to the collection, we also welcome submissions from the broader UNG community – alumni and residents of Northeast Georgia. 

What we’re asking you to share are some of things you’re already sharing via Facebook or Instagram or any other social media platform. Photos, videos, notes of encouragement or stories about what is going on in your life. These may be photographs you’ve taken of your family, local businesses, or signs you see around town. You may also be keeping a journal about this time in your life or just jotting down notes about things that have happened to you during the quarantine. Maybe you’re creating something and you’d like to share a song you’ve written or a painting you’ve done. How about stories from the last year you’d like to share in a quick video (recorded on your device or via Flipgrid)? All of these are wonderful insights into the times we’re living in. 

To submit your story, please use our collection form and either upload your file with the form, record your story using the Flipgrid link at the bottom of the form, or email it to archives@ung.edu. Submissions can be handwritten or typed, videos, photographs, or audio files and multiple submissions are welcome. Please don’t worry about length, spelling, grammar, or handwriting, we just want to hear your story! 

Not sure what to submit? 

There are suggestions below or you can see what others have submitted in the Documenting COVID-19 Exhibit.

  • What has brought you joy during this time? Have you written a story, poem, song you’d like to share? Have you finished a project, performed a song, painted, etc.? 
  • What do you miss or is there something you’ve lost? 
  • Have you made masks or designed a pattern for masks? Have you volunteered somewhere?  
  • What has it been like switching to working/schooling from home? Have you transitioned back into the office/school? What was that like?
  • Do you have photos of walks around town? Have you taken pictures of signs or businesses around town that you could share?
  • How did you celebrate the holidays over the last year? Did you get to spend time with family? Did you use Zoom or Facetime to spend the special day with your family?
  • How has your professional life changed? Do you work from home more often? Will your job transition to a work from home position even after things have reopened?
  • For healthcare professionals and first responders – how do you feel about what is happening? What is it like working in pandemic conditions? Are there stories that stick with you? How has working in pandemic conditions affected life at home?
  • How do you stay in touch with family, friends, coworkers, etc.? Maybe you’ve done “window visits” with family members in nursing homes or have weekly Zoom or Facetime calls with your friends. 
  • Have you gotten your vaccine yet? What was it like – do you feel less anxiety about going to work or shopping now that you’ve gotten it? Did you have side effects? How was it scheduling your appointment? Do you have plans for after the vaccine or when things totally reopen?