Donations to the Collection

History San José’s collection grows through donations from the public. We serve as responsible stewards for objects, furniture, textiles, photographs, books, documents, and audiovisual recordings of historic importance to the Santa Clara Valley. These donations are used for research and for creating informative permanent and rotating exhibits.

Email: Please send a full description of the potential donation and past owners where known, including photographs if you are able, so we can evaluate condition. We do NOT have an acquisitions budget, and cannot pay you for your donation.

What We Collect

Priority is given to materials that are:

  • used by, created by, or that document people of the Santa Clara Valley;
  • illustrative of regional, state, national, or international cultures, experiences, or events that specifically relate to, or assist in understanding the continuing heritage of the Santa Clara Valley.

Please understand that we cannot accept everything people wish to donate. Adding items to our collection is a serious responsibility. Donations must fulfill the Museum’s mission, and the Museum must be able to care for the items it accepts. Donations are considered by appointment only to facilitate discussion with the potential donor.

Note: We are no longer accepting donations of local newspapers unless they were published before 1880, or are runs of local community newspapers (NOT the Mercury News); we are also not collecting books unless they were published within the last year.

Please do not mail HSJ items or leave items on the property unsolicited. Do NOT drop off donations at the administrative offices! We can only accept donations at the Collection Center, by appointment. History San José is not responsible for any donation left on its property, and volunteers are NOT authorized to accept donations.

Financial donations to assist us in caring for the collection or purchasing items for specific exhibit areas are always appreciated. To donate, click here. In addition, usable office equipment and collections storage is always considered

Donations Wish List

How does the staff evaluate potential donations?

Through conversation with the donor specific questions are asked to determine if the donation is appropriate to the collection and supports the Museum’s mission. Typical questions may include:

  • What is the donation?
  • When, how, and by whom was the donation used?
  • What is the date made? Used?
  • Who created the item? Are there any maker’s marks?
  • What is the physical condition of the item?
  • Who is associated with the item, including previous owners? What is the donor’s relationship to the donation?
  • Was the donation made or used in San José or the Santa Clara Valley?
  • If the item is from outside Santa Clara Valley, how does it help to illuminate the history of the Santa Clara Valley?

Some items may not be appropriate for the collection, but may be appropriate for use in the Education Department. As outlined in the Museum’s Collection Management Policy, the following nine collection acquisition criteria are used:

  • The item is relevant to the collection and Museum’s Purpose and Scope.
  • The item is unique in a collecting area and would thereby enhance the existing collection.
  • The item fills a specific need within a collection or opens a new collection area consistent with Museum’s goals.
  • The item has good provenance.
  • The item does not have any donor-imposed restrictions or any stipulations regarding the method of display, copyright, or any other limitations that would affect the exhibition or loan of the item.
  • The item will be treated according to museum standards and kept in good faith.
  • The item’s condition must not threaten or endanger any other collection, people, or property.
  • The Museum must be able to provide proper care with existing resources.
  • Acceptance of the item shall not impose major future expenses, unless an expense plan is made.

What if my donation is accepted?

You will be asked to sign a Deed of Gift which transfers the legal ownership of the objects to History San José.

Why wasn’t my donation accepted?

HSJ has an extensive collection of historical materials and objects. An offer may be declined if:

  • Similar items already exist in the Collection.
  • The physical condition is poor and/or it is not suitable for display.
  • The Museum cannot ethically care for the item due to its size, condition, or projected costs associated with caring for that item.
  • The item is not relevant to the collection and the Museum’s purpose and scope.

Can I receive a tax deduction for my donation?

Tax deductions as a charitable donation may be applied to both donation of artifacts and other items as well as cash and stock transfer contributions. HSJ advises you to seek the counsel of a tax professional. HSJ is a federally-registered non-profit corporation under section 501(c) 3 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. Donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

The Museum is forbidden by law to make appraisals of items donated or potentially donated to it. For information on appraisal services or to find an appraiser near you, please consult the following organizations:

The Appraisers Association of America (includes the article “Elements of a Correctly Prepared Appraisal”)
The American Society of Appraisers
International Society of Appraisers
The Appraisal Foundation (includes the article “A Consumers Guide to Appraisals and Selecting an Appraiser”)