How to Donate Heirlooms to a Museum


Proposing the Donation
A unique story will make your pitch stronger -- an ancestor's diary, for instance, might have some important historical importance.
A unique story will make your pitch stronger -- an ancestor's diary, for instance, might have some important historical importance.
Felipe Dupouy/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Before offering your heirloom to a museum, gather its story.

"People are interested in stories," said Susan Neill, Vice President of Collections and Exhibitions for the Atlanta History Center. "The older tradition of museum collecting tends to be connoisseurship, but that doesn't always warm the visitor's heart."

Oral histories are good. Documentation proves the item's authenticity -- and raises the value of the piece. In addition to family stories, collect:

  • letters, journals and diaries that describe the heirloom
  • photographs
  • records of importation, manufacture or sale
  • legal documents like deeds or wills

You might also want to get an independent appraisal of the heirloom's value.

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