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Donating Manuscripts

Preserving Indiana’s History

You are the key to preserving Indiana’s history and culture and you can help us preserve it. Far too often historical treasures are mistaken for trash and thrown out, or left to sit in hot attics and damp garages. The Manuscript Section of the Indiana State Library will use archival appraisal methods to select materials for preservation that will provide research opportunities for future generations. You can make it happen by donating your items to the Indiana State Library.

Donating to the Manuscript Section

The Manuscript Section collects and preserves original materials related to Indiana's people, places and events. Collections that reflect aspects of Indiana life are most desirable. The Manuscript section does not collect materials that focus on non Hoosier events except those that deal with a Hoosier's experiences in that event.

People considering donating their own or their family's papers, or seeking a home for records of organizations to which they belong, may have many questions. The questions vary with each collection, depending on its content, ownership, condition, and location, but some of the most common concerns, and our answers, are listed below.

What is the Manuscript Section of the Indiana State Library?

The Manuscript Section houses the manuscript, picture, broadside, program, and oral history collections of the Indiana State Library . We strive to provide our patrons with a wide range of documentation for research use. Our clientele include students, scholars, journalists, genealogists, state agencies, and the general public. We are always eager to add to our holdings, with materials both historical and contemporary in nature.

What would the Manuscript Section like?

The following are types of materials that we collect, but are not limited to:

Manuscript and Archival Materials

• Business records (inactive)
• Correspondence
• Diaries and journals
• Memoirs and scrapbooks
• Speeches and lectures
• Oral histories
• Organizational records (inactive)
• Professional, personal, and family papers (not stand alone genealogies)

Visual Materials

• Tintypes and daguerreotypes
• Lithographs
• Photographs
• Postcards
• Posters and other broadsides
• Sketches
• Glass plate negatives
• Lantern slides

Why would you want my papers?

We are committed to documenting as fully as possible the history of our state and its people in all their diversity. The strength of our holdings adds to the reputation of the Indiana State Library as a major research institution. Your papers may contribute another unique piece to the history of the state of Indiana.

Why should I donate them?

The Manuscript Section offers both a secure environment and a professional staff to process and provide reference to your papers. Also, since they would be housed in the Indiana State Library they would be located with related collections and useful secondary sources, which would enhance their research value. They will be in an institution that will make them available to a wide audience so they can be utilized for years to come.

Can I loan them instead of give them?

No. The Indiana State Library cannot invest public resources, including staff time, supplies, and space, to processing, housing, and providing reference to materials that do not belong to the Library.

What will you do with them?

The collection will be accessioned shortly after it is received and a deed of gift has been signed. Accessioning involves reboxing and preparing a preliminary inventory of the contents of the collection, as well as identifying any items that need any special care or attention. The collection will be further processed based on its condition and size and a finding aid will be prepared. Finally, it will be cataloged and the record will go into the Library's online catalog.

Can their use be restricted?

If a collection includes sensitive materials it may be restricted for a period of time. However, there must be an end date when the restriction will be lifted so the materials can be used by researchers.

What is copyright and why does it matter?

Copyright refers to ownership of the contents of a document rather than the ownership of the physical item itself, and resides with the creator of the document unless they have legally transferred it to another person or institution. When you donate materials to the Manuscript Section of the Indiana State Library a deed of gift form is signed transferring any copyrights you hold to the Library, with the exception of copyrights to published works from which you may still derive income.

Copyright is important in terms of making documents fully available to researchers to quote from or publish. It should also be noted that copyright law is subject to change.

Will I still have rights to my donated items?

You will be relinquishing your rights of ownership and copyright, but will have the same right to use the materials that everyone else enjoys.

Will they be safe?

Yes. The Manuscript collections are stored in a temperature controlled locked vault which is only accessible to Library staff. While we are eager to make our holdings available to researchers, they are used only in the Manuscript Reading Room under staff supervision. All researchers must present photo identification, complete various forms, and state their research topics before being given research materials. They must abide by the rules governing use.

Can I take a tax deduction?

Tax law is subject to change, but it may be possible for you to take a deduction for materials that are not self created. Consult your tax accountant and refer to IRS publications 526 and 561 and form 8283.

Can you tell me how much they are worth?

No. The Indiana State Library cannot legally perform appraisals for tax purposes due to potential conflict of interest. You may wish to consult with a professional appraiser, as indicated on IRS from 8283.

How will I get them to the library?

Materials may be sent through the U.S. mail or via UPS. In some cases Manuscript Section staff will go and pack and transport collections.

Do I have to organize them first?

If you wish to pull out duplicate items or extraneous materials please do so. However, we prefer to make the final decision on what to keep so that we can evaluate items within the context of the entire collections and our other holdings.

Will you keep everything?

We will not retain several duplicates. Some published materials that may be more appropriately housed in the reference area of the library will be transferred there. Also, anything considered to be an artifact would be transferred to the Indiana State Museum. Some items may be photocopied and the originals disposed of.

Can I have them back?

If you wish to have us return duplicate or inappropriate items or those we do not retain in their original form, you may stipulate in the deed of gift form that they be offered back to you at the time we are ready to dispose of them.

Is there a charge?

No, there is no charge to the donor for processing or storage. We do, however, gladly accept donations to our gift fund.

How can I contact you?

There are several ways to contact the Manuscript Section. You can use the phone number or address listed at the bottom of the page, or you can contact the Library by using the Ask a Librarian feature.

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Manuscript Section
Indiana State Library
140 N. Senate Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46204