The Deed of Gift is a formal and legal agreement between you, the donor, and Special Collections that transfers ownership of and legal rights to the donated materials. The relationship between you, as a donor, and Special Collections must be based on a common understanding of your wishes and the ability of Special Collections to carry out its mission and responsibilities. You should review the materials being offered for donation with a Special Collections archivist or curator and discuss its policies and procedures for the care and use of your donated materials. Special Collections has a collecting policy that informs its decisions about what we can and cannot accept. Donors are encouraged to examine the Special Collections Deed of Gift.

What are the Elements of a Deed of Gift?
The Special Collections Deed of Gift identifies you, the donor, describes the materials, transfers legal ownership of the materials to Special Collections, establishes provisions for use, specifies ownership of intellectual property rights, and indicates disposition of unwanted materials. If you have any questions about the language of the Deed of Gift, ask for an explanation from a Special Collections archivist or curator or from your attorney.

Names of the Donor and the Recipient
If you created and/or collected the materials you are donating to Special Collections, all that is needed in this section is your full legal name. If you are acting on behalf of someone else who created and/or collected the materials, include information about your relationship to that person or entity. You might note, for example, a sister, niece, son, or business agent. If you are not the creator of the materials, Special Collections may ask you for verification that you have the legal authority to donate them. Special Collections will provide its full name as the recipient.

Transfer of Ownership
The Deed of Gift will specify a point in time when the materials become the legal property of Special Collections (usually upon signing the deed or upon physical transfer of the materials to the repository). Special Collections will manage and care for them according to accepted professional standards and its mission and objectives. Special Collections prefers to accept materials through transfer of ownership. The cost of storing, preserving, and making collections available for research is so high that Special Collections can afford to do so only for materials they own. Most repositories do not accept materials on loan; those that do will generally not accept them without a legal deposit agreement outlining the terms and fixed duration of the loan. If you are donating materials that were created in digital formats, Special Collections may make it a condition of the gift that you not donate the same files to another repository. After transfer of ownership, the staff of Special Collections will review the materials and may find that there is a reason to reformat some or all of those materials. For example, long-term preservation of fragile materials is a primary reason for microfilming, digitizing, creating multiple digital versions, or copying materials for use by researchers. The repository may also publicly present the digital versions on its website to the extent allowed under copyright law. Unless you note to the contrary in the Deed of Gift agreement, when you transfer legal ownership of your materials to the repository, you agree that Special Collections may make reformatting and display decisions.

Transfer of Intellectual Property Rights
When you sign the Deed of Gift agreement, you transfer legal ownership of the physical and/or digital materials you donate. Ownership of intellectual property rights (primarily copyright, but including trademarks and patent rights) may also be legally transferred by the Deed of Gift. Copyright generally belongs to the creator of writings or other original material, such as photographs or music. Donors are encouraged to transfer to Special Collections all rights they possess in the donated materials; this assists researchers in their scholarship by making it easier to quote from or publish documents. If you wish to retain all or a portion of the intellectual property rights you own, you may include such a provision in the Deed of Gift, but you and the Special Collections archivist or curator should agree on a date when full rights will be transferred to Special Collections. A separate license for digital content, distinct from copyright ownership, may help Special Collections to manage the preservation and use of that content. You cannot transfer ownership of rights to the works of others, such as letters written to you by others, included in the materials you donate. Under the terms of U.S. Copyright Law, Special Collections may provide copies of items in their collections for scholarly research use, regardless of who owns the copyright. Under the “fair use” exemption, the law permits that researchers may publish portions of an item under copyright. Permission to publish or quote extensively from the material must still be obtained from the copyright holder. To learn more about copyright, see or ask your attorney.

In the course of arranging and describing the materials you donate, the Special Collections staff will retain substantive materials of enduring historic value and separate out those materials that are duplicative or outside the collecting scope of Special Collections. Discuss with the Special Collections archivist or curator your preferences for the disposition of separated materials and arrive at an agreement that can be stated in the Deed of Gift. Options include shredding out-of-scope materials, transferring them to another repository, or returning them directly to you. These options can be spelled out in the Deed of Gift.

Signing the Deed of Gift
It is important to sign the Deed of Gift as soon as you and the Special Collections archivist or curator have discussed and agreed on its provisions. Few repositories will accept a collection without a signed Deed of Gift. If necessary, the Deed of Gift can be amended if both sides concur. Amendments should be signed and dated by both the donor and a Special Collections representative.