Artifact Donation

Add your single artifact or large collection to our collections and take your place in history!

Ty Cobb autographed baseballEvery year, new artifacts are added to the Detroit Historical Society collections through the generosity of individuals, organizations and corporations. These donations help us fulfill our mission as interpreters of the region’s history.

Many of our recent donations make their way into our New to the Collection exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum. This ever-changing exhibit is a way of showcasing these wonderful artifacts for people to view and appreciate until they are stored for preservation at our Collections Resource Center.

These artifacts are frequently used in our rotating galleries at both the Detroit Historical Museum and Dossin Great Lakes Museum.

How to donate your artifacts

Due to the volume of offers we receive, we cannot accept donated materials through the mail without prior communication. If you have artifacts that you believe will enhance the Detroit Historical Society’s collection, please contact the Curator of Collections, Adam Lovell, at 313.297.8391 or email adaml@detroithistorical.org to discuss the donation. 

Some frequently asked questions

Does the Detroit Historical Society do appraisals and will they appraise my donation for monetary value?

The Society does not provide appraisals for any reason because the Internal Revenue Service regards museums and libraries as interested parties. However, professional appraisers do perform this service for a fee. To find a licensed appraiser in your area, contact the American Society of Appraisers, the International Society of Appraisers, or the Appraisers Association of America for a referral.

Can I receive a tax deduction for my donation?

All donations accepted by the Detroit Historical Society are considered charitable contributions to a not-for-profit organization.

How are potential donations received?

Donation offers are reviewed by the Society Collections Advisory Committee. The Committee is made up of staff and local historians knowledgeable about both the scope of our existing collection as well as the conservation issues associated with artifact care. The Curator of Collections sends out a letter of acceptance after the artifact has been reviewed; this process can take from one to three months.

Does the Detroit Historical Society accept long-term loans?

The Society does not accept long-term loans unless an exhibit requires such an artifact. The Society often accepts short term loans for specific exhibits or programs; we prefer to commit our resources to the storage and preservation of materials in the collection.

If I donate an artifact to the Detroit Historical Society, will it be returned to me at my request?

After an artifact is accessioned and becomes a part of the Detroit Historical Society collection, it cannot be returned to the donor. Once the Collections Committee accepts your donation for the collection, your Deed of Gift form legally transfers ownership of the artifact to the Society.

Some of the many things we’re interested in

The Detroit Historical Society primarily collects materials that document metropolitan Detroit. Our current collection includes more than 250,000 artifacts that represent more than 300 years of our region’s unique history.

Our collections focus on several areas and we continue to add to these areas all the time.  These include:

Architecture

Images and artifacts from historic locations or actual pieces are the architecture from a site

Detroit Images

Paintings, prints, photographs, postcards, etc. that include scenes from Detroit

Fashion

Locally-made articles of clothing, clothing worn by local celebrities and significant pieces that speak to a particular era

Glancy Trains

This is a large collection of model trains and accessories from Alfred R. Glancy Jr. (1908-1973), real estate financier and former co-owner of the Empire State Building. His collection was donated by the Glancy family.

Maritime

All Great Lakes and Detroit River-related artifacts and materials 

Military

Locally-made and worn uniforms and related materials

Paintings and Sculptures

Local sculptors and painters or sculptures or paintings of metro Detroit locations

Prints and Photographs

Local photographers or photographs and images of locations or people from metro Detroit

Social History

All things having to do with the homes of local residents, including quilts, dinnerware, etc.

Sports

Professional sports memorabilia, uniforms and other items from local teams. This category also includes amateur sports, local association teams and Olympic athletes.

Toys 

Locally-made toys or toys owned by local celebrities

Transportation

Anything automotive that was made in metro Detroit

Still have questions?  Call our Curator of Collections, Adam Lovell, at 313.297.8391 or email adaml@detroithistorical.org today!