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Special Collections professionals are skilled in assessing the historical and research value of papers, photographs, documents, rare books, and related materials. Staff can assist donors in identifying materials that should be preserved for their research interest and future use. Although not all rare books, manuscripts, and archives fall within the scope of our collecting policy, this page provides some guidance regarding the process of donating collection materials to the Florida State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives. 

Because the research value of archival materials is diminished if items are removed or rearranged in a collection, donors are encouraged to contact a Special Collections & Archives staff member before discarding or rearranging materials. To discuss donating a collection to Special Collections & Archives, please contact the Associate Dean for Special Collections, Katie McCormick.

What We Collect

Special Collections & Archives staff select content that meets the following criteria:

  • Materials are rare or unique
  • Materials support the research and curricular needs of the University
  • Materials have long-term research, historical, or administrative value to the University
  • Materials complement existing collection strengths or identified areas of collecting focus
  • Materials that meet the criteria stated above and document the following subject areas of collecting focus are actively sought for Special Collections:
  • Napoleon and the French Revolution
  • The Seminole Indians
  • Materials significant to the understanding of United States history, particularly Native Americans, the Civil War, and materials that focus on diversity and civil rights
  • Creative writing and literary manuscripts
  • The history of visual and performing arts
  • Poetry
  • The history, administration, and culture of Florida State University
  • The papers of distinguished alumni and faculty of Florida State University
  • The history of Florida, with particular focus on northern Florida
  • Florida political collections 

The following are examples of some of the types of materials we collect:

  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Speeches/lectures
  • Albums/scrapbooks
  • Memoirs/reminiscences
  • Photographs
  • Professional files
  • Genealogical or biographic information
  • Films
  • Videotapes and audiotapes
  • Rare books
The Process for Donating

Special Collections & Archives staff work closely with donors to identify materials appropriate for adding to our collection. When possible, donors are encouraged to provide an inventory or overall summary of the collection for staff review. After the staff and the donor have agreed in principle that the materials are appropriate for preserving in Special Collections, they will make arrangements to have the materials transported to Special Collections, where they will be accessioned and stored for processing, arrangement, and description by the staff.

Legal transfer of the materials from the donor to the University occurs when the donor reviews and signs a deed of gift agreement. The deed of gift formally transfers ownership of the materials to the University. The University cannot invest materials and labor in the care of collections which it does not own. Therefore, we cannot accept materials on deposit or loan.

If you have materials that you are interested in donating to Special Collections, please contact the Associate Dean for Special Collections, Katie McCormick.

Copyright generally belongs to the creator of writings and other original material (such as photographs and music), and can be legally transferred. To enable scholars to quote readily from collections, Special Collections encourages donors to transfer any copyright which they possess in the donated papers to the University. Transfer of copyright also makes it possible for the Libraries to make digital access copies of the materials available online where they can be used by researchers worldwide.

Appraisals for Tax Deductions
In certain circumstances, it may be possible for a donor to take a tax deduction for the donation of a collection. Donors are encouraged to speak with their tax accountants or attorneys about this possibility. By law, University staff cannot give tax advice or appraise the monetary value of a collection. We are able to provide donors with a list of appraisers, but it is the donor's responsibility to arrange for and bear the cost of any appraisal.

Collection Storage and Care
To ensure their protection and preservation, collections are stored in environmentally-controlled, secure, closed vault areas, and do not circulate outside of the Special Collections. Staff members retrieve collections for research use in a supervised reading room. 

Staff arrange and describe collections according to archival best practices. Descriptive guides are created for each collection, facilitating research use. Records for each collection are placed on the Special Collections website, and in the Libraries online catalog. These records are shared with national databases, such as WorldCat, to allow researchers to identify and locate the collections that are owned by Florida State University Libraries.

Monetary Support
Preserving valuable collections and creating online guides for their research use is expensive.  Donors who are able to do so are encouraged to provide financial support for the arrangement, description, and preservation of their papers or collections. Monetary contributions are also sought to support the acquisition, digitization, exhibition, and promotion of collections.

If you are interested in making a monetary donation to support Special Collections, please contact Susan Contente, Director of Development for the Libraries, by email or by phone (850) 645-8312.

The information in this page is based, in part, on resources developed by Yale University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Image: The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, part of the Kelmscott Press Collection (1896)

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