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Frequently Asked Questions about Donating Historical Materials

What is a donation?
A donation made to the Naval History and Heritage Command is a permanent and legally binding transfer of objects, records, photographs, books, artwork, etc. between the donor and the organization. For purposes of this document, it does NOT refer to monetary or in-kind donations of time or services.

Can I mail or drop off a donation without speaking to a staff member at the Naval History and Heritage Command?
No, the Naval History and Heritage Command cannot accept unsolicited donations through the mail or in person. Unsolicited items received by mail, though sent well-intended, may not fit within the organization’s collections. Unsolicited material will be returned to the donor.

Why must I send a Donation Proposal Worksheet before I send the items?
The collecting departments at the Naval History and Heritage Command specialize in focusing upon historical materials that represent or tell stories about certain subjects. Several Naval History and Heritage Command museums collect materials about other U.S. Navy history subjects and may be better suited to consider a donation proposal. The proposed items may be reproductions, an example of an item already in the museum’s collection, or may not tell about historical experiences. The worksheets and photos enable the staff to determine if your item is a good fit for our collection.

If I donate my items to the Naval History and Heritage Command, does that guarantee they will be on exhibit in one of the Navy museums?
No, the Naval History and Heritage Command cannot guarantee or promise that any objects or documents donated to its collection will be exhibited, unless expressly collected for that purpose. While the art, artifacts, documents, and photographs donated to the Naval History and Heritage Command are utilized by the various Navy museums, only a small fraction of the collection is on view at any given time. Many documents and artifacts in the collection are not exhibited, but are otherwise used for publicly beneficial research and learning.

How are potential donations reviewed?
Donation offers are reviewed by Naval History and Heritage Command staff members that have knowledge of the scope of the specific department’s collections as well as the conservation issues associated with artifact and document care. In making their decision, staff takes into account the Naval History and Heritage Command’s mission and collecting goals. Additionally, the staff considers the condition of each item and the availability of resources required to store, care for, and catalog the material to make it accessible.

If I donate items, can a relative or I ask for them back in the future?
No, once the Naval History and Heritage Command accepts your donation for the collection, you will be asked to sign a Deed of Gift, which legally transfers ownership of the materials to the organization. The Naval History and Heritage Command cannot return or “lend back” materials once they are legally transferred to the U.S. Navy. 

Can the Naval History and Heritage Command buy my artifacts or documents?
The Naval History and Heritage Command, as a U.S. Government entity, does not have the authority to purchase historical materials with appropriated funds.  

Can the Naval History and Heritage Command appraise my donation for its monetary value?
Naval History and Heritage Command staff is prohibited by law from providing appraisals of the monetary value of materials proposed for donation or for any other reason. Please be aware that some items that are old may have sizable research and exhibition value, but lack a financial value as a collectible. Other items may have collectible value, but little or no research and exhibition value. If you wish to judge the potential financial value of an item for insurance or sale, you may wish to contact a professional appraiser who will appraise historical items for a fee. To find a licensed appraiser in your area, contact:

(1) American Society of Appraisers
(2) International Society of Appraisers
(3) Appraisers Association of America

Does the Naval History and Heritage Command accept long-term loans instead of an outright donation?
The Naval History and Heritage Command does not accept long-term loans on deposit. The organization, as a federal entity, is obligated to commit its resources to the storage and preservation of materials in the collection

I have papers and uniforms and some books, can I submit items from multiple categories?

Yes, contact the repository with the largest part of the items you are wanting to donate. For example if you have more papers than uniforms, submit to the archives. If you are uncertain where to direct the proposal form, please feel free to email it to multiple departments. 

I found this “thing” on a military ship underwater while diving and brought it home as a souvenir. Who do I speak with about it?

Any materials retrieved from a sunken or terrestrial military craft fall under the management of the Underwater Archaeology department. Please consult the Underwater Archaeology Return Program page for answers to any questions.

I want to donate my materials to one of the ten Navy museums around the country.

NHHC museums have their own individual collecting policies and collecting needs. If you would like your artifacts to be exclusively under the care of one of the Navy museums, you must follow their guidelines for donating. Check below to see the museums under the supervision of Naval History and Heritage Command:

Published: Tue Nov 28 10:15:06 EST 2023