Connect With Florida Memory

Donating Personal and Family Papers to the State Archives

  1. Are my old papers, photographs, or other documents important?
  2. What does the State Archives of Florida collect?
  3. Should I donate my papers to the State Archives, to a local historical society, or should I keep them?
  4. Can I donate copies and keep my originals?
  5. Can I sell or loan my papers to the Archives instead of donating them?
  6. Will the Archives appraise my collection for tax purposes?
  7. What will the Archives do with my donation?
  8. Will my donation appear on the Florida Memory website?
  9. How can I donate my papers to the Archives?

1. Are my old papers, photographs, or other documents important?

If you have ever looked through old family photos, letters, diaries, sound recordings and other documents to learn what your family was like before you were born and to help you recall the events of your own life, then you understand how important these records are for preserving your family's history. In the same way, records such as these can be important in preserving the history of a community, a state, or even a nation, allowing us to learn about life in the past, and allowing future generations to learn about life in our times.

For this purpose, the State Archives of Florida collects, preserves, and makes available for research the historically significant records of Florida's territorial and state governments as well as private manuscripts—that is, collections of personal and family papers and photographs such as yours. To accomplish this, the Archives accepts donations of historically significant collections that provide information about the way Floridians have lived throughout the region's history, how Florida communities and society developed, the people and events that shaped Florida's history, and the role of government and its relation to the people of Florida.

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2. What does the State Archives of Florida collect?

The Archives collects original letters, diaries, financial records, land records, legal documents, photographs, sound recordings and other records and papers of Florida individuals, families, churches, businesses, institutions, and organizations. The Archives is particularly interested in complete collections providing significant and unique information about Florida's civic, social, religious, governmental, political, military, economic, or educational history and development, and materials that document native populations and early European exploration and settlement of the state.

In evaluating potential donations, the Archives looks for materials that meet accepted archival appraisal criteria such as completeness, readability, credibility, uniqueness, and condition, to ensure that researchers have access to information that is both useful and usable.

The Archives does not collect artifacts, newspapers, books or other publications, commercially-released audio or video recordings, or non-Florida-related materials.

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3. Should I donate my papers to the State Archives, to a local historical society, or should I keep them?

The history of Florida is heavily rooted in local communities, events, and people. These local events and activities often have broader implications, reflecting issues, attitudes, and developments well beyond their immediate area. Unless your papers document something that clearly has only local importance—for instance, a particular neighborhood in the community finally got sewer lines installed after years of bitter infighting among local politicians—then they are potentially of interest to the State Archives.

Some types of records, such as individual certificate-type documents (e.g., great-grandpa's deed to the old homestead or Uncle Fred's medical school diploma), are usually primarily of interest to the family but rarely have significant historical value since they are not the original or official record of an activity or transaction, but are symbolic representations of that activity. However, a collection of personal papers that includes some of these certificate-type documents might be of potential interest, depending on the informational content of the collection as a whole.

If you have materials you think might have historical value, State Archives staff would be very happy to hear from you to discuss your materials and determine if they would be appropriate for the State Archives collections or would be more appropriately preserved at the local level or in the family.

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4. Can I donate copies and keep my originals?

Just as museums prefer to collect original artifacts rather than reproductions, the State Archives prefers to collect original records and papers rather than copies. Archives researchers prefer to use originals both for their readability and so that they can be assured of the integrity of the materials they are studying.

The Archives will be happy to provide you with, free of charge, scans or photocopies of any small collection that you donate, or copies of selected materials from any large collection that you donate. In exceptional cases, the Archives will accept high-quality copies of very significant materials should a donor be unable to part with the originals.

The Archives will accept photographs on loan, scan and copy the originals, and return to the donor. Strict archival guidelines necessitate Archives staff digitize, and/or copy, the originals in house. Digitally born images (those taken with a digital camera) must be a minimum of 300 DPI at 5”x7” size.

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5. Can I sell or loan my papers to the Archives instead of donating them?

The State Archives has no acquisition budget to purchase collections and relies on the goodwill of citizens who share our interest in preserving Florida's history to build its historical manuscripts research collection.

The Archives can best use the limited resources available for preserving and cataloging records and making them available to researchers by only collecting records which will remain permanently in the Archives and permanently available to the public for research. For this reason, the Archives does not accept deposits of collections on loan.

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6. Will the Archives appraise my collection for tax purposes?

The Archives cannot appraise donated materials to determine their fair market value since we are considered an interested party in the transaction. Such evaluations do not meet the IRS definition of "qualified appraisal." To qualify as acceptable for income tax use, the appraisal must be performed by an objective, qualified appraiser, unconnected with either the donor or the institution, hired for this purpose by the donor.

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7. What will the Archives do with my donation?

The Archives will store donated materials in archival, acid-free containers and folders in our secure, climate-controlled storage facility. Archivists will describe and catalog donated collections and will post descriptive information about them in the State Archives of Florida Online Catalog. Archivists will remove duplicates, items that do not have historical significance, and items that do not fit our collecting scope, and will return those materials to the donor or otherwise dispose of them in accordance with the donor's wishes.

The Archives will make donated collections available for viewing by researchers in our public research facility and will, upon request, provide researchers with copies from the collections, unless such copying is specifically prohibited or would endanger fragile materials. A wide variety of researchers uses our historical records collections, among them historians, educators, students, genealogists, print and broadcast journalists, filmmakers, government officials and employees, and attorneys.

The State Archives uses items from its collections in exhibits displayed at the Archives' research facility, such as those in recent years concerning Florida government, lawmaking, and elections; women's history; the Spanish American War centennial; and African-American history. The Archives also places items from its collections on the Florida Memory website, which utilizes original documents, photographs, and other collection materials to illustrate significant moments in the state's history, provide educational resources for students of all ages, and make collections available for historical research.

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8. Will my donation appear on the Florida Memory website?

The State Archives cannot offer display on Florida Memory as a condition of donation. Because digitization to archival standards requires extensive staff and financial resources, the State Archives is able to digitize and place on Florida Memory only a fraction of the collections we hold. These are usually collections that have exceptionally great historical significance, support a planned display theme, are heavily used, and/or cannot be accessed in their original form due to their fragile condition.

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9. How can I donate my papers, photographs, or other documents to the Archives?

You can contact the Archives by phone, email (archives@dos.myflorida.com), or U.S. mail to discuss donating your historical records to the Archives. You are welcome to make an appointment to bring historical materials to the Archives for review or to send copies of such materials to the Archives for evaluation. Archives staff will be happy to visit you at your home or organization to review your materials.

Donors are asked to sign a Deed of Gift (PDF, 10kb 3 pages) transferring to the State Archives legal custody of the records and any copyright interests they hold in the records, thus allowing the Archives to make the records fully accessible to the public for historical research.

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