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Guidelines for Donating to the Special Collections

Introduction Donation Resources
Collection Goals Legal Provisions
Preservation and Access Tax Benefits
Donations and Transfer Appraisals


Want to make a cash donation?  The Washington State Library will happily accept donations made online via credit card or through the mail. For more information, click the button below: 

        If you want to donate materials, then please read on...



The Washington Territorial Library was established in 1853 by Territorial Governor Isaac Ingalls Stevens to collect and make available – in the words of Pacific Northwest historian Hazel E. Mills – “a reasonably well-rounded general collection of reference works and books for the educational and pleasure reading of officials, legislators, and other citizens of Washington.” Today the State Library, as it has been known since 1889, maintains the distinction as the first American library in existence north of the Columbia River.

To continue this commitment to the citizens of Washington, the Special Collections of the State Library regularly collects and preserves those materials that are identified as rare or valuable through their scarcity or uniqueness and are within the scope of established collection goals.

This document outlines those collection goals, and serves as a guide to those individuals who are interested in enriching the collections either through donation or through sale of items.

Collection Goals

The State Library collects materials related to the history of Washington State, Oregon or Washington Territories and the Northwest Region in the following research areas:

  • Native American history and mythology,
  • North Pacific maritime and overland exploration,
  • European and Asian immigration and settlement,
  • Missionary activities,
  • Government and incorporation,
  • Northwest arts and culture,
  • Northwest-based fiction,
  • Northwest authors,
  • Artists' Books.

Artists' books?  What exactly does that mean?  For a definition please consider the one supplied at

Special Collections and manuscripts accessioned by the Washington State Library may include memorabilia, records, printed documents, photographic images, maps, graphic materials, and other historically significant materials in other physical forms. Some examples:

  • Pacific Northwest region books, brochures, pamphlets, leaflets, broadsides, et cetera.
  • Washington Territorial and State newspapers or periodicals.
  • Manuscript collections not generated through the government of the State or Territory of Washington. These collections may include correspondence, business records, scrapbooks, proof sheets, clippings, and ephemera.
  • Historic Northwest region maps.

Preservation and Access
Special Collections' emphasis is on the long-term preservation of all materials accepted into the collections. Therefore, the materials do not circulate outside the Special Collections area. Access to all of the Special Collections is available to members of the public in a supervised reading room. Materials are stored in closed stacks in a climate-controlled facility that is protected by an electronic security system. The historical resources of the Washington State Library are available for public use on the premises during regular business hours, unless otherwise specified in the donor agreement.

Materials are selected for preservation in the Washington State Library Special Collections primarily because of their historic or research value. Materials accessioned will generally document the history of Washington State and the Washington and Oregon Territories that preceded statehood, consisting of current-day Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Western Montana; and some materials on the history and culture of Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory. Historical material accessioned by the Washington State Library may include memorabilia, records, printed documents, photographic images, maps, graphic materials, and other historically significant materials in other physical forms.


Donations and Transfer of Ownership

If all parties agree that the Washington State Library is the appropriate repository for a donation, then the Special Collections Librarian will work with the donor to arrange the physical transfer of the material. An instrument of donation outlining the terms and conditions of the donation will be sent to the donor for approval and signature, along with a letter acknowledging the gift.

To discuss options for materials you wish to donate, please contact us by email: [email protected] or by telephone: 360.704.5221.

Gifts to the Special Collections are considered outright donations to be used in the best interest of the Washington State Library. Donations become the sole and irrevocable property of the Washington State Library Special Collections.

No individual or institution can predict or govern the changing attitudes of future generations, nor guarantee permanency beyond the best available preservation procedures. The State Library reserves the right to re-evaluate and reappraise historical material in its holdings and to de-accession them when appropriate. De-accessioned collections and items weeded from collections during processing, due to duplication, irrelevance, limited use, or deterioration, will be offered to the original donor or an agent of the donor if so requested at the time of donation. If the donor wishes not to reclaim the material or cannot be located, the Special Collections reserves the right to offer the material to other depositories or discard the items. Any material declared expendable must be approved by the Special Collections Librarian.

Donations of historical material to a public research facility may be tax deductible. However, the Washington State Library Special Collections cannot appraise donations for tax purposes. For the protection of the donor, it is recommended that such appraisals be done by a disinterested third party and before title to the material is conveyed to the Washington State Library Special Collections.

Unless otherwise restricted by copyright or by the donor and agreed to by the Washington State Library Special Collections at the time of acquisition, all literary rights are conveyed to the Washington State Library. All donor access and use restrictions and conditions will be specified in the donation agreement. The Washington State Library will assume no responsibility for abuse of literary or copyright restrictions by users of research materials.

Assignment of copyright is often a very complex issue in donation. The copyright may be owned by the creator, his or her heirs, a syndicate, the publisher, or another party. The original copyright owner maintains the copyright of all donated materials, unless copyright ownership is expressly transferred to the Washington State Library Special Collections. The Washington State Library Special Collections may own the physical object (letter, original research, et cetera) but not the copyright.

Donation Resources

Information about donating to libraries and archives is available at the Society of American Archivists website. See A Guide to Donating Your Personal or Family Papers to a Repository and A Guide to Donating Your Organizational Records to a Repository.


Legal provisions

The Revised Code of Washington [RCW 43.07.370] stipulates that Special Collections, as a division of the Office of the Secretary of State and part of the Washington State Legacy Project, “may solicit and accept gifts, grants, conveyances, bequests, and devices of real or personal property, or both” for the purpose of conducting the State Legacy Project, archival activity, Washington state library activities and/or development of the Washington State Heritage Center. The Washington State Administrative Code [WAC 132G-168-070] grants that certain materials are maintained in Special Collections due to format, subject, rarity, et cetera. Borrowers should consult the Special Collections Librarian concerning conditions of use for State Library materials placed in Special Collections.

Tax Benefits
Gifts to the Special Collections are considered charitable contributions. The fair market value of donated materials (gifts-in-kind) is tax-deductible in most cases. One exception is that artists are currently prohibited by law from deducting the fair market value when donating their own artwork. Please consult your tax advisor for advice on charitable deductions. Information is also available at Internal Revenue Service.

The Special Collections Librarian cannot provide appraisals for materials offered as gifts-in-kind because the Internal Revenue Service regards the State Library as an interested party to such contributions. In general, an appraisal is not necessary for gifts-in-kind valued at less than $5,000 by the donor. Additional information on appraisals and qualified appraisers is included in Internal Revenue Service Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, which must be filed by persons claiming the donation of a gift-in-kind valued at more than $500. The Washington State Library is obligated to provide the donor with a copy of the Internal Revenue Service Form 8282, Donee Information Return for the Sale, Exchange, or Other Disposition of Donated Property. If a donor wishes to research appraisers, the American Society of Appraiser’s Accredited Appraiser Search at may prove to be a useful resource.