Manuscript Collection

A Donor's Guide to the Manuscript Collection

At The State Historical Society of Missouri we strive to provide our patrons with a wide range of documentation for research use. To serve our varied clientele - among them scholars, students, genealogists, journalists, and the general public - and to keep pace with their changing interests, we must constantly add to our holdings of both historic and contemporary materials. Remember, today's events are tomorrow's history.

People considering donating their own or their family's papers, or seeking a home for records of organizations to which they belong, have many questions, both philosophical and practical. The questions vary with each collection, depending on its content, ownership, condition, and location, but some of the most common concerns, and our answers, are listed below.


  1. What is the Manuscript Collection?
  2. What do you want?
  3. Why would you want my papers?
  4. Why should I donate them?
  5. Can I loan them instead of give them?
  6. What will you do with them?
  7. Can their use be restricted?
  8. What is copyright and why does it matter?
  9. Will I still have rights to them?
  10. Will they be kept in the library?
  11. Will they be safe?
  12. Can I take a tax deduction?
  13. Can you tell me what they're worth?
  14. How will I get them there?
  15. Do I have to go through them first?
  16. Will you keep everything?
  17. Can I have them back?
  18. Is there a charge?
  19. How can I contact you?

1. What is the Manuscript Collection?

The State Historical Society of Missouri's Manuscript Collection, with the exception of such specialized repositories as the State Archives, the Truman Presidential Library, and two branches of the National Archives, is the state's major repository of original, historical, documents.

2. What do you want?

Documents appropriate for the Manuscript Collection include, but are not limited to,

3. Why would you want my papers?

We are committed to documenting as fully as possible the history of our state and its people in all their diversity. In addition, we collect on a national basis in several fields that mirror the interests of University of Missouri faculty. The strength of our holdings adds to the reputation of the University of Missouri and the State Historical Society of Missouri as major research institutions. Your papers may contribute another unique piece to the mosaic we are trying to assemble.

4. Why should I donate them?

We offer both a secure environment and a professional staff to process and provide reference to your papers. In addition, the institutional context of the University and the State Historical Society assures that they will be located with related collections and secondary sources that will enhance their value, and placing them with a research institution insures that they will not be lost from view; rather, they will be used and appreciated by a wide audience. Finally, making papers available so that those who come after can learn about and understand their contributions is one of the finest and most long-lasting tributes that can be paid to either individuals or groups.

5. Can I loan them instead of give them?

No. The Society cannot invest public resources, including staff time, supplies, and space, to processing, housing, and providing reference to materials that do not belong to us.

6. What will you do with them?

The collection will be accessioned shortly after it is received and a deed of gift has been executed. This involves reboxing and preparing a preliminary inventory of its contents. This preliminary inventory serves as the initial finding aid to the collection. The level of further processing required is determined collection by collection, based on such considerations as condition and size. For example, papers must be unfolded and flattened, and framed items removed from frames. Scrapbooks and albums may need to be dismantled for preservation purposes. The collection may be separated into series, each of which will be described in a scope and content note that is part of the finding aid.

7. Can their use be restricted?

Perhaps. If a collection includes sensitive materials, it may be restricted for a period of time. There must be a date or situation at which the restriction will be lifted, however. The Society reserves the right to restrict sensitive materials at our own discretion should such items come to light during processing.

8. What is copyright and why does it matter?

Copyright refers to ownership of the contents of a document rather than ownership of the physical item itself, and resides with the creator of the document unless he or she has legally transferred it to another person or institution.

9. Will I still have rights to them?

Yes and no. You relinquish your rights of ownership and copyright, but have the same right to use the materials that everyone else enjoys.

10. Will they be kept in the library?

Not necessarily. Approximately half of our holdings are stored off-site at the University of Missouri Records Center. It is a secure, restricted-access building with controlled environmental conditions, and provides daily pick-up and delivery service. In addition, our collections may be loaned to our branch offices on the other three campuses of the University of Missouri for patrons to use at those locations.

11. Will they be safe?

Yes. The Society stacks, like the Records Center, are restricted. While we are eager to make our holdings accessible to researchers, they are used only on premises under staff supervision. All researchers must present identification, complete various forms, and state their research topics before being given materials. They must abide by rules governing their use.

12. Can I take a tax deduction?

Perhaps. Tax law is subject to change, but currently it may be possible for you to take a deduction for materials that are not self-created. Consult your tax accountant and refer to IRS publications 526 and 561 and form 8283.

13. Can you tell me what they're worth?

No. We cannot legally perform appraisals for tax purposes, due to potential conflict of interest. You may wish to obtain the services of a professional appraiser, as indicated on IRS form 8283. The appraisal fee itself may qualify as a tax deduction.

14. How will I get them there?

Materials may be sent through U.S. mail or via UPS. In some cases, Society staff will go to pack and transport collections.

15. Do I have to go through them first?

If you wish to help by pulling duplicate and extraneous items, by all means do so. However, we prefer to make the final decision on what to keep so that we can evaluate items within the context of the entire collection and our other holdings.

16. Will you keep everything?

Not necessarily. We will not retain duplicates. Some items may be photocopied or microfilmed, and the originals disposed of.

17. Can I have them back?

If you wish to have us return duplicate or inappropriate items or those we do not retain in their original form, you may stipulate in the deed of gift that they be offered back to you at the time we are ready to dispose of them.

18. Is there a charge?

No, there is no charge to the donor for processing or storage. We do, however, gladly accept donations to our gift and endowment funds and for special projects sponsored by our office.

19. How can I contact you?

There are several ways you can contact us. You can use the phone number or address listed at the bottom of the page or you can use the Donor form.