Deed of Gift
The deed of gift is a fundamental document for any repository. This agreement, between a donor and the institution, transfers legal ownership of the record/object. The deed of gift should be kept on file permanently as proof of ownership. The document should include: contact information for the donor; a description of the items being transferred; if the materials are copyrighted, the deed should indicate if the copyright is being transferred; what restrictions, if any, will be placed on the use/display of the items; the deed should have provisions for how to deal with unwanted materials; it may contain special provisions for the donor; and it may include details of future acquisitions from the donor. In addition to being proof of ownership, the deed of gift is the record of how a collection came into the repository, showing its provenance—literally its origin.
The deed of gift policy for cultural institutions should include:
- Donor information
Who is donating the items? From time to time donors may need to be contacted regarding their collection. Donor contact information or their legal custodians should be maintained by repositories.
- Physical description
What is being donated? A preliminary inventory provides a brief description of boxes/items in the collection.
- Rights conveyed to the repository
In addition to the transfer of the physical item, the repository should also provide for transfer of copyright or make provisions for future transfer of copyright. If transfer of copyright is not established then collecting donor contact information is essential. The policy should also outline if the repository can transfer materials into other formats such as microfilm or electronic format.
- Access restrictions
Donations without access restrictions are ideal, but sometimes not possible due to legal issues such as copyright or the sensitivity of the records, for example, political collections. The deed of gift should outline all access restrictions and should include a date when all restrictions are lifted. Small repositories should give serious consideration as to whether or not to accept donations with access restrictions. If you do not have much space, do you want to store items that no one can use?
- Unwanted materials and deaccession policy
Most donations are unorganized and contain materials that repositories will not want in the collection. The deed of gift should outline if the repository is free to dispose of materials or if unwanted materials should be returned to the donor.
- Special provisions to the donor
There may be occasions when a donor requests special provisions. The deed of gift should clearly identify any special provisions such as no or reduced copy fees charged to the donor.
- Provisions for future accessions
Donations of some record series are ongoing. The deed of gift should provide for future donations into the existing collection without multiple deeds of gift documents.
Sample Deeds of Gift
These samples are provided as examples of how deeds of gift may be structured. It is up to your local institution to decide what information needs to be included.