“How-To” guide for preparing your records for donation

The Archives and Special Collections is a modern and publicly accessible repository and our collections are used by a broad range of individuals from a wide range of disciplines, including teachers and students, independent scholars, writers, journalists, and community activists.

Why donate?

Records can provide essential clues to the past. It is through archival records (in all formats) that researchers are able to study and understand much about our history. When you donate your records, you are contributing to society’s collective memory. ARCS provides a secure, environmentally controlled space to ensure the long-term preservation of archival material.  Equally, we provide research access to the contents of the records for future users.  

What to preserve

Often potential donors are modest about what they have to donate, especially if it involves their own work or accomplishments, thinking “who would be interested in this”? It is important to remember that to be historically significant, records need not be “old”, and they need not relate to a famous individual.

Please do not take any steps to sort or cull your records before speaking with ARCS staff.  Often records can communicate information and perspective in a variety of ways. Archivists are trained at identifying material that has long-term value. It is possible that once staff have done a preliminary review of your offer, the archives may not accept all of it. 

Typically, archives are interested in records that tell the story about what you did, what activities you were involved in and who you are.  Records could include: 

For individuals:

  • Correspondence
  • Manuscripts of published works authored by you, and any other notes, memos, etc.
  • personal diaries
  • articles and reports authored by you
  • photographs
  • personal video or audio recordings

For organizations:

  • articles of incorporation, bylaws, policies
  • executive board and committee minutes
  • correspondence
  • planning documents
  • summary financial documents
  • reports and briefs
  • newsletters
  • press releases

Archives are not interested in the following:

  • Financial records (bills, receipts, invoices), and taxation records, especially those at a low-level.
  • Copies of other people’s publications and articles.
  • General publications such as newspapers and magazines (or clippings from these) unless organized as specific subject files and related to your work.

Ready to donate?

When you are ready to donate, it would be very helpful to us if you could provide some basic information about yourself and the material you would like to donate.

Please provide the following:

  1. Name of the creator

Indicate the name of the person/family or organization that holds the records and either is the creator of the records or knows about the creation of the records.

  1. A short biography or history of the creator of the records

In the case of an individual/family: Dates, family and personal history, professional and personal activities, awards, etc. In the case of an organization: Dates, mandate/mission, main activities and achievements, etc.

  1. The records and their context

It would be useful if you can provide a short description of the activities that are documented within the records and the context of their creation. Also, any information about the records themselves and their content, how they have been accumulated, organized, stored, etc.

  1. The date range of the records

Indicate approximately the time range covered by the documents. It could be precise, for example, 1962-1984 or more general, for example, 1960s.

  1. An overview of the types of the records (or a detailed listing if you have it):

Providing a detailed list or inventory of the items in the donation does take time, but it can be extremely useful and helpful for the archivists.  If you are unable to complete a detailed listing, please give a general overview of the types of records and the approximate amount. Types of records could include correspondence, personal diaries, photographs, documentary art items, sound recordings and moving images maps and plans, scrapbooks, notes and reports, meeting minutes, by-laws, policies, memos, pamphlets, buttons, articles and papers and any records that document personal life and professional career.

If you are donating electronic or audiovisual material, we ask that you also complete the Electronic and Born-Digital Records Transfer Form or the Audio-Visual Transfer Form.

  1. Extent of the records

It might be difficult to assess the extent of your records, however we ask for an estimate. It could be the number of boxes, the number of cm of documents, items, etc.  For example:

  • The donation consists of correspondence, pamphlets, photographs and sound recordings in 2 banker’s boxes.
  • The photographs consist of ca. 100 colour photographs and 3 sound recordings on 3 audiocassettes with copies on a DVD.

Donation Agreement

When an offer of archival material is recommended for acquisition, a donation agreement is negotiated between the Archives and Special Collections and the donor. This covers the ownership and custody, terms of use, access and copyright, possible restrictions, and any other pertinent information.

Delivery of the material

Once the donation agreement is signed, arrangement will be made for delivery of the material to ARCS.  Please not that the donor is responsible for shipment and any shipping charges.  Transfer of electronic records will be arranged between the donor and the digital archivist. 

For any questions regarding our policies and procedures or if interested in donating archival records, please contact:

Archives and Special Collections
University of Ottawa Library
65 University Private, Room MRT039
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 613-562-5800 ext. 3453

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