Acquisition FAQ

Donation Procedures

How do I offer an object to the Peabody Museum?

Please send a letter or e-mail telling us about your object and whether you are offering it as a gift, for sale, or as a bequest. It will help us greatly if you can enclose photos or digital images. Please provide a description, including materials, date of manufacture and/or collection, and dimensions; verifiable record of authenticity and provenance (history of ownership); and information about any prior treatments with preservative chemicals, such as moth balls or insecticides. If the object incorporates any fish and wildlife components, please include information about permits or other documentation demonstrating that the object was collected, transported, exported, imported, acquired, transferred, and possessed in compliance with all United States and foreign laws. This information can be sent to:

Peabody Museum Research
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
Harvard University
11 Divinity Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138

How long before I learn whether the Museum wants to acquire my object?

Generally, the most time-consuming portion of the acquisition process is gathering information from the donor. We may have to contact you several times before we have enough information for your object to be considered by the Collections Review Committee. Sometimes additional research into legal issues or consultation with outside curatorial experts is necessary, as well. Once we have all of this information, your offer will be considered at a monthly meeting of our Collections Review Committee. After the Committee’s recommendation has been reviewed by the Director, we will contact you with a formal reply.

How does the Museum decide which objects to accept for the collection?

The Peabody Museum has a formal decision-making procedure. Briefly, museum specialists will assess the object on the basis of various criteria and discuss their findings at a monthly Collections Review Committee meeting. A recommendation is then made to the Director who, acting for the University, makes the final decision.

Can I send my object to the Museum now?

Please do not send unsolicited objects to the Museum. We will contact you at an appropriate time to arrange shipping to the Museum.

How is ownership transferred?

The legal mechanism for acquiring an object differs from case to case, depending on how the object is offered.

With a gift, as soon as the Museum has decided to accept the donor’s offer, the donor will be provided with two copies of our Deed of Gift for signature. One of these Deeds is to be returned to us; the other is to be kept for the donor’s own records. Arrangements will also be made for the object to arrive at the Peabody Museum, if this has not occurred previously. When Peabody Museum receives the completed Deed of Gift and the object is in our physical custody, the gift is completed.

With a sale, the object becomes the property of the Peabody Museum once final payment is made. Payment will not be authorized until Peabody Museum receives the object in good condition.

Do you want the intellectual property rights, too?

The Peabody Museum asks that all intellectual property rights that exist in the object be donated to the Peabody Museum along with title to the object. This enables us to publish images on the web and in hard copy and license reproductions. This is a crucial element in the Museum’s best management practices. While Peabody Museum would not automatically decline an object without simultaneous transfer of full intellectual property rights, withholding of intellectual property rights by the potential donor would weigh heavily against our acceptance.

I will make a gift only if I can set certain conditions for my object. Are you still interested?

Our practice and policy is to not accept gifts that come with strings attached. Conditions are often not in line with modern museum practices, may not reflect our constituencies’ expectations and needs, or are at odds with University guidelines. Many museums now find themselves devoting resources trying to adhere to or resolve legacy issues, and we certainly do not wish to create similar problems for our successors.

Can you appraise my donation?

Federal law prevents the Museum from providing identification services or appraisal values for donated items. Donors are responsible for appraisals of value. Please contact the regional branch of the Appraisers Association of America, the American Society of Appraisers, or the Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association directly. The Museum is in no way affiliated with these organizations.

How can I make a contribution to support the cost of caring for my object?

Collections stewardship requires considerable resources of space, materials, and personnel. We are very grateful to donors who understand this “big picture” and contribute funds to support the preservation and accessibility of collections. To make such a gift, please click here.

It’s New Year’s Eve! Can I offer to donate an object today and get a tax deduction for this year?

Unfortunately, no. For year-end donations, all information must be submitted no later than December 1. The Museum has an extended winter holiday and will process last-minute donations early in the following year.