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Donating Manuscript Collections

What We Collect

Rauner Special Collections Library collects a wide variety of manuscripts, personal papers, and records of non-Dartmouth institutions. All of these are loosely referred to as "manuscripts."

The subject areas collected include, but are not limited to: New Hampshire political, social, and economic history; the White Mountains; the "Cornish Colony;" presses and fine printers in New England; the history of computation; papers of Alumni who have made significant contributions to society or whose papers document a particularly important period in, or aspect of, the College's history; British and American literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; as well as papers and records related to the exploration of the polar regions.

If you have materials that you are interested in donating, but are unsure if they fit our areas of collecting, please contact us to discuss your specific donation and see our Manuscript Selection Policy.

Why Donate?

The holdings of Rauner Special Collections Library are primary resources for teaching and research across the Dartmouth curriculum. Dartmouth students use the collections to write papers on a broad array of subjects. These resources provide students with an opportunity to work with primary source materials. Faculty use the materials both for their own research and as examples and teaching tools in the classroom. In addition, these collections are consulted by researchers from the United States and around the world.

With the donation of each new collection, we are able to the increase the breadth and depth of our resources to better serve the educational needs of the College and of scholars who depend on our collections.

What Should I Donate?

While Special Collections is always looking for collections that document the life and work of an individual or the history of an institution or organization associated with the College, we are also happy to receive single items. In general Special Collections staff prefer to work closely with donors to determine what records or documents have continuing historic interest prior to the donation of a collection. The importance of records and documents can diminish if they are reordered or rearranged. Donors are encouraged to contact Special Collections prior to sorting or rearranging materials they wish to donate.

What Has Historic Value?

Personal and Family Papers:
Letters Diaries Scrapbooks
Speeches Research Notes Lecture Notes
Photo Albums Photographs Ledgers
Genealogical Info. Professional Files Video & Audio Tapes
Organizations and Institutional Records:
Articles of Incorporation By-laws Annual Reports
Correspondence Meeting Minutes Legal Documents
Financial Documents Planning Documents Press Releases
Publications Photographs Video & Audio Tapes

Note: This list is not definitive and there may be other types of documents or records not included here that may have continuing research value.

What formats do you accept?

Manuscript collections have traditionally been made up of paper documents and volumes, prints and photo negatives, video and audio tapes, and other physical materials. While Special Collections seeks and accepts many donations that still fit this description, we are also increasingly involved in the collection of digital resources. Donors whose collections document the latter years of the 20th century or the 21st century are likely to have digital materials that are of interest to us. These may include:

  • Computers (laptop, desktop) and tablets (such as an iPad): These may contain digital text files, photos, videos, audio recordings, spreadsheets, databases, and other types of files that document the life and work of an individual or the history of an institution.
  • Storage media (floppy disks, CDs, flash drives, external hard drives, etc.): Some donors may have stored the types of files listed above on digital storage media instead of on their computer or may wish to transfer them to storage media rather than donating their computer.
  • Email: This mode of communication has replaced handwritten letters and memos for many of us, and sometimes documents significant moments in our lives and work.
  • Smartphones: Some donors may have information of enduring value stored on their phones, such as significant text messages and voicemails, or data stored in apps that represent the donor’s life, work, or history. 
  • Cloud accounts: This type of file storage is ubiquitous in the 21st century. Donors may have digital text files, photos, videos, audio recordings, spreadsheets, databases, and other types of files stored in a cloud environment like Dropbox or Google Drive.
  • Websites, blogs, and social media: Information created by and about individuals and organizations is often found on the web and can be added to a donor’s manuscript collection through a process called web archiving. For many individuals, these resources have replaced traditional diaries, journals, and scrapbooks. For organizations, information and documents that were once available in paper form now appear on institutional websites.

When considering a donation, donors are encouraged to consider both physical and digital materials and discuss them with Special Collections.

How Do I Make A Donation?

The first step in making a donation is to contact Jay Satterfield, Special Collections Librarian (603) 646-3712, or Peter Carini, College Archivist (603) 646-3728.

The Special Collections staff may wish to see records before they are physically transferred. In such cases it is best that the records or papers not be rearranged prior to inspection by the staff. Arrangements can then be made for the physical transfer of the records.

Ownership of the records is transferred when the donor signs a deed of gift. While the deed of gift is a standard document, it can be customized to suite the needs of individual donors.

Restrictions on Access

Special Collections encourages full access to all manuscript collections. On occasion access to a collection or specific materials within a collection may be restricted. In these instances, the Special Collections staff will work with the donor to define a reasonable set of restrictions.


Copyright usually belongs to the creator, or the heirs of the creator, of the papers or records. Copyright may be retained by the donor or transferred to Dartmouth College. If you are unsure of the status of the copyright on a donation you should consult with a copyright expert.

Monetary Appraisal for Tax Deductions

Donors may take a tax deduction for manuscript donations not created by the donor. Donors wishing to have more information on this matter should speak with either a tax consultant or an attorney. If you intend to claim a deduction of over $5,000, it is our understanding that the Internal Revenue Services requires a formal appraisal from a qualified appraiser. College policy prohibits Special Collections from providing monetary valuations of collections or individual items, and from hiring an appraiser for you. You can search the Association of American Antiquarian Book Sellers database to find an appraiser in your area. If you are unable to locate an appraiser repeat the search without specifying specialization and try contacting any listed book seller. If they do not perform appraisals they are likely to know someone who does.

Care for Collections

Special Collections is managed by professional archivists and librarians whose first priority is preservation of and access to historic materials. Special Collection staff arrange, describe and catalog collections to ensure ease of access by researchers.

Should a collection require repair or other conservation work, Special Collections will consult with Dartmouth Library's Preservation Services to determine proper handling and treatment. All materials are stored in acid-free containers in secure, climate-controlled areas. No primary source materials circulate and only Special Collections staff may retrieve materials for researchers.

Monetary Donations

The cost of caring for, describing, and providing access to rare and historic materials is extremely high. Donors are encouraged to consider making a monetary donation toward the arrangement, description, and preservation of their donation.

Significant assistance with the text for this section came from A Guide To Donating Your Personal or Family Papers to a Repository, Society of American Archivists, 1994