Donate a Collection

The Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS documents the history and culture of Jewish institutions and families of New England and beyond.

Why should I donate a collection to the JHC?

Many people may think the history of their family or organization is insignificant, but your papers tell a story! Correspondence between your great-grandfather in Poland and your grandfather, a new immigrant to Boston, can illustrate the experiences, treatment, and daily life of new Americans in the 19th century. Your mother’s diary can illuminate the experiences of young Jewish women growing up during World War II. Meeting minutes from your local synagogue can reveal changing liturgical customs and rituals in the Boston Jewish community. No matter how mundane you may think they are, these papers all tell a story, and by donating your papers, your history becomes part of the community—and even the nation’s—collective memory.

Not only does the community gain when you donate a collection, but donating to the JHC benefits you, too. The JHC keeps your papers safe and preserved in perpetuity with:

  • The use of archival-quality storage materials, including acid-free folders, boxes, and protective photo sleeves.
  • Environmentally-controlled storage, which regulates temperature, relative humidity, and light exposure—all things that can damage your papers.
  • The services of a professional conservator who can treat and/or repair damaged or fragile items.
  • The migration of files off digital media devices (flash drives, hard drives, CDs, floppy discs, etc.) to digital storage systems in order to preserve continued access to such files.

And finally, donating your papers to the JHC also provides access to your family and/or organization’s history for students, genealogists, professors, writers, historians, journalists, and many others.

What kind of records does the JHC collect?

Per our collection policy, the JHC collects family papers, business records, and institutional or synagogue records that document Jewish life and culture in Boston and greater New England. Types of records collected include correspondence, meeting minutes, brochures, financial documents, diaries, news clippings, newsletter, reports, photographs, negatives, slides, and scrapbooks.

Is the JHC the right repository for me?

Selecting the right repository for your papers is important. If you are thinking of donating a collection to the JHC, ask yourself if your materials fit within the JHC’s collection policy. As stated above, the JHC collects family papers, business records, and institutional or synagogue records that document Jewish life and culture in Boston and greater New England. We currently do not take collections that have no link to New England.

If the JHC is not the right repository for my papers, can you recommend other archival repositories to which I can donate my papers?

Some other repositories include:

Should I get an appraisal?

In certain circumstances, donating a collection entitles you to a tax deduction. The staff at the JHC cannot give any advice on this nor can we appraise the value of your collection. We can provide you with names of local appraisers who, for a fee, can appraise your donation. It is up to you to arrange and pay for the appraisal. It is helpful to get your collection appraised prior to donation and after selecting items for donation.

Will you take everything I want to donate?

We will not take donations that do not fall within the scope of our collection policy, including collections that have no link to Boston or New England. Even if your papers do fit within our collection policy, there are instances where we cannot take certain materials if we do not feel that we have the resources or the space to properly care for them. Hopefully you can find another home for these items. We are happy to talk to you about specific items and our ability to take them.

Who has access to the collection once I’ve donated it?

Generally, we allow public access to our collections, unless the donor or the archivist has placed restrictions on certain materials. We will destroy any documents that contain sensitive or confidential information, or restrict them, if their content is crucial to the overall collection.

The JHC can also work with you if you would like certain material to be restricted indefinitely or for a set number of years. We can also work with you if you prefer that some materials, while not restricted to the public, not be digitized and published online.

Must I donate money along with donating the collection?

Donating money along with a collection donation is not required but is always appreciated and encouraged. Your financial contribution helps support the preservation activities for your collection.

How should I prepare my archival materials?

To prepare for your donation to the JHC, remove items that the JHC cannot or will not take. If there are many duplicates of the same item in your collection, remove all but two copies (or one original and one copy).

Identify any materials you may want restricted or that may contain sensitive or confidential information. You should also identify any materials that you want to be available to researchers, but that you do not want digitized and published online.

If possible, identify people and places in photographs, and date the photographs, even if you only have a broad range. A date range is better than no date. You can identify and date photograph using pencil; write lightly on the back of the image.

For digital records, you should create a summary description of any files you are donating, along with an inventory of digital files. Create file names that include date, location, and context, and use open formats like PDFs, TIFFs, and JPEGs.

We are happy to go through the process with you.

What is a deed of gift and why do I have to sign it?

If you do decide to donate your collection to the JHC, you will need to sign a deed of gift. A deed of gift is a formal and legal agreement between a donor and a repository that transfers the ownership of and legal rights to the donated materials. A deed of gift that has been signed by both the donor and the repository establishes the legal status of the materials. Click here for more information.

Who should I contact to donate a collection to the JHC, or to find about more information?

You can contact JHC manager Stephanie Call at stephanie.call@nehgs.org or at 617-226-1241.

Some More General Resources:

Donating Your Personal or Family Records to a Repository
Donating Your Organization's Records to a Repository
A Guide to Deeds of Gift