Frequently Asked Questions: Donating Items to the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site Museum Collections

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Sepia toned photograph of two women seated in a photography studio in the late 19th century.
Family photos of the McLoughlin family were donated to the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site museum collection by their descendants.

NPS Photo

What kinds of things are in your museum collection?

The Fort Vancouver National Historic Site museum collection contains over 2 million artifacts! The majority of those have come from decades of archaeological excavations. We also have a large collection of historic artifacts and archives related to the history of our site. Many of these items have been donated to the collection over the years, and include photographs, postcards, furniture, clothing, military items, and much more!

What kinds of things do you accept into the museum collection?

We accept items that are directly related to the history of our site, as described by our Scope of Collection statement. This is a document that all national parks have, and it is very important! The Scope of Collection Statement insures that we limit our museum collection to items that fit our national park's mission and don't overextend our ability to care for them. The different areas of our Scope, and their time periods of significance, are described below. If you aren't sure if your artifact or collection fits in one of these categories and time periods, we can help! Contact Curator Meagan Huff by email or at (360) 816-6255.

Hudson's Bay Company (1825-1860)

Eligible items in this category are limited to well-documented cultural material directly related to Fort Vancouver and its history.

The McLoughlin House and Barclay House (1846-1873)

Eligible items in this category include original objects associated with Dr. John McLoughlin, his wife Marguerite, and their children and grandchildren during the period 1846-1867, when they lived in the McLoughlin House in Oregon City, Oregon. This category also includes items associated with Dr. Forbes Barclay, his wife Maria, and their children during the period 1849-1873, when they lived in the Barclay House in Oregon City.

Vancouver Barracks and Officers' Row (1849-1945)

Eligible items in this category are associated with the U.S. Army's early regional activities at Vancouver Barracks, including the army's departmental headquarters, the Vancouver Arsenal, and the Depot. Appropriate items include original objects used by officers and enlisted men, and their families, at Vancouver Barracks.

Spruce Production Division and Spruce Mill (1917-1923)

Eligible items in this category include items related to Vancouver Barracks' World War I-era Spruce Mill, including mobilization of the mill, labor organizing activities at the site by the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen and Industrial Workers of the World, and the demobilization of the mill after the war.

Civilian Conservation Corps (1933-1942)

Eligible items in this category include items related to the role of Vancouver Barracks as a district headquarters and distribution center for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

Pearson Field (1905-1941)

Eligible items in this category include original objects with a demonstrable connection to Pearson Field. These items may be connected to early aviation experimentation at Pearson Field, activities and personnel of the U.S. Army Air Service at Pearson Field, particularly the 321st Observation Squadron, notable aviation occurrences involving Pearson Field, air mail and civilian activity at the adjacent Chamber of Commerce airfield, and the career of aviator Alexander Pearson.

What can I donate?

If your donation fits into one of the Scope of Collection categories listed above, you may offer to donate objects or archives as long as you own them outright. You must have full legal title to the object(s) and have the full power and authority to donate them to the National Park Service.

I'd like to donate an item to your museum collection! How do I get started? What happens next?

Wonderful! First, contact Curator Meagan Huff by email or at (360) 816-6255 to discuss your potential donation. Please provide a description of the item(s) you would like to donate and, if you can, photos. Any background information you can provide about your items helps us to determine if they will be a good fit for our collection.

Every potential donation to our museum collection must be reviewed by our Collections Advisory Committee. This committee is made up of members of the national park's management team. Together, they discuss each donation and whether it fits into the park's mission and Scope of Collection. Typically, this committee meets twice per month.

The committee may recommend to the superintendent that your item become part of our collection. After final approval by the superintendent, we will work with you to bring the item(s) here. You will be asked to sign a Deed of Gift, which formally transfers ownership of the item from you to the National Park Service.

If the committee feels that your item is outside our Scope of Collection, we may recommend other museums or collecting institutions that we believe would be a good home for your item.

What will happen to my item once it is part of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site museum collection?

Artifacts and archives in the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site museum collection are used in many different ways! Our collection is used by researchers investigating a wide variety of historical topics, and by park staff as they develop public programs interpreting the history of the site. Curatorial staff at the national park also create museum exhibits using artifacts from our museum collection, write articles featuring items in the collection, and share them on social media.

The National Park Service is dedicated to preserving our collection for this and future generations. Our Cultural Resources team is committed to the highest level of care for all the artifacts in our collection. We understand that it can sometimes be bittersweet to part from heirlooms, even when they are safely located in a museum, and donors and their friends and family are always invited to schedule a time with our curators to view donated artifacts in our curation facility.

I'd like my item to be on display, not locked in a drawer!

We wish that we could have every artifact in our collection on display for the public to see! But with a collection of over 2 million artifacts, and in consideration of the preservation needs of many artifacts in our collection, the majority of our collection is stored in our climate-controlled curation facilities. However, there are a few ways that we share our collection while keeping artifacts in storage. Here are a few examples:
  • Artifacts from our museum collection are featured in our online web catalog.
  • Curatorial staff write online articles featuring artifacts in our collection, like those here.
  • Artifacts are shared on social media.
  • Images of artifacts in our collection can be used by park rangers in public programs, or in exhibits when the artifact is too fragile to go on display.
  • Curatorial staff may bring out specific artifacts for special curatorial programs offered for the public, like our Little Learners series and behind-the-scenes collections tours.

That said, many artifacts in our collection do rotate through exhibit spaces, and provide visitors with a tangible, real-world connection to history! Artifacts on exhibit are generally not placed on permanent exhibit, but periodically allowed time to "rest" in storage to reduce the stresses of being on exhibit, especially their exposure to light. It may not sound exciting, but proper storage is a very important part of keeping an artifact in good condition so that it can be on display in the future.

Will I be credited when my donation is on display?

Donor information is kept confidential to the fullest extent of the law. However, if you would like your donation to include a credit line when it is displayed, let us know at the time of your gift. Credit lines should be a short, unobtrusive statement such as "A gift of the J.H. Smith Family."

Is my donation tax deductible?

Yes! Donations to the National Park Service are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law. If you would like your donation to be tax deductible, you are responsible for:
  • establishing the value of the gift for tax deduction purposes.
  • meeting Internal Revenue Service reporting requirements.
  • completing a Noncash Charitable Contributions form (IRS Form 8283)
  • getting a professional appraisal for items that total over $5,000.

National Park Service staff cannot provide monetary appraisals. If you need to obtain an appraisal, you may want to start on the website of the American Society of Appraisers.

Can I donate books to your library?

Yes! Our library is maintained by our curatorial staff, and is used by researchers, park volunteers, and staff. Contact Assistant Curator Meagan Huff by email or at (360) 816-6255 for more information about donating to our library.

I have something I think you would like to use for educational programs or events. Can I donate it?

Yes! While the park's curators maintain our museum collection, our Interpretive Division maintains a Living History collection of items used by reenactors in our events, like Campfires & Candlelight, Soldiers' Bivouac, and Brigade Encampment. If you are interested in donating an item to be used by interpreters, contact Chief of Interpretation Aaron Ochoa by email.

I'm not ready to donate my artifact yet. Can I loan it to you?

We accept artifacts on loan for research and exhibit purposes on a case-by-case basis. Contact Curator Meagan Huff by email or at (360) 816-6255 for more information about loaning artifacts.

My question isn't listed here. How can I learn more about donating items to the museum collection?

We are happy to help you learn more about this process! Contact Curator Meagan Huff by email or at (360) 816-6255 for more information.

Last updated: October 22, 2019

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