Two hands in blue latex glove hold a whale tooth carved with a bird and images of ships and the sea

Object Donation Information

Learn more about the process of donating an object, artwork or specimen to the museum's collection.

Interested in donating to the South Carolina State Museum's Collection?

Read on to learn more about the acquisition process and find answers to frequently asked questions, then fill out an Object Information Request Form.

Please DO NOT bring unsolicited objects to the museum or send unsolicited donations through the mail.

Once the online form is received, the curatorial staff will contact you. They will work with you to decide whether the object meets the museum’s collecting criteria. Some of what they will consider includes:

        • What is the object’s connection to South Carolina?
        • How is it related to the museum’s mission and its strategic goals?
        • What is the object’s significance?
        • Can documentation (written or oral) on the object be found?
        • Does the object need conservation work?
        • Does the object support the existing collection?
        • What is the object’s exhibit, research, or educational potential?
        • What impact would the object have on available storage space?

The museum may request a firsthand inspection of the object. If so, we will work with you to make those arrangements and you will be given a Temporary Custody Form. This is a receipt indicating the date you deposited the object with the museum and the reason you are leaving the object with us. It does not give the museum ownership of the object.

If the object meets enough criteria, the curator will present it to the internal Acquisitions Committee. This committee is made up of staff members knowledgeable in both the scope of the museum’s collection and the conservation issues associated with artifact care. Their decision will be guided by the Collections Management Policy and informed by the museum’s current goals for acquisitions. After examining the proposal, the committee will vote on its acceptance, and the curator will notify you of the committee’s decision.

If the committee does not approve the donation, please do not take it personally! The museum has a limited amount of space to house collections in perpetuity. As a result, the Acquisitions Committee is very selective about what it agrees to accept for donations. If your piece is not accepted, staff will attempt to help you find another, more appropriate place to donate your object.

If the committee approves the donation the curatorial staff will arrange delivery of the object with you and you will receive a Temporary Custody Form. This is a receipt for depositing the object at the museum and not the final paperwork. The museum staff will then begin the acquisition process and accessioning your donation, which creates the permanent record for the object. Once complete, you will receive a Deed of Gift in the mail. You must sign and return a copy of this form, which verifies that you are the owner and that you are transferring ownership and all rights to the State Museum. On this form, you can indicate how you would like to be credited so if the object goes on exhibit or out on a loan, we will be able to properly list you or your designee as the donor.

Keep in mind for all donations:

  • Federal law prevents the State Museum from providing appraisal values for donated items. Donors are responsible for appraisals of value prior to donation request. Please consult your tax advisor. The museum will issue you a letter of verification confirming acceptance of your donation.

  • All acquisitions are to be outright, unconditional, and irrevocable upon formal and physical transfer to the museum.

  • The process can take several months to finalize.

  • The Museum cannot guarantee that objects donated will be placed or remain on display.



Frequently Asked Questions

The museum rarely accepts items on long-term or indefinite loan. The museum prefers to commit its storage resources to the preservation of materials in the permanent collection. In special circumstances it may accept privately owned material for certain research and short-term display uses.

Items in the State Museum’s collection are often featured through our website and related public communications. Direct access to collection items that are off-view and in storage may be arranged by advance appointment. Please contact 803.898.4954 to make arrangements.

As a courtesy, museum staff will try to inform you of plans to exhibit, publish, or make educational use of your donated item. If you wish to be notified make sure to update your address, e-mail, or preferred method of contact information with the Museum Registrar’s office at 803.898.4954.

The State Museum may, with approval from two-thirds of the South Carolina State Museum Commission at a public meeting, remove objects from the collection through a process called deaccessioning. This process is only undertaken in an effort to improve the collection. These decisions are guided by our Collections Management Policy. Some of the criteria for deaccessioning an object include objects that are damaged beyond repair, have a condition that puts other parts of the collection or the staff and public at physical risk, unnecessary duplicates, objects found to be fakes or forgeries, and objects acquired on the basis of false information. This practice is a rarity and will be undertaken only for exceptional reasons. The museum will not give deaccessioned objects to individuals or return objects to donors. Any proceeds from the sale of deaccessioned material are placed in a restricted acquisition fund to further enrich the quality and scope of the museum’s permanent collection.