Donation - Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about donating personal papers and records.

What are special collections?
Why are you interested in my papers?
My records deal with recent events, say in the last ten years. One couldn't call them historical. Do you want them?
What kinds of papers and research do you want?
My files are a mess. I really would rather sort them first.
What happens to the papers I give you?
Can anyone use my papers?
I'm afraid there may be some items that I don't want people to see.
How will researchers use my papers?
I'm still a little leery of donating my papers.
What are the tax implications for me?
Will the Center appraise my collection?
Are there other ways that I can help the Center of Southwest Studies?

What are special collections?    back to top

The Fort Lewis College archives and special collections are a component of the Center of Southwest Studies specializing in the acquisition, preservation, organization and use of materials that document the history of the College and the Southwest region of the United States, especially the Four Corners area. It is one of the largest research collections on the Southwest in the State of Colorado and one of the few major archival depositories focused on the Four Corners region. Materials in the collections include personal papers of individuals and families, business records of mining, railroad, and other companies, records of fraternal, religious and civic organizations (e.g. Durango Civic Club, American Legion), community action groups (e.g. Durango Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Land Use Commission), local government and political organizations, and similar groups. We acquire the records of defunct organizations, but also the inactive records of currently functioning groups.

Chronologically, the research collections range from microfilmed records in English, Spanish and Native American languages relating to the history of the region from the seventeenth century, to letters of Durango businessmen in the 1890s, and recent water rights litigation files. Recently created materials include newspapers published in the Southwest, environmental studies, maps, photographs, blueprints, audio oral history interviews, and related items.

The purpose of the collection is to provide information for the use of Fort Lewis College students and faculty in their studies, primary sources for the training of students in History, Archaeology, Business, and other areas, as well as materials to support research by the Southwest/Four Corners community. The collections are open to any user. Community researchers have included school students working on history projects, environmentalists studying deforestation, individuals restoring houses or buildings, and industry consultants reviewing previously published materials.

Why are you interested in my papers?    back to top
Historians, researchers, and students of history have found that the history of an area is more often told by unpublished records than by published materials. Unpublished items can include correspondence, reports, minutes, planning documents, financial statements, programs, brochures, newsletters, photographs, and other kinds of personal, organizational and business records.

All people and organizations produce and accumulate these materials. Records of notably influential individuals and institutions are valuable, but so are the papers of the "ordinary" citizen which describe various occupations, social and cultural customs, diet, the weather, and other topics of life in our region. We are approaching you because we believe your records are an important historical resource that should be preserved as part of the historical record of the Southwest.

My records deal with recent events, say in the last ten years. One couldn't call them historical. Do you want them?    back to top
Unlike published books, most papers and records are extremely limited in quantity - perhaps only enough photocopied for a board or for the membership of an organization. Unless we actively locate and save these materials now, they may not be available when they are "historical." We take the long range approach in preserving important records now for the future.

What kinds of papers and research do you want?    back to top
This is a difficult question to answer - first, because there is an infinite list of kinds of records, and second, because a document that might not be important to you could be very important to us. It might be that single missing issue of a newsletter, or a newspaper clipping about an event that other researchers have sought. You can refer to our Collection Development Policy for a scope of the materials we collect.

If I have any materials to donate, how should I proceed?    back to top
Please contact us to discuss your donation. We can make arrangements to meet with you, pack, and pick up the records.

My files are a mess. I really would rather sort them first.    back to top
Frankly, most everyone says this! But it is not necessary to sort the material - we do this as part of the cataloging process. In fact, we would prefer that you keep your materials in their present order rather than disturbing it.

What happens to the papers I give you?    back to top
First, we acknowledge your donation and ask you to sign a Deed of Gift Form. The records will be kept together as a collection with an assigned title and collection and accession numbers. An example is the Ansel Hall Photo Collection (collection number P008, accession number 1992:09003).

Second, we will go through the materials. Maintaining the materials in their original order wherever feasible, we will place them in archival folders, labeled with folder titles, subjects, and dates. Necessary preservation steps will be taken: rusty paper clips removed, and fragile items treated and protected. At this stage, some items may be discarded - blank forms, empty folders, etc., and some items such as large maps and photographs may be separated out to be placed in another location at the Center. Some items which lack historical value or which are outside of our collections scope will not be needed (every group of papers has these). For example, a recent city phone directory or a pile of last year's bills from the dry cleaners. These items can be returned to the donor if requested, or forwarded to other libraries or archives if appropriate, subject to your wishes. There may also be personal items that will be returned to the donor.

Finally, we will prepare an inventory of your collection and give you a copy. We will prepare subject and name indexes for the collection and store the collection in the archival stack areas of the Center.

Can anyone use my papers?    back to top
Yes, all materials, unless otherwise restricted, are made available to any user. We ask donors to include the donation of copyright in their gifts of papers and records to spare researchers the burden of writing to numerous copyright holders requesting permission to quote from their materials, and to relieve donors of the need to answer such requests. Each researcher must register with the Center staff, and only the staff has access to the materials provided to the user for use in the research area. Collections cannot be removed from the Center.

I'm afraid there may be some items that I don't want people to see.    back to top
We can discuss this at the time of donation. It is true that a collection may include "sensitive" items. We have implemented a General Restrictions Policy Statement to guard against the release of confidential information. In addition, we can arrange specific restrictions on use or place a "closed" time on an item. Though these special restrictions on donations are rare, a donor has the right to establish them before the time of donation. We are happy to discuss these with you, and we invite you to examine our General Restrictions Policy Statement.

How will researchers use my papers?    back to top
Actual use depends on subjects and kinds of materials. We have students - high schoolers to doctoral candidates - researching Southwest history, studying its towns, people, institutions, churches, businesses, and historic events. Others are restoring houses, looking for deeds and abstracts, old photographs, or searching for the history of families who lived here.

I'm still a little leery of donating my papers.    back to top
We understand. But we want you to consider that the Center of Southwest Studies has possibly the largest and certainly one of the few major research collections in the Four Corners region. We encourage you to visit us before making a commitment. Come see our facility, observe how we preserve and catalog materials, and see some of the over 340 collections already housed at the Center of Southwest Studies.

We can also discuss other alternatives such as reproduction of papers and photographs so that more than the one original is preserved, or the possibility of deposit or permanent loan as opposed to an outright donation.

What are the tax implications for me?    back to top
Donations are made to the Center's account in the Fort Lewis College Foundation, which is a 501(c)3 charitable organization. Tax laws prohibit a credit for materials created by the donor, but may allow for tax deductions for the gift of other materials (e.g. items created by the donor's predecessors). The laws bar us from appraising the value of your donation, but we can assist you in identifying someone who is qualified to appraise it for you. Donors wishing to use the value of papers as a deduction on a tax return should discuss this with their tax advisor at the time the gift is negotiated.

Will the Center appraise my collection?    back to top
By College and Foundation policy, and in accordance with federal IRS guidelines, appraisals are the sole responsibility of the donor. The Center itself cannot provide appraisals for tax purposes. An appraisal is not necessary for gifts-in-kind valued at less than $5,000 by the donor. Additional information on appraisals and qualified appraisers is included in Internal Revenue Service Form 8283v, which must be filed by persons claiming the donation of a gift-in-kind valued at more than $500. If you wish to obtain an independent appraisal for your piece, please contact one of the organizations listed below for information on how to find a certified appraiser near you. We provide these links only as a source of possible information.

American Society of Appraisers
Appraisers Association of America
International Society of Appraisers

Are there other ways that I can help the Center of Southwest Studies?    back to top
Yes. Ask your friends and professional acquaintances to consider donating records to our special collections, or to contributing funds toward special projects at the Center of Southwest Studies. Do you belong to organizations, committees or churches? Do they have older records they would like to donate?

Would you like to volunteer to work with the collections? Adults of all ages have found great satisfaction in helping the Center tackle a particular project. It might be photographing and inventorying a collection of artifacts, scanning in barcodes to be attached to objects, indexing a ledger or a newspaper, processing a small collection...the list goes on.

Preparing papers and records for use by researchers is the most expensive operation of a repository. Donors who are able to assist by making grants toward the costs of processing their collections are encouraged to do so. Such grants, however, rarely are a prerequisite for the acceptance of a collection.

Even with our commitment to preserve a record of Southwest history through unpublished records, we still have limited resources of staff, facilities and time. By acting on our behalf in encouraging others to donate or by delivering materials to us, you help both us and the cause of historic preservation of Southwest materials.


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Fort Lewis College
1000 Rim Drive
Durango, CO 81301