What? An Archives Wants My Stuff

Well, not really my stuff, they want my grandparent’s stuff, but how awesome is that?!

My genealogy collection includes a large number of items that belonged to my grandmother Beatrice (Jordan) Dever and on a smaller scale her husband John M. Dever. This ‘stuff’ includes their own personal records but also photographs, letters, scrapbooks and guest books from their involvement with organizations like the Rebekahs, the Montreal Traffic Club, Oddfellows, etc.

I have kept all this memorabilia through many moves, storing it safely tucked away on shelves in my home. Who sees it? No one except me on the odd day that I bring it down and sift through it.

Maybe it would be better off at an Archives, safely away from possible damage (fire, flood, bugs, etc.), or what if something happened to me? Would my family value this ‘stuff’? I shudder at the scenarios that pop into my head. Now all those reasons are solid ones as to why I want to donate this collection but the biggest reason for me to have it housed at an Archives is to make it accessible! How accessible is it in my house? Especially when these records have a broader interest than my own family history.


Rebekah collection resized

An overview of what is in the collection


Next step to donating is to find out if an Archives is even interested. With some encouragement (thanks, Gail), I made contact with the McCord Museum in Montreal, as this was the city where my grandparents lived. Their Archivist was away but recently she sent me an email and let me know that the McCord Museum would be happy to be the home for this collection! Exciting news!

Distance is a bit of an issue as I cannot come down and show them what I have, so we have emailed back and forth and I have sent photographs of various items as well as a description of what is in the collection.

I also asked questions and I thought people may be interested to know what to ask an Archives when giving a donation. The obvious first question is do they want what you are offering, but if they say yes, here are some questions to ask:

  1. Where will the records be held and what kind of storage facility do they have? Make sure the facility is well equipped against disaster.
  2. Will they create a Finding Aid for your donation?A Finding Aid is a description of what is in the collection. Will it be available on-line? Hopefully, you will get a yes.
  3. How long until your records will be processed? Sometimes this can be years.
  4. I have bibles that are from the organization with inscriptions, would they be interested? Not all Archives are interested in bibles as they can take up a lot of room. Sometimes they will photocopy the inscriptions and give you back the bible.
  5. Ribbons & pins, are they interested? Not all Archives will collect these items so it is important to check, especially if you want the collection to stay together as a whole.
  6. What do they do with the discards? What if there is a duplicate item or something they do not want? You can request to have them returned to you.
  7. How will people be able to access the records? Will it be fully digitized? Do they have a reading room for people to come and view the collection? You want to make sure that others will be able to see the collection.
  8. Do they offer a tax receipt? If this is of interest to you I recommend asking about this upfront.


Rebekah pins resized

Pins from the collection

We still have to decide how to get the collection from Alberta to Montreal safely, but that is for another day.


I look forward to the day that this collection will be safely in the capable hands of the staff at the McCord Museum and available for everyone to view.

All in all, I would say this is pretty awesome!




  3 comments for “What? An Archives Wants My Stuff

  1. September 20, 2017 at 8:00 am

    This is a lovely article on donations to an archive. May the Bath (Maine) historical society possibly reprint the article in our newsletter?

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 20, 2017 at 8:02 am

      Thanks Brenda, you absolutely can, please just credit me.


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