Donate Objects

How To Donate Items to LancasterHistory

LancasterHistory maintains a collection of materials which represent the history of Lancaster County, the life and legacies of President James Buchanan, Thaddeus Stevens, and Lydia Hamilton Smith, and the decorative arts traditions of Lancaster County.

New items are acquired in a number of ways, including donations from the public. Before an item is acquired for our collections, it undergoes a rigorous review process.

About The Legacies of Reconstruction Collection Initiative

Exterior of the Thaddeus Stevens & Lydia Hamilton Smith Historic Site and the Kleiss Tavern on South Queen Street.
The Thaddeus Stevens & Lydia Hamilton Smith Center for History and Democracy

LancasterHistory is currently developing the Thaddeus Stevens & Lydia Hamilton Smith Center for History and Democracy, set to open in 2025. This exciting project will result in a new museum and educational center located at the former home and law office of Congressman Thaddeus Stevens on South Queen Street. The museum will honor Stevens’ antislavery activity, his leadership during the Civil War, and his work during Reconstruction, the post-war period in which Americans reimagined the nation as one that could truly live up to the values of freedom, equality, and democracy which were written into America’s founding.

However, the fight for equality did not end with Thaddeus Stevens. To celebrate the broader history of which Stevens was a part, LancasterHistory is launching a new initiative to collect materials that tell the long story of freedom, equality, and democracy in Lancaster and around the nation from America’s founding to today. The Legacies of Reconstruction Collection will be held at LancasterHistory alongside 2 million other documents, photographs, books, and artifacts that tell the story of our community. It will bring our stories into dialogue with people, organizations, and movements of national significance.

To view what objects we’re specifically soliciting for this initiative, please view the Object Donation FAQ below. If you have an object you’d like to donate towards this collection, please complete the Potential Object Donation Form. Thank you for your interest!

Object Donation FAQ

We’ve compiled a general FAQ about donating objects to LancasterHistory. Please review this FAQ before completing any donation forms or bringing any objects to LancasterHistory directly.

You may also view a PDF version of this FAQ — Object Donation FAQ [PDF, 202kb]

What does LancasterHistory collect?

LancasterHistory collects a wide variety of materials that represent the history of Lancaster County, the life and legacies of President James Buchanan, Thaddeus Stevens, and Lydia Hamilton Smith, and the decorative arts traditions of Lancaster County, including:

  • Historical objects
  • Manuscripts
  • Photographs
  • Books
  • Art
  • Maps
  • Ephemera
  • Oral history
  • Audio/visual recordings
  • Born-digital images, recordings, manuscripts, etc.
What kinds of materials are you collecting for the Legacies of Reconstruction Collection?

The Legacies of Reconstruction Collection is concerned with issues of civil rights, freedom, equality, voting, and democracy throughout American history, on both a local and national level, across all groups of people. The following list is not exhaustive but will offer a sense of the kinds of social movements and events we’re exploring. Among other issues and events, the collection covers:

  • The civil rights movements of the 1960s
  • The Black Power and “Black is Beautiful” movements of the 1970s
  • School segregation and integration
  • The Black Lives Matter movement and protests or activism concerning police brutality
  • The women’s liberation movement and the Equal Rights Amendment
  • Reproductive Rights
  • The #MeToo movement
  • Movements for LGBTQ rights and marriage equality
  • Movements for the rights of people with disabilities
  • The history of citizenship, immigration, asylum, and refugee communities
  • Materials related to voting, voting rights, and democracy including voter registration cards, voter education materials, ballots, sample ballots, and campaign materials

Among other materials, the Legacies of Reconstruction Collection will include:

  • Posters
  • Photographs
  • Flyers
  • Prints
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Bumper stickers
  • Buttons and Pins
  • 3-D Objects

Let us know what you would like to donate by contacting Mabel Rosenheck, Director of Education and Exhibition Planning, by email at or by phone at 717-392-4633, ext. 137.

How do I donate an item?

Please complete this online form or paper form [PDF, 192kb] and a staff member who specializes in the appropriate collecting area will follow up with you to request clear, high-resolution images and/or to meet if LancasterHistory is interested in learning more about the item(s). Donors can also reach out directly to relevant departments.

How does LancasterHistory decide whether to accept a donation or loan?

LancasterHistory considers many factors when reviewing a donation, including, but not limited to, the item's historical or cultural significance; physical condition; whether or not LancasterHistory already owns a similar item or copy; the ability of LancasterHistory to store and care for an item; and the item’s ownership and use history.

Potential additions to the permanent collection go through a rigorous review process and are subject to a vote by LancasterHistory’s Collections Committee. Other donations may be added to the library collection or education collection for public use and educational programming. If you do not wish to donate your item, we still invite you to discuss it with us for a potential loan now or for a future exhibition.

Are donated items accessible to the public?

Yes. Donated items are accessible to the public for research and through exhibitions. Items in LancasterHistory’s collections that are not on exhibit are available for research on-site during regular hours and online on our website. All artifacts are preserved in secure, climate-controlled storage areas when not on display.

Does LancasterHistory ever remove or return objects from its permanent collection?

Donated items are sometimes deaccessioned (permanently removed from the museum's collections) for several reasons, including duplicate items, materials that have deteriorated beyond repair or beyond the reasonable cost of repair, or materials that are considered injurious to health and safety. We do not accept items into the permanent collection if we have a concern that they may need to be deaccessioned.

Items that have been formally accessioned into the collections cannot be returned to the donor or their descendants. At the end of the donation process, donors are asked to sign a Deed of Gift that legally transfers ownership of the materials, as well as all associated rights and interests, to LancasterHistory.

Can I get a tax deduction for my donation?

Donations to LancasterHistory are generally tax deductible. Consult with a tax specialist to determine your eligibility. The staff of LancasterHistory cannot provide a monetary appraisal of your gift, but we may be able to suggest professional appraisers. In most cases, an appraisal of the donated item will be necessary to receive a tax deduction.

Potential Object Donation Form

Click to Fill Out Online Form

Download a paper version of this form to submit. [PDF, 192kb]