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Donate to the Collections

Photograph of a group of boys and men posing in front of a fence.

Are you interested in making a financial donation to the Friends Historical Library? Thank you in advance for your generosity! Please use this financial donation form for Swarthmore College Special Collections and select Friends Historical Library from the drop down menu.

Collection Policy

Our mission is to collect, preserve, and promote the use of materials that document the history of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), its members and attenders, and its principles, such as human rights, peace, and simplicity. 

We acquire records that document any aspect of the history of the Religious Society of Friends from the 17th century to the present. Archives and manuscripts include the official minutes of Quaker meetings, records of Quaker organizations, Quaker family papers and the manuscripts of Friends and associates. The collections of Friends Historical Library also include Quaker books, serials, tracts and broadsides, photographs, pamphlets, and images of Friends and Friends’ meeting houses, born-digital and online resources, and other textual, non-textural, and graphic records. Records are collected regardless of format and are preferred in the format of their creation (whether digital or physical).

While we collect broadly, we prioritize materials on Mid-Atlantic Quakers, Hicksite and Wilburite (Conservative) Quakers, Progressive Quakers, and papers that support research into global Quaker history. The collections contain rich documentation of Quaker social history, women’s studies, Native American history, the anti-slavery movement, social service, and the peace movement, because these represent historic concerns of the Society of Friends.

We work with other Quaker and Philadelphia-area repositories to ensure materials are acquired by the most appropriate repositories. Most collections are acquired by gift. Purchases are made only of materials of outstanding importance. We will accept official Quaker meeting records on deposit with a signed agreement, including the provision that official meeting records may be withdrawn only with a minute from the depositing body or its successor. Loans and deposits are otherwise not accepted. Please see Quaker Meetings + Meeting Records for more information.

Friends Historical Library accepts donations of as little as a single item and as large as dozens of boxes. Material need not be organized; it need not be "old"; and it need not relate to a famous individual, event, or organization in order for it to be historically significant. Historical material itself should not be mailed or dropped off without first consulting with the staff; a repository must evaluate all material offered and ask the donor to sign a donation agreement.


Should I "cull" or reorganize the papers?

Since the research value of records may be diminished if items are removed or if the records are rearranged, please contact FHL staff before weeding, discarding, or reorganizing papers and records. Remember, archivists are experts in identifying materials for long-term value and retention.

What about electronic records?

The Library can accept certain types of digital files. Email to learn more.

Will the Library take everything I offer?

Although FHL may not be able to accept all that you offer (due to staff and space constraints or because the donation may not be within our collecting mission) we welcome the chance to review the material. If it is not appropriate for us, we may be able to suggest another site for your gift.

Will you accept my papers on temporary loan?

FHL can only invest time and materials in the preservation of items with they own (except for Meeting records, which are covered under a depository agreement.) The Library accepts donations of individual or family papers, but will not accept such material on deposit or on loan. Donors are asked to sign a donation agreement, which formally signifies that the papers become the actual property of Friends Historical Library.

Will I be able to have access my donation?

In order to preserve materials for as long as possible, once donated, they do not circulate. Access is governed by our written policies regarding availability, photo duplication, and publication. A prospective donor should become familiar with our policies and discuss and special needs or concerns with the curator before completing the donation agreement.

May I restrict access to my donation?

Sensitive material should not be removed by the donor. Instead, the donor should discuss the possibility of restricting part of the collection to protect privacy with the Curator. While the Library wishes to make all papers freely accessible to researchers, they normally will agree to reasonable and equitable restrictions for limited periods of time.

What about literary rights or copyright?

Assignment of copyright is often complex, and you should work with the repository staff to clarify issues of copyright ownership. Generally, copyright belongs to the creator of writings and other original material (such as photos and music), but can be legally transferred to heirs or others. Moreover, ownership of copyright is separable from ownership of the physical item. Curators often ask donors to donate not only the physical papers but also any literary rights in them that the donor might own. This request is made to make it easier for researchers to use quotations from the papers in their work.

May I set conditions for my donation?

A repository usually is not able to promise that donated materials will be placed on exhibit or used in some other specific fashion as a condition of accepting the gift.

How might I explore a tax deduction for my donated materials?

In certain circumstances, it may be possible for a donor to take a tax deduction for the donation of a manuscript collection to a repository.  The Curator cannot give tax advice, and is not permitted to appraise the monetary value of a collection. The curator may be able to provide donors with a list of local manuscript appraisers who can (for a fee) make monetary appraisals for the donor. It is up to the donor to arrange for and bear the cost of any such appraisal, although the repository will make the collection available to an appraiser hired by the donor.

Adapted from: A Guide to Donating Your Personal or Family Papers to a Repository ©1994 by the Society of American Archivists.