October 14, 2015

Collection and Archives Overview and Guidelines for Donating Materials

Collection Overview

The National Museum of American Jewish Military History collection is made up of over 5,000 artifacts. The collection includes objects from nearly every American military conflict, with the bulk of the collection relating to World War II. The three-dimensional object collection is stored in climate-controlled storage areas and is used for exhibition, loans to other museums, reference, and research.

Archives Overview

The National Museum of American Jewish Military History archival collection contains substantial materials related to American Jewish military history from the Civil War to the present. The collection includes original photographs, letters, diaries, films, military documents, newspapers and manuscripts related to Jewish-American military history. The archives also contain materials relating to the history of the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. (1896-present), The archival collection is stored in climate-controlled storage areas and is used for reference, research and in exhibitions when appropriate.

Acquisition and Accession of Materials

Objects may be added to the collections by either gift, bequest, purchase, exchange or any other transaction by which title to the objects passes to the Museum. The acceptance of objects to the Museum will be based on the following priorities:

  • to strengthen collection areas in which the Museum has a direct use in present or projected research or in current educational or exhibition programs; those needed to fill gaps or supplement objects of lesser quality;
  • to broaden the base of already-established collection areas or immediately adjacent to a previously established one;
  • to obtain collections of a general nature which are within the broad interests of the Museum.

The Museum cannot accept objects upon which restrictions are placed which prevent effective research examination, exhibition use, loan or disposal. The Museum also cannot accept objects on conditions which would require that they be placed on permanent or long-term exhibition loan, or that the collection of which they form a part should be kept together permanently and/or displayed only as a discrete collection.

Guidelines for Offering Materials

What materials are accepted by the Museum?

The National Museum of American Jewish Military History is continually seeking to improve its permanent collection of photographs, archival materials, and three-dimensional objects. Specific items are added to the collection if they have historic value and are not already well-represented in the collection. The growth of our collection is largely dependent upon individual donations.

WE ARE NOT ACCEPTING

  • World War 2 artifacts (uniforms, medals, axis weapons and flags, etc.). The Museum has a substantial collection of WW2 artifacts and we are not seeking any additional artifacts from the WW2 era at this time.
  • Newspapers.
  • Movies. We do not accept VHS, DVD, or Blu-ray copies of commercially produced movies. We do accept personal oral histories recorded on all media.
  • Medals. Though exceptions may be made in the case of particularly rare medals, the Museum is generally not able to accept medals.
  • Models (Tank, Ship, or Airplane). The Museum is unable to accept manufactured models or models built from kits.
  • American flags (burial or presentation).
  • Weapons. At this time, we are unable to accept firearms or edged weapons.
  • Materials relating to the Ladies Auxiliary of the Jewish War Veterans. If you have materials pertaining to the JWVA, please contact the Ladies Auxiliary office at 202-667-9061.

WE ARE ACCEPTING

  • Photographs, Letters and Journals. We will accept digital or good copies of photographs (though we prefer originals). Photographs must be captioned or in some way identified (who, where, when, etc.). Photocopies, low-quality copies and internet printouts are generally not suitable donations on their own—only as backup personal information.
  • As each scrapbook is unique, they are evaluated for acquisition individually. We do not collect scrapbooks full of newspaper clippings not directly related to you or your veteran. We might disassemble scrapbooks in a manner consistent with preservation methods; the original structure will be preserved through photocopies. Please do not assemble archival materials into a scrapbook before donating.
  • Service Documents. We will accept copies or original discharge papers, along with any other military records.
  • Uniforms (Korean War and later, or pre-World War 1). We are seeking a limited selection of uniforms worn while in performance of one’s service, not necessarily uniforms only worn while on leave or issued upon discharge. Please send us a photo and service information.
  • Yearbooks, Unit Histories and Newsletters.
  • Materials relating to the Jewish War Veterans of the USA. We will accept a limited selection of archival records and captioned photographs pertaining to the activities of the JWV. We cannot accept post banners, uniforms, or caps.

EXCEPTIONS AND CONSIDERATIONS

Items accompanied by a World War II-era photograph of the person who collected the item, a personal account of any length and/or copies of available service documents are more likely to influence an item’s acceptance; however, every offer is judged on an individual basis. We are always looking for artifacts with a good story.

How do I offer materials to the Museum?

Do not send materials at this time. Please fill out a donor questionnaire, available online or by writing to the Collections Manager at National Museum of American Jewish Military History (1811 R St., NW, Washington, DC 20009) or e-mail to pelbe@nmajmh.org. Fill out the donor questionnaire, including as much background information as possible. Return the questionnaire to the Collections Manager, who will review it and contact you with a response.

What will happen after the Museum receives the questionnaire?

The information you provide regarding the materials offered for donation will be carefully reviewed to decide whether or not the materials will be accepted. Two primary criteria are used to determine whether an offered item should be accepted into the collection:

  • Will the artifact be of interest to present and/or future historians and visitors?
  • Is the artifact already well-represented in the collection?

What is done when an object is accepted into the collection?

A formal letter of acknowledgement will be sent by the museum to the donor. Enclosed will be a Deed of Gift form which needs to be signed and returned to complete our records and to make the donation a legal transaction. The Deed need not be notarized.

When an item is accepted into our permanent collection, it becomes available for study by researchers, historians, writers and other interested parties. The Museum does not accept any item with the stipulation that it must be exhibited. All objects are considered for inclusion in exhibitions when appropriate.

Is my donation going to sit on a shelf, never to be displayed?

What visitors don’t see on display is just as important as what they do. In telling the story of World War II we depend on a large collection, of which only a small percentage can ever be displayed. Once an object, document or photo is donated, it immediately becomes available to staff and researchers who are working on a variety of projects.

When will my donation be on exhibit?

The Museum does not guarantee artifacts will ever be exhibited. Once an object, document or photo is donated, it immediately becomes available to staff and researchers who are working on a variety of projects.

Will my donated shadow box stay together?

No. Most shadow boxes are not of the archival quality mandated for museum collection storage. Our goal is the long-term preservation of artifacts. To meet that goal, we must house all our artifacts in ways that prevent them from deteriorating. The fabrics, glues, and mounting materials in shadow boxes will likely do significant damage to the items inside over time. To prevent this, we will dismantle the shadow box, and store the individual items according to museum best practices.

What is done with artifacts donated to the Museum?

The NMAJMH uses artifacts for exhibits organized and displayed in the Museum, short-term loan to other museums, and for research by historians, authors, documentary film producers and students.

Will the Museum staff appraise artifacts for donors?

No. The Internal Revenue Service considers such activity by a 501c(3) a conflict of interest. Although the National Museum of American Jewish Military History is not allowed to perform appraisals, all gifts are tax deductible. It is not our policy to recommend an appraiser, however, the American Society of Appraisers is a nationwide organization which may be of some assistance.

American Society of Appraisers

PO Box 17265

Washington, DC 20041

703-478-2228

Appraisers Association of America, Inc.

386 Park Avenue South, Suite 2000, New York, NY 10016

212-889-5404 x 10

aaa@appraisersassoc.org

www.appraisersassoc.org

If you plan to get an appraisal for artifacts, please get them photographed, photocopied and/or appraised before sending them. The NMAJMH does not offer these services.

Can I see my items if they are not on display?

Donors are welcome (with an appointment) to bring family members to view their donations if they are not on public display.