The more information you can provide about your objects the better. Museums are interested in biographical information about the person who made or used the object, where it was purchased, how old it is, and what modifications or repairs have been made to it. Anything you can tell the museum about your donation will be helpful in documenting the object's history.
Don't be discouraged if your donation is not accepted. Any museum professional should give you a clear reason why your items are not appropriate for their collection, and they should provide some suggestions of other institutions who might be interested.
Items are usually rejected for one of the following reasons:
If a museum is interested in your objects, they will usually ask you to fill out a form listing what you brought in for consideration. All donations MUST have signed paperwork in order to become part of the museum's collection. You may choose to remain anonymous, but the museum still must have signed paperwork in order to prove that the item belongs to the museum, no matter how small the donation is. The official document that transfers ownership of the object(s) from you to the museum is called a Deed of Gift. All paperwork relating to a donation is filed in the collections records of the museum in perpetuity.
Once the Deed of Gift has been signed, donations cannot be returned to the donor. Please do not offer items for donation to any museum if you are not sure that you want to give up ownership of them. Most museums will not accept donations with any kind of restrictions from the donor. So don't assume that when your children are older they will be able to get the object back from the museum. A signed Deed of Gift is a legally binding document. If you want to hold for future decendants make sure you place the item on loan. There is not tax deduction for a loan of an artifact.
You are entitled to a tax deduction for the appraisal value of your donation. Museums are not permitted to appraise artifacts. You will receive a receipt for your donation, but you will be responsible for providing the IRS with an appraisal value.
If you have an artifact in your possession, please consider making a donation to a museum, where visitors can enjoy it for generations to come.