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Archives Donation Guide



A Guide to Donating Your Papers to The American Alpine Club

Download the Donation Guide

Letters, diaries, photographs, gear and other material collected by the AAC over the years give vital and unique information about our community’s history and culture. The AAC library, museum, and archives collect material in support of the Club’s mission of knowledge, conservation, and community. The archives preserves collections of written, visual, and audio material created by individuals both past and present. We make sure that these collections will be available for research by generations to come.

Why Are Your Papers and Artifacts Important?

When you donate your papers and artifacts to the AAC archives, your contribution becomes a part of the climbing community's collective memory.  This is how legacies are maintained and the culture of climbing is preserved.

What to Donate

We accept 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". Our collection priority is that the artifact relates to a notable individual, event, or organization. It is extremely helpful if slides, photos, tapes, and films be identified with as much detail as possible to increase their usefulness.

Examples of historically valuable material

A wide range of materials document the mountaineering community. The list below gives some examples:

  • letters & diaries
  • photo albums & scrapbooks
  • speeches & lectures
  • expedition reports
  • photographs, films, slides, audio tapes
  • AAC club work
  • gear

If you or a family member have served the American Alpine Club as an Officer, Director, Section Chair, or Committee member, you may have papers that specifically relate to the Club’s activities. These belong in the organizational archives of the AAC, where they record the Club’s history.

Will we take everything you offer?

Although we might not need everything that may be offered, we welcome the chance to review material; if it is not appropriate for the AAC, we may be able to find another archive to which it could be referred. Contact us before weeding, discarding, or reorganizing your papers and photos.

How Donation Works

Most archives can only invest materials and labor in the preservation of items which they own. Therefore, we can accept donations, but generally will not accept such material on deposit or on loan. Donors are asked to sign a Deed of Gift, which formally signifies that the papers become the actual property of the AAC.

Access to Collections

Once material is donated to the AAC, it generally does not circulate, in order to insure that it is preserved as long as humanly possible. Access to donated papers is governed by our written policies.   Prospective donors should become familiar with these policies and discuss any special needs or concerns with the staff before completing the donation agreement.  Donations may be used in museum and online exhibits, and may be available to researchers upon request.

Restrictions on Access

Sensitive material that may exist in an individual’s papers should not be removed by the donor. Instead, the donor should discuss with the staff the possibility of restricting part of the collection to protect the privacy of the donor or others. While archives desire to make all papers freely accessible to researchers, they normally will agree to reasonable and equitable restrictions for limited periods of time.


Assignment of copyright is often complex, and you should work with the 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 (the letter or photo). We may ask donors to donate not only the physical papers but also any copyright 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.

Conditional Gifts

We are generally 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.

Packing and shipping

Staff can advise you on how best to pack and ship your papers. Certain kinds of collections require extra care. 

Appraisals for Tax Deductions

Donors are encouraged to speak with their tax accountants or attorneys about tax implications of gifts. AAC staff cannot give tax advice, nor are they permitted to appraise the monetary value of a collection. Staff may be able to provide donors with a list of local 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.

Monetary donations.

Caring for collections and preparing them for use by researchers is the most expensive operation in an archive. Donors who are able to assist by making gifts toward the arrangement, cataloging, exhibit and conservation of their papers are encouraged to do so.