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A Donor's Guide

The Bancroft Library is dedicated to the preservation of collections of written, visual and audible, and electronic records which are related to California, the American West, Mexico and Latin America, created by individuals and/or groups both past and present to ensure those records will be available for research use.

From diaries, letters, scrapbooks and other documents of many types, as well as from records of recent times such as photographs, film, and computer hard-drives, researchers are able to piece together the history of communities, families, organizations, and specific events of the past.


Generally, records tend to fall into two main groups: records of private individuals and the records of organizations. The written records private individuals contain a variety of material, such as correspondence, legal and financial documents, diaries, scrapbooks, and an array of memorabilia collected in the course of their daily lives. At times, these reocrds span several generations and may include identical types of material from persons who are related by ties of blood or marriage.

Many people underestimate the importance of the records they might have stored in their attic or basements. One must remember that history is not only the record of great names and great events. History is the story of life - whether that be common or uncommon. A person's papers might touch on a variety of topics such as job opportunities, friendships, dating etiquette, clothing fashions, etc. All these help the historian to understand life as it was in a more complete way.

The records of organizations usually include correspondence, reports, minutes, financial and legal papers, printed material and other documentation created by groups in the course of their activities. Those groups might include businesses, churches, clubs, professional organizations, and so on. Organizational records are useful not only for the study of the organization itself but also for the understanding of its locality, personnel, etc.


The Bancroft Library prefers to receive donations as gifts in which, at a minimum, property rights are transferred to the Regents of the University of California. Sensitive material in a collection should be discussed with a Bancroft Curator during the negotiation of the gift. Although the Library strives to make all records open to the public, it will agree to close a portion of a collection for a finite period to protect the privacy of a donor and third-party confidences.

Researchers using records often wish to quote in published form from the materials they have examined. We ask donors to include copyright in their gifts in order to savethe researcher the bother of writing numerous copyright holders for permission to quote and vice versa to save donors the need to answer such letters. Copyright should be discussed with the Curator during negotiation of the gift.


It may be possible for some donors of records to claim a tax deduction for the value of their gifts. The value of records donated by their creators is not currently tax deductible, although such deductions may be made by their heirs or estates. Those who wish to use the value, if any, of their records as a tax deduction should discuss the matter with the Curator and their tax advisor at the time of the negotiation of the gift. An appraisal of the value by an independent appraiser would be required for tax purposes. This issue should also be discussed with the Curator.

If you are interested in donating collections to the Bancroft library, initial contact should be made with:

Steven Black (510) 642-1320

Bonnie Bearden (510) 642-8171

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