Museum Policy Regarding Acquisitions (Donations and Purchases)

The Museum seeks to enhance its collections by adding, in a judicious manner, those objects that are appropriate to the Museum’s mission, officially adopted by the Board.  The Museum will acquire and preserve materials of the highest quality possible that will promote a deeper knowledge and understanding of Western American art and culture, American heritage, and pop culture.

The Collections Committee, comprised of Museum staff and Board Members, evaluates all potential acquisitions, and decides whether to approve or disapprove a given item.  The Committee considers acquisitions by gift, bequest, exchange or purchase.

Works of art, objects, photographs and archival materials are accepted when certain criteria are met:

  • The objects are relevant to and consistent with the purposes and activities of the Museum as stated in the mission (exhibits, research, and/or educational programs).
  • The Museum must be able to provide for the storage, protection, and preserva­tion of objects under conditions that ensure their availability for the Museum’s purpose and in keeping with accepted professional standards.
  • The objects are in reasonably good physical condition or can be conserved within the Museum’s resources.
  • All donations are considered outright and unconditional gifts to be used at the discretion of the Museum.
  • The materials or objects must, if possible, be documented as to provenance.
  • If you would like information about making a donation to the Museum, please contact Lisa Wheeler, Director of Curatorial Services, at

When a potential donor approaches the Museum with objects that he/she wishes to donate, an Incoming Temporary Deposit Receipt is completed for all items for which the Museum is taking temporary custody.  Potential donations are periodically reviewed by the Collections Committee to determine whether to accept or reject the materials in question based on the Museum’s acquisitions policy.  After a decision has been reached, the potential donor is notified of the Committee’s decision.


Staff members of the Museum may examine artifacts brought to the Museum by the public. However, following written Museum policy, staff members may not authenticate, appraise or otherwise evaluate any object for insurance, commercial, or other purposes. The Museum may examine potential donations but will not offer any appraisal.

 Choosing an Appraiser

In cases involving potential gifts to the Museum above certain dollar amounts, regulations of the Internal Revenue Service require that a third disinterested party perform appraisals of tax-deductible gifts to non-profit institutions, such as the Museum. Additional information can be obtained from the following associations:

Appraisers Association of America                   AAA   212-889-5404

American Society of Appraisers                          ASA    800-272-8258

International Society of Appraisers                   ISA     206-241-0359

Matters that you should consider, and request information about, include the following:  expertise, credentials, written contract, signed statement of disinterest, appraisal documentation, type of value (fair market, replacement), fee and whether the appraiser has liability insurance.

Special note:  When contracting for appraisal services with a dealer, be aware that the dealer might be interested in purchasing the item or items at or below wholesale cost.

With respect to the appraisal fee most appraisers charge based on hourly rates.  For federal tax purposes, it is illegal for the appraisal fee to be based on a percentage of the overall value of the item or items. A feasibility study may be requested of the appraiser to determine whether an appraisal is warranted. In the case of charitable contributions, the cost of an appraisal might be tax-deductible. To find out specific requirements for claims, you should contact your local IRS office or your tax accountant.