Course:2: Acquiring Your Collections
Lesson:Lesson 4: Acquiring Historical Records and Establishing Legal Control of Them
Topic:Legal Control: Deed of Gift Agreements

Deed of Gift Agreements

A deed of gift is a signed document that outlines a voluntary transfer of ownership of specific records without money changing hands. The records being transferred to you are a gift, and the deed of gift documents that fact.

A deed of gift doesn't have to be fancy or long; it can be simple and straightforward. But it does have to be specific.

Many programs use a standard deed of gift form that can be modified to meet special circumstances. 

gift box

To view a sample deed of gift, click here.

For additional resources on appraisal and accessioning, click here.


Using a standardized form simplifies the process for the staff and tells the donor that you are running a well-established historical records program.

The elements of a deed of gift usually include:

  • Name of the donor and the relationship of the donor to the records creator
  • Name of the recipient of the records
  • Date of transfer of ownership
  • Summary details on the records being transferred (titles, dates, amount, and general description)
  • A specific statement that transfers rights to the physical and intellectual property. (It is vital to detail the name of the person or organization that holds copyright to the records and the time period covered under copyright.)
  • A statement of access restrictions. (Sometimes collections are closed for a period of time during which users cannot access the records.)
  • Disposal criteria and authority. (What are the options and procedures your program must take if you decide to dispose of any of the material?)
  • Dated signatures of the donor and the recipient

This may seem pretty formal--it is! The deed of gift is a binding legal contract. Your legal counsel should review your deed of gift forms, as well as any deed of gift that deviates from your normal template document.

After a deed of gift is completed, you should send a letter of acknowledgement to the donors to confirm the donation and thank them for it.

Resources icon

Click here to view a sample Deed of Gift. This sample is a very formal version. We also have a simplified blank form that you can adapt and use for your own program.


Thank you note
Be sure to send a letter of acknowledgement to the donor.