Donor Guidelines

Donate your archival material

Dalhousie University Archives collects certain archival (unpublished) material in all forms and languages. It must be created in Nova Scotia or relate to Nova Scotia's history and culture. If you have items to donate that support our archival program, then we may want them for our collection.

We consider items based on rarity, age, physical condition, and how they fit in with other items in the collection.

Contact us

If you have questions about donating archival material, please contact:

Donation process

The archival donation process usually follows four stages:

Preliminary stage

  • Donor offers archival material
  • Preliminary discussions between donor and Archives (could include request for additional information or certain terms and conditions before proceeding to formal negotiations)
  • Archives responds (e.g., decline offer, expression of interest, referral to another heritage institution)

Formal definition stage

  • Donor and Archives finalize terms and conditions related to donation
  • Sign donation agreement

Transfer stage

  • Move physical material to the Archives
  • Transfer electronic material into the Archives’ digital preservation system

Validation stage

  • Archives confirms successful transfer
  • Archives provides donor with written confirmation of successful transfer

What you can donate

We collect archival material in many formats:

  • letters and diaries
  • photographs
  • drawings and paintings
  • sound and audiovisual recordings
  • maps, charts, and architectural plans
  • business records
  • datasets

Digital records

If you offer digital records, ensure that they:

  • can be read by us and are not written in a code that prevents access
  • have been checked and found to be virus-free
  • do not contain digital signatures, passwords, or other technological protection measures (TPM)
  • are not mixed in with other types of archival material
  • do not contain self-updating macros and fields (such as dates)

If digital archival material is acquired on obsolete storage devices, the files will be transferred into our digital preservation system. The University Archives cannot return digital storage devices (e.g., external hard drives, flash drives, floppy disks, etc.).

Organizing your material

Archivists need the material to be in the same order in which it was stored so that they can understand how it was used. General advice includes to:

  • Keep items in the original order
  • Keep envelopes with letters
  • Do not put material into binders
  • Do not remove any material
  • Do not remove paper clips, staples, fasteners, file folders, plastic covers or sleeves

Please contact if you have any questions before organizing the material.


The University Archives will not accept archival material that includes insects, food, mould, feces, and other contaminants. Any material received by the University Archives and found to include such contaminants will be securely destroyed.

What you need before you offer archival material

If possible, gather the following details to help us understand your material:

  • Who created the material?
  • When was it created?
  • What is it about?
  • What is the provenance (origin) of the material?
  • Who is the current owner?
  • Can this person or organization give legal ownership of the item permanently to Dalhousie University?
  • Where is the material located?

How to offer

Complete our Offer Archival Material form. Email the completed form and any associated documentation to

After you offer

We cannot accept every offer of archival material. Our staff may suggest that you contact a national, provincial, or regional archive, or another heritage institution, instead.

Archivists may also respond with a preliminary expression of interest and come back with some additional questions, such as:

  1. How should we move the material? How much will it cost and who will pay these expenses?
  2. Who will hold copyright and moral rights after the donation?
  3. What should archivists do with received material that is not selected for long-term preservation in the University Archives?
  4. Do you want the Archives to impose access restrictions on any material in your donation?
  5. Do you require a tax receipt for your donation of archival material?

These additional questions will help the archives determine if it is feasible to proceed with a formal donation agreement.

If your offer is accepted

If the University Archives accepts your donation of archival material, our staff will work with you to:

  1. Finalize plans to move the material.
  2. Finalize copyright and licensing plans.
  3. Establish a time limit before certain material can be accessed. The archivist responsible for your material will help you decide on time limits.
  4. Prepare a written agreement to transfer ownership of your material.

Adding material to our collection

Our staff will review your archival material and may only select some items for the collection. Any items that are not selected will either be returned to you or destroyed securely. Staff will then process the material according to archival standards and practices. Items will be listed in our online Archives Catalogue and stored for long-term preservation.