Sunday, March 27, 2016

Donations

Had an interesting genealogical experience last week that I want to caution you about!  I’m all over the web – you can find my blog, website, email, public tree on Ancestry, FamilySearch, Find-A-Grave, etc. and I’m visible for several reasons:

·         I strongly believe my ancestors’ information and stories should be shared with anyone who cares to learn about them.
·         I LOVE genealogy, history and family stories so I joyfully research and investigate the past.
·         I’m more interested in preserving what I discover than gaining monetary compensation for my efforts.
·         Collaboration works for me!  I like connecting with others who are interested in the same lines that I am; if I’m not visible how are they going to find me?
·         I understand if you don’t share these views; I’m not going to try to convince you to change your mind so don’t try to do that to me.

With that said, here’s what happened -  I received an email message that someone was trying to contact me via a public posting forum.  I went to the site and the individual was requesting contact information for the deceased’s living relatives, though it didn’t say why.  I responded publicly to contact me via my email to discuss as I don’t give out living people information, other than my own, in a public manner.

I soon received an email from a small museum who wanted to know who the next of kin was as the deceased had donated an item that the organization no longer could display.  The museum needed to know if the family wanted the item returned or if they could sell it and keep the proceeds. 

I responded what my relationship was to the deceased but they wanted a blood relative.  Using the tools of the genealogy trade, I found a living adult child who didn’t want the item and emailed the organization that they could sell it.

So, now you have the background of the bigger issue here – what happens to items that you or your loved ones’ donate.  This experience jarred me because I never really thought about a museum discarding items.  I donated a lot of old sheet music to a local museum about 15 years ago because they were trying to grow their collection and we didn’t have the room for it.  If they decided to sell it I’d be fine with that.  Although ancestors owned the sheet music I wouldn’t consider it an heirloom.  When I gave it away I didn’t think about asking for it back if they couldn’t house it any more.  In my head, you give it away and you have no rights to it any longer.  Apparently, the deceased thought differently!

If you plan on donating items you need to educate yourself before you give.  Check out these links:  http://www2.archivists.org/publications/brochures/donating-familyrecs



 and definitely check out the organization you’ve planned to give to BEFORE you make that donation.  Ask

·         Does the organizations short and long term goals mesh with the items being given?  If not, they may not want to keep them long term.
·         Do you understand the documents you’re going to sign?  Check with your lawyer and accountant before you make the donation.
·         Is it clear what will happen to your items in the event the museum no longer wants them? 
·         If there is a provision to return items, how will the organization get in contact with you or your descendants?

Definitely food for thought while your devouring your chocolate bunny today!

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