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Donation Considerations

Ask Archives and Special Collections

The primary purpose for a collection residing in an academic library is to facilitate its use for research and learning. The University Libraries seeks to make its collections as discoverable as possible with available resources, including, but not limited to, staff, facilities, and financial support. Ensuring that collections fit the Libraries’ collection scope and can be appropriately cared for and managed is critical before an agreement to acquire new collections will be considered.

Content & Scope

  • Does the subject matter(s) represented in the collection align with and/or complement the current Libraries’ collections as well as areas of OHIO curricular emphasis?
  • Is the collection the photographer’s complete body of work and /or is the donor willing to consider donating a partial body of work that aligns with criteria for the Documentary Photography Archive?
  • What is the prominence of the photographer and/or does the photographer have a connection to OHIO, Athens, or the southeast Ohio region?
  • Does the collection include corresponding documentation that helps explain and document the work and business of the photographer?
  • What are the prospective donor’s expectations for stewardship of this collection(s)?

The Documentary Photography Archive acquires 19th-20th century photography collections that distinctly support the study of historical and/or unique photographic processes in documentary photography, including formats, technology, and technique, and for which the content closely aligns with Ohio University curriculum. It also seeks documentary photography collections, especially those based in social documentary and photojournalism, that specifically relate to and complement other
materials held in the Mahn Center for Archives & Special Collections.

Most of our researchers are interested in a particular story, event, place, or historical moment rather than a photographer’s entire body of work. Careful consideration is given to acquiring portions of work that match the Library’s mission to access and instructional needs so that the department can better allocate resources for increasing access, discoverability, and instruction with collections.

Format & Extent

  • What is the size and scope of the collection, including physical and digital? What are the storage needs?
  • Does the current arrangement of the collection facilitate access? Is an inventory available?
  • Is the collection that is being proposed for donation inclusive of all materials that it will ever contain, or will there be future incremental additions?

Knowing the format and extent of materials is imperative to ensuring that collections are appropriate for the Libraries. As a steward of unique rare and archival materials, the Libraries must adequately be able to store, manage, and implement safe access and handling measures. Format and extent details, including preservation concerns, allows the Libraries to assess whether acquiring the material is in the best long-term interest of both the donor and the Libraries. Collections that are expected to be ongoing require additional collection management and resources which must be factored into any acquisition decisions.

The Documentary Photography Archive is housed at Hwa-Wei Lee Library Annex, a high-density storage module on Columbus Road which provides limited space for text and media of all types in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment for text and media of all types. Current improvements needed at this facility for the Documentary Photography Archive include:

  • Renovated space with specific temperature controls and/or refrigerated storage
  • Appropriate shelving and storage containment for a variety of formats
  • Preservation supplies and equipment

Located on the College Green, Alden Library is the most convenient location for student researchers. Therefore, renovated space in Alden that could properly accommodate selected collections or portions of collections, particularly for class assignments and projects, will be necessary.

Support & Costs

  • What is the condition of the collection and what are the costs of its immediate and future arrangement and preservation needs?
  • Is the donor able and willing to financially support processing of the collection or the archive in general?
  • Does the donor expect materials to be digitized and made available online, and, if so, how soon does the donor expect this to occur?

Balancing the costs and labor needed for in-depth processing and digitization with the desire for high levels of online user interaction and discoverability is always a significantly difficult measure to achieve. Like all special collections, the depth and breadth of the work special collections staff are able to invest in a particular collection depends on a variety of factors, including available gift and endowment funds, the impact on the work of our students and faculty, the demand on the materials by researchers, the skill sets of our staff, the availability of quality out-sourcing options, rights issues, and technology needs. Currently, the Libraries are in need of:

  • Large amounts of electronic storage space with appropriate backup mechanisms
  • Asset management software for appropriate storage, arrangement, description, and retrieval of digital formats
  • Funds to support the continuous refreshment of digitization equipment

Access, Use, & Rights

  • Is the donor willing to transfer intellectual rights at the time of property rights transfer?
  • Are special conditions, if any, requested by the donor, contrary to our use and access philosophies, or would those expectations in any way alter workflows or cause inefficiencies?

The University Libraries makes all its materials open for use to any on-site researcher and actively seeks to match researcher needs with collections, as well as to broaden researchers’ knowledge of the collections through promotions and exhibits. The Libraries increasingly engages the OHIO community, especially students, with our collections.

In the ideal scenario, full property rights and intellectual rights are given to the Libraries at the time of the transfer of materials. If the Libraries make any of the materials available online to the public, it would be done in such a way as to protect the integrity of the image, but also allow for research and study of the material. Generally, re-use of the material without alteration and with proper attribution to the photographer and the archive would be allowed.

Knowing that some photographers may be interested in donating their property to the Libraries, but also may need to protect revenue streams, the Libraries will negotiate terms of copyright transfer, but a designated timeline for copyright transfer, agreed upon by both parties in the deed of gift, is required.