Details of Donation

Donating Your Collection

The Donation Process

Interested donors are encouraged to contact appropriate Museum Staff to discuss their items proposed for donation to the Museum's permanent collections. Contact numbers and e-mail addresses are found under the heading "Summary and Contact Information" in this section of our Website.

In making a preliminary decision to accept an item, staff considers such issues as relevance, provenance, title, location, intrinsic value, and condition. Upon initial assessment, Museum Staff will indicate whether there is an interest to receive the items offered for donation.

It is the Museum's preference to receive donations at the Museum during normal office hours. In some instances, Museum Staff will give instructions for shipping items or possibly arrange for transport or pick-up of large or valuable donations. Upon physical examination, Museum Staff always reserve the right to decline a proposed donation.

Once the item(s) have been received, Museum Staff prepare an inventory of the donation and forward this together with the Department's standard Deed of Gift forms to the donor for review and signature. Many donors help expedite the collection inventory, gift documents, and the cataloging process by preparing their own advance itemized listing of their donated items.

The donor is asked to sign and return three copies of the final Deed of Gift. An agent may sign for a corporation. In some instances, both husband and wife sign the Deed of Gift forms. Upon return of the signed forms, the donated item(s) move from pending acquisition status to that of donated objects or materials.

Gifts may be made in memory of an individual. The Museum recognizes that some donors prefer to remain anonymous or to receive only a brief acknowledgement letter regarding receipt of their gift.

Once donated, items become part of the Museum's permanent collections. The Museum carefully holds in public trust all items which it has received by donation. Disposal or exchange of any artifact is called a "deaccession" and is made in full conformity with the Department's guidelines for management of interpretive collections. Deaccessions of items in the permanent collection are rarely made.

Use of Gifts

The Museum cannot agree to permanently exhibit any donated item as a condition of donation. Exhibition space constraints limit the number of artifacts which can be exhibited at any one time. Donated locomotives and cars are periodically rotated on display. The new Railroad Technology Museum will afford more opportunities for public access to the Museum's Collection of locomotives and rolling stock.

Currently only about five percent of the Museum's small Three-Dimensional Artifact Collection can be displayed at any one time. Museum Staff draw from the artifact collections for rotating and changing exhibits within the Museum. Documentary, manuscript, books, printed, and pictorial materials reside in the Museum's public research library where, once cataloged, they are available during the public hours of the Library Reading Room. The Exhibit Staff also draws from the Library Collection for rotating and changing exhibits within the Museum as well as for use in publications.

In general, the Museum houses like material with similar types of materials. Upon advance discussions with Museum Staff, large collections may be retained together and specifically identified by the name of the maker, the donor, or the donor's family.

Donated items are marked by Museum Staff with the unique accession number assigned to each donor. Accompanying cash contributions are encouraged to help process, conserve, properly store, and make readily available large and significant donations.

Donor Recognition

Donors to the Museum receive the satisfaction of knowing their donated items become a permanent part of the collections of the California State Railroad Museum at Sacramento and/or at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park at Jamestown. In addition, donors with individual or cumulative gifts of cash or in-kind contributions of collections totaling $5,000 or more are acknowledged by name on the Museum's donor acknowledgement wall in the Museum of Railroad History.

Donors are acknowledged by name and in categories by the estimated total value of their gift(s). The donor wall is generally updated every two years.


If desired, a formal appraisal of a gift is the responsibility of the donor. It is very helpful to the Museum Staff to know early in the donation process if the donor anticipates engaging the services of an appraiser to provide a detailed appraisal for tax purposes. After a review of donated materials, Museum Staff will attempt to provide the names of competent appraisers who can assess the value of a donation for tax purposes, if desired.

Appraisals are generally made on Museum property after the materials have been received, inventoried, and the Deed of Gift forms have been completed by the donor(s). The IRS does not permit the benefiting institution to appraise donated objects. In some instances, Museum Staff may be able to suggest price guides and/or dealer's sales lists for comparable non-unique items such as published books, a railroad lantern, or piece of railroad china.

Donations to the Museum are tax deductible, to the full extent allowed by law, for both federal and State of California income tax purposes.

It is the responsibility of donors to confer with their tax advisors regarding the tax benefits, details, and implications of large donations. Museum Staff cannot offer tax advice. As a general rule, advance formal appraisals are permitted by the IRS only 60 days prior to the actual date of gift. Appraisals may be completed any time after the date of gift as the valuation is based upon the fair market value as of the date of gift. When requested, the Museum Curator will complete IRS Form 8283 covering the receipt of non-cash charitable contributions.