Donating Your Collection

The Museum's Collections

Additions to the Museum's Collections are made in conformance with the Museum's 1998 Scope of Collections Statement. The Museum's Collections are divided into four distinct sub-groups: the two-dimensional Documentary Collection, the small Three-Dimensional Artifact Collection, the Full-Size Locomotive and Car Collection, and Architectural Elements.

Briefly, the Library or Documentary Collection is the broadest collection spanning railroads and railroading in North America from the 1830s to date. The Three-Dimensional Artifact Collection and Architectural Elements are more restrictive, comprising objects from railroads, railroading, railroad history and technology from circa 1830 to the present with an emphasis on California and the West.

Due to the size of the artifacts and the high cost of associated care, the Full-Size Locomotive and Car Collection is the most restrictive group additions must strongly support the Museum's primary interpretive themes with a particular emphasis on California and the West.


As a unit of California State Parks, the Museum's Collections are governed and managed in accordance with the California Department of Parks and Recreation's Department Operating Manual (DOM) Chapter 2000 and the practices, procedures, and forms contained in DPR's Museum Collections Management Handbooks, Volumes One and Two.

The Museum's Curatorial Staff has the day-to-day responsibility for the care and use of the collections. Museum Staff manage the collections in full compliance with professional standards governing the ownership and responsibility for maintaining and documenting cultural property.


It is the Museum's preference to own and have full, clear title to all permanent collections held by the institution. The Museum also places a high value on owning all associated copyright, literary and intellectual property rights associated with objects and materials which it holds.

The Museum places a high priority and value on owning original, authentic and well-documented original collections as opposed to reproductions, replicas or fakes.


Additions to the Museum's permanent collections are made very consciously and cautiously. Decisions on additions to the Museum's Collections are carefully made by the Museum's Curatorial Staff.

At the present time, the Museum accepts less than half of the artifacts and documentary materials offered for donation. If materials are declined, Museum Staff attempt to suggest other appropriate beneficiary institutions.


Incoming loans are entered into only when there is a very specific need or program, where outright gift is not an immediate option, or in instances where temporary loan or custody will likely lead to eventual Museum ownership.