Our museums are full of objects generously donated by members of the public. They range from photographs and paintings, to clothing, vehicles, and much more. This page covers the donation process and explains why we will accept some objects and not others.
What do we collect?
We are part of Portsmouth Museums, which collects objects connected to all aspects of the city and its associated people. This includes local or military history, fine and decorative art, archaeology and natural history. We also run several museums on more specific themes, and therefore collect objects relating to D-Day and the 1944 Normandy campaign (for The D-Day Story), and to objects relating to the author Charles Dickens (for Charles Dickens’ Birthplace Museum).
For objects relating to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, please see the Conan Doyle Collection website.
Our colleagues in Portsmouth City Records Office collect documents relating to the people, organisations, businesses and properties of Portsmouth. If you are unsure whether an object should be offered to Portsmouth Museums or Portsmouth City Records Office, please contact us and we can offer advice.
What should you do if you wish to offer us an object?
Please contact us in advance before bringing any object to the museum. Without prior warning, staff members are not always available to deal with offers to donate objects.
When you bring an item to us we will give you a receipt called an Entry Form, to make sure that we have correctly noted your details and the object’s history. This helps us decide if your object fits in with our Collecting Policy. The Entry Form also gives us permission to look after your object while a decision is made. However, this doesn’t mean that the object is no longer yours. Within four months we will have taken a decision about your object and you will be contacted. We cannot hold objects on Entry Forms for longer than this. If they are not collected after this time, and we have reminded you, we will be forced to dispose of them.
What happens if we decide to take your object into our collections?
If your object is just what we need we will add it – or accession it – into our permanent collections. The object will then be kept safely for future generations, in our ownership.
Items in the permanent collection are used for display and research. Occasionally they may be loaned to other museums as part of exhibitions.
Sometimes we might ask to put your object in the handling collection. This means that it will be used for educational purposes, for example with school children, special needs groups or in reminiscence sessions with senior citizens.
Please note that only in exceptional circumstances are we able to purchase objects.
What happens if we can’t take your object into our collections?
Please don’t be offended! Also, do not hesitate to come to us with another object even if we say no to your first. You might be surprised at what we want to collect.
It may be that for a variety of reasons we can’t accept your object. If this is the case we will contact you to arrange a time for you to collect it.
We may say no if we already have similar objects, if the object is in poor condition (though we are interested in offers of objects even if they are in poor condition), if your object is too large for us to look after, or if it’s something that we do not collect. We may suggest that your object might be better offered to another museum in Portsmouth or elsewhere if it may fit better with what they collect.
What happens next?
If your object is accepted we will send you a Transfer of Title form to sign. It changes the ownership of the object from you to us permanently. This means that you or your family cannot reclaim the gift of the object to the museum. However, we are very happy to fix appointments with donors to view their gifts when not on display. This form will also deal with the matter of copyright if applicable to your gift.
Please do not be disappointed if you don’t see your object on display straight away. We care for several hundred thousand objects and exhibitions have to be carefully prepared, often years in advance.
What if you have an interesting object but don’t want to give it to us?
As we are a museum service we cannot give valuations, but if you would like to know more about your object we offer an identification service. This would mean leaving your object with us (we will give you an Entry Form for it). We can also offer advice on how to care for your object.
If you have objects that were dug out of the ground locally that you might think are of archaeological importance, please let us see them even if you don’t want to give them to the museum collections. It is very important that we record them and the location they came from, as evidence of Portsmouth’s past.
Thank you again for your interest!
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss making a donation. Although our staff often work at different sites and may not always be available at short notice, other colleagues will be happy to pass your details on to the relevant person. If you have any enquiries or any items that you might want to offer to us, or if you would like to see a copy of our collecting policy, please get in touch.