Culture: Policies

Object Donations

The continued growth of the Field Museum's anthropology collections depends to a great degree on generous donations from individuals, and we appreciate every offer that we receive. If you are considering offering a donation of objects to the Anthropology Department please consult the guidelines provided below. Note that we are absolutely unable to provide appraisals or to identify or authenticate objects offered for donation.

Every donation offer is considered carefully by the department’s curatorial faculty to determine whether the objects are appropriate for our collections. Please provide as much information as you can about each object. The more information available about an object the better we will be able to determine if and how it fits into our collections. Below are the major things we are looking for:

  • What is the object and for what purpose is or was it used?
  • When, where, and by whom was it created?
  • When and under what circumstances did you come to own it (gift, purchase, inheritance, etc.)?
  • Any other information that might be relevant to the object’s fabrication, use, or ownership history.

To make a donation offer, please fill out our preliminary donation questionnaire. You will receive an acknowledgment of receipt of the offer and may be contacted for more information.

You will be notified once a decision has been made. Donations that are accepted typically take between one to two months to complete. However, because our curators are often away from the museum conducting fieldwork, sometimes in remote areas, they may not be able to review donation offers until the end of their field season.

If you have questions regarding the donation process please do not hesitate to contact us.#

Department of Anthropology contact person:

Elana Carpinone

Assistant Registrar
Department of Anthropology
Field Museum
1400 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, Illinois, 60605
312.665.7589 (Telephone)
312.665.7193 (Fax)

Frequently Asked Questions:

Will the museum display my donation?

While each object in our collections is significant we cannot guarantee that your donation will be displayed. Less than 1% of our collections are on display at any given time. Please be aware that non-exhibited objects are nevertheless available for research and study. Accepted donations contribute to the strength of our collections regardless of whether they are on display.

Can I deduct the donation on my taxes?

Yes, in many cases non-cash contributions are tax deductible. Please consult IRS guidelines on deductions for more information. Although we are happy to answer very general questions, please be advised that museum employees cannot provide advice on the potential tax benefits of a specific donation.

Can I place a restriction on the donation?

As a general rule we do not accept donations that are made with restrictions (for example a requirement to always display an object or to retain it in perpetuity).

May I bequeath objects to the museum’s anthropology collections?

Yes, if you are interested in a bequest please contact the Anthropology Department as indicated above.

Why can’t you identify or appraise my donation?

It is a conflict of interest for museum employees or volunteers to provide identifications or appraisals of donations and is strictly forbidden by museum policy and professional codes of conduct. If you need assistance identifying or valuing an object please contact a certified appraiser.

Will the museum purchase my objects?

Although you are welcome to make an offer to sell, please note that we are rarely able to purchase objects.

Can I send object donations to the museum?

Please do not send objects to the museum unless they have been approved by the appropriate curator and you are notified by the Registration Office. Unsolicited donations will be returned.

Can I make a donation in someone’s name?

Yes, if your donation is accepted you may request a credit line.

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Anthropology contact person:

Lauren Hancock
Science & Education
The Field Museum
1400 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
312.665.7872 (Telephone)
312.665.7193 (Fax)

Items to include in a loan request:

For exhibition requests:

  • Title of the exhibition
  • Dates of the exhibition
  • General description of the scope and purpose of the exhibition
  • List of venues (names, addresses, dates)
  • Description of requested objects (including FMNH catalog numbers if possible)
  • AAM General (or Standard) Facility Report for each venue
  • Contact information for all loan correspondence

Exhibition loan request form

For other requests:

  • Why the objects are being requested
  • How the objects will be used
  • Where the objects will be located during the loan
  • Dates of the requested loan period
  • Contact information for all loan correspondence

Other loan requests form

General requirements for Anthropology loans:

Due to the considerable demand for loans from its collections, the Department of Anthropology requires a minimum of 1 year to process loan requests for exhibitions.

Loans are approved by a committee within the Department of Anthropology comprised of Curators, Conservators, Registrar, and the Chair of the Department. If approved, the borrower will be sent a loan packet that includes a loan agreement and conservation, mounting and display requirements.

Borrowers are generally responsible for all costs associated with the loan, including (but not limited to) evaluation, documentation, conservation, packing and unpacking, mounting for shipment and/or exhibition, shipping and transportation to and from all venues, courier expenses, permits, licenses and duties. In most cases borrowers will also be responsible for providing all-risk, wall-to-wall insurance coverage of the loan objects, or for paying the applicable insurance premium if coverage is provided by the Field Museum.

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