Collection Donations

Can I donate material to the Collections of the Milwaukee Public Museum?
Donations to the Permanent Collections are accepted when they meet a number of critieria including fitting the Museum’s mission and collecting goals for each department. The Museum only accepts gifts without restrictions and abides by all appropriate state, federal, and international laws concerning materials offered for donation.

What will the Museum do with my donation? Will it be always on exhibit?
Only a small percentage of the Museum’s collections are on exhibit at any one time, however, material not on exhibit is important for research and study, available for loan to other institutions and future exhibits. The Museum collects them because they are important in preserving the heritage and natural history they represent.

Material which is not suitable for the permanent collections may be useful to the Education Collections in their programs; however, because of the “hands-on” nature of programming, this material may be “used up.” If the material does not fit what the Museum collections, staff may be able to direct you to other institutions.

Will you keep it forever?
The Museum does not accept material for the collections without the intent to keep it and care for it for the foreseeable future. However, some circumstances may make it advisable to remove items from the permanent collections. This is usually in the case where the object is in very poor condition or where it turns out that the item becomes a duplication of material in the Museum’s collections. It may be removed from the collections only after extreme scrutiny and approval on multiple levels. In those instances, we make every effort to find a new home for it where it will also be available for public purposes. Just as with any gift, the material becomes property of the Museum for the betterment of its programs with the intent it always be used to further the Museum’s mission. It is not Museum policy to return such material to the donor or donor’s family.

Can I take a tax deduction for the donation?
Donations may be eligible for a tax deduction by the donor. In order to take your deduction, you may be required to provide or obtain an appraisal of its value. Please consult your tax preparer concerning any such situation.

Will the Museum appraise the item or tell me what the value is?
The IRS tax code prohibits the Milwaukee Public Museum from making such appraisals. As policy, Museum staff cannot make appraisals or authentications and does not provide an estimate of value. However, they may be able to direct you to other sources where you can obtain that information. Again, please contact your tax consultant.

Can I leave things to the Museum in my will?
Material may be willed (bequested) to the Museum. We advise individuals wishing to do so to first contact the proper curatorial department to notify it of your intent and to determine the acceptability of the material and that it fits the collecting plans for the Museum. You should also discuss any plans with an attorney.

Who do I contact?
If you have material you wish to donate to the Museum, please contact the appropriate department. They will be happy to discuss your potential donation and set up an appointment with you. The Museum will not allow material to be left at the Museum without an appointment and staff are unable to accommodate people without an appointment. You will find the Collections staff listed in the Collections and Research section of this website. A brief guide is:

Human History:

  • Made by a member of any of the world’s native peoples or is archaeological in nature - contact Anthropology.
  • Manufactured, historic, from Americas, Europe, or Asia - contact History.

Natural Science:

  • Plants – contact Botany
  • Rocks, Minerals, Fossils – contact Geology
  • Insects, Spiders, Seashells – contact Invertebrate Zoology
  • Fish, Reptiles, Birds, Mammals – contact Vertebrate Zoology

If you do not know who to contact, please call 414-278-2793

If you have further questions, please contact the Museum Registrar ( or the appropriate department.