Donating Personal Papers, Photographs and Organization Records


The Institute for Regional Studies Archives' mission is to identify, collect and preserve the historical resources of the region that have lasting value, and to promote the use of these materials by the North Dakota State University community, scholars and the public.

Currently the Institute preserves over 2500 collections, donated by individuals and organizations, that document the social, political, cultural, agricultural, pioneer and local history of the state and region.

What to Donate

We work closely with donors to identify those materials of research interest that should be preserved. Although not all papers, photographs and records fall within the collecting scope of the Institute, the types of materials listed below are often valuable. These lists are suggestive but not definitive.

Personal and Family Papers The personal papers of individuals and families are essential documents in telling the story of our past. This means not just the papers of the well-known or prominent, but also the farmer, laborer, and housewife. Types of desired documents include letters, diaries, speeches/lectures, albums, scrapbooks, memoirs/reminiscences, photographs, professional files, and genealogical information.

Organization Records The records of our many and varied organizations are vital in documenting the social, religious, political and business involvement of North Dakotans. Types of desired documents include articles of incorporation, constitutions, bylaws, correspondence, planning documents, architecture records, legal documents, minutes of meetings, reports, memoranda, newsletters, directories, press releases, membership records, and research and subject files.

Photographs Photographs and the artistic work of photographers add a new dimension to the historical record and have become an important historical resource in their own right. Types of desired images include visual images of social life, farming, town scenes including buildings, people and activities, people at work, postcards, original negatives and family albums.

Publications The Institute attempts to collect all historical publications concerning North Dakota. Types of desired publications include county, community, church, and business histories, family histories and genealogies, works of fiction and poetry by North Dakota authors and native North Dakotans, county atlases, business gazetteers, music recordings, and magazines and organization newsletters.

Because the research value of papers and records may be diminished if items are removed or rearranged, donors are encouraged to contact the Institute staff before discarding or rearranging materials.

For further information regarding donating, we encourage you to read the brochures A Guide to Donating Your Personal or Family Papers to a Repository and A Guide to Donating Your Organizational Records to a Repository, published by the Society of American Archivists. We will also be glad to mail you a copy of the brochures and other information concerning the Institute and its program.

Collecting Exclusions

It is not possible for the Institute to accept all materials that are offered. This may be due to duplication, condition, format, or subject areas in which we do not collect. Among the materials not accepted:

  • Non-North Dakota publications and photographs
  • Newspaper issues, if already on microfilm
  • Items in poor physical condition
  • Artifacts (We suggest you contact the appropriate county or local historical society, or the Museum Division of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.)

Transfer of Materials

After working with donors to identify materials appropriate for preservation, staff will make arrangements to have the papers or records transported to the Institute. Legal transfer of the materials from the donor to the Institute occurs when the donor reviews and signs a deed of gift that formally makes the gift property of the Institute. The Institute generally does not accept materials on deposit or on loan.


Copyright generally belongs to the creator of writings, photographs, music, etc. and can be legally transferred. To allow researchers ready access to material and to be able to quote readily in publications, the Institute encourages donors to transfer any copyright which they possess in the donated papers to the Institute for Regional Studies. Please consult your attorney regarding copyright issues.


In certain circumstances, it may be possible for a donor to take a tax deduction for the donation of a collection to the Institute. Donors are encouraged to speak with their attorney about this matter. By law, Institute staff cannot give tax advice or appraise the monetary value of a collection. Please consult an appraiser for assistance. It is the donor's responsibility to arrange for and bear the cost of any appraisal.

Restrictions Sensitive material may, at times, be found within collections. The Institute staff will discuss with a donor the possibility of restricting parts of a collection to protect the privacy of the donor or of others. Although we want to make all papers and records freely accessible to researchers, the Institute will normally agree to reasonable and equitable restrictions for a limited period of time.

Archives Mail NDSU Archives NDSU Libraries NDSU Dept. #2080 P.O. Box 6050 Fargo, ND 58108-6050

Archives Location: Institute for Regional Studies Skills and Technology Training Center, Room 117 1305 19th Avenue North Fargo

TELEPHONE: 701-231-8914 E-MAIL: