Donor FAQs

In addition to records transfers from the Duke University Medical Center (DUMC) (e.g. the Duke University Health System (DUHS), School of Medicine (SOM), and School of Nursing (SON), etc.) offices and departments (see Records Transfer Instructions for more information), the Duke Medical Center Archives (DUMCA) accepts donations of personal papers from Duke Health faculty and affiliates. Donations of archival materials regularly include the transfer of physical property rights held by the donor to DUMCA through a Deed of Gift agreement. Below we have some frequently asked questions for those interested in donating materials to the DUMCA:

The DUMCA is looking to collect the personal papers documenting the education and careers of faculty and staff of DUMC and affiliated professionals. The DUMCA preserves and makes these collections available to aid in research, instruction, and historical documentation projects. Personal papers provide important insights into the history and evolution of the Medical Center, help document the medical educational experience, and can provide a basis for research in broader areas of American life, culture, and scientific research. If you believe your personal papers can provide such insights to and documentation of these topics, then your papers probably belong in the DUMCA. We will be happy to consult with you about a potential donation to the DUMCA! We can be reached by phone at 919-383-2653 or by email at

Items likely to be of interest to the DUMCA include, but are not limited to:

  • Biographical information: resumes, vitae, bibliographies, memoirs, and published and manuscript biographical sketches
  • Duke University Medical Center correspondence and files: outgoing and incoming correspondence, diaries, identified photographs, and scrapbooks that provide documentation of Medical Center experience relating to enrollment, attendance, involvement in student and alumni organizations and activities
  • Professional correspondence (outgoing and incoming) with business associates, colleagues, and professional organizations
  • Personal correspondence that document professional and academic activities;
  • Course material: curricula/syllabi, lecture materials, class notebooks, student papers, exams, and correspondence relating to academic career at the Duke University Medical Center
  • Publications: one copy of all articles or books
  • Audiovisual materials: identified photographs, films, and sound and video recordings;
  • Family correspondence, diaries, identified photographs, and legal documents, except where there is family interest in retaining and preserving such materials
  • Organizational records and correspondence relating to membership and participation in professional and social associations, clubs and societies
  • Research notes and data. Because of wide variations in the nature of research data, it is best to consult with the Medical Center Archivist before donating research notes and data;
  • Artifacts and memorabilia in cases of great importance and a manageable physical size and condition. Please consult with the Medical Center Archivist to discuss options for preservation of such objects.
  • Digital or electronic files: Most types of digital files are accepted, including word processing files, spreadsheets, presentations, images, audio recordings, and video recordings. The DUMCA does not discriminate against formats or time period, though appraisal decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

If you have any questions we encourage you to consult with the DUMCA who can be reached at 919-383-2653 or

Unfortunately, no. Due to our legal obligations and limits on space and resources, the DUMCA must make appraisal decisions to determine what records will be accepted for long-term storage and preservation. Such appraisal decisions are guided by our collection development policy. Documents that generally should not be donated without prior consultation with the DUMCA include:

  • Financial records, canceled checks, and receipts
  • Routine correspondence, especially non-personally addressed mail and routine letters of transmittal and acknowledgment
  • Duplicates and multiple copies of publications: keep only the original and heavily annotated copies
  • Typescripts, drafts, and galleys of publications and speeches unless the final publication or presentation is unavailable
  • Books, research papers, journal articles, and reprints written by other persons
  • Medical records of any sort

Because of broad variations in personal papers, you should consult with the DUMCA to determine how your own files align with the Collection Development policy. This policy is intended as a general guide and exceptions can be made after a review of the conditions under which the documents were generated and their potential archival value. The DUMCA can be reached at 919-383-2653 or Once we confirm that your papers do belong in our repository, you will prepare the records for transfer and the Medical Center Archivist will consult with you about the logistics of this transfer.

We strongly encourage you to consult with the Medical Center Archivist before preparing your papers for transfer to the DUMCA. Generally, material should be transferred in the order in which they were maintained. Paper-based records and removable media should be packed carefully in archival-quality boxes with lids. The DUMCA provides Paige boxes, measuring 10 x 12 x 15 inches, upon request at no cost. Descriptive information should not be affixed directly to the materials, instead it should be maintained in a separate document. At the very least you should include a document briefly identifying the material and describing the activity to which they relate and describing the materials. We strongly recommend that you also complete an inventory of your materials. This will assist the DUMCA with arranging and describing your papers, while also aiding in future use and access of the materials. Born-digital materials may be transferred electronically or physically via a storage device, though you should consult the Medical Center Archivist, who can be reached at 919-383-2653 or, to determine the best option. For more information about transferring materials to the DUMCA, review our Records Transfer Instructions for step by step instructions on how to pack and prepare materials to be transferred to the DUMCA.

The DUMCA accepts donations regardless of format. It is ideal to collect the format that is considered the original or the final copy for distribution of a document. For example, if the document is born-digital--such as an email newsletter, a word processor file, or a digital photograph--we want the digital version. However, if a paper document or photograph has been scanned, or a newsletter was composed on a computer but printed for use, we prefer the analog and/or paper version. While the DUMCA accepts most digital materials, each case is accessed on an individual basis. Early consultation with the Medical Center Archivist, who can be reached at 919-383-2653 or, is strongly encouraged for all such materials.

Once your records arrive at DUMCA, the Medical Center Archivist will formally accession the records into our repository. An accession record will include donation documentation and disclosure of any known sensitivities or applicable restrictions. You will receive a deed of gift upon completion of the accession. Records then enter into the queue for processing, which entails the arrangement and description of the archival materials. Processing also includes appraisal of the records. During processing, any duplicate materials or materials that do not fall within the DUMCA’s collecting scope are removed and returned to the donor. If needed, the records may be rehoused for better storage. Digital files will similarly be appraised before they are processed and, if possible, ingested into the DUMCA’s digital content management system to be made available digitally in our Reading Room. The final step in archival processing includes the preparation of a finding aid. The finding aid provides a historical and/or biographical overview of the creator of the records and a description of the records summarizing the content, dates, and organizational structure of the collection. A container list is prepared enumerating folder titles within each box. The finding aid will be published on the DUMCA’s website and the records, barring any restrictions, are then available for research.

Upon transfer of your papers to the DUMCA, you should provide information that contextualizes and describes the materials. If the Medical Center Archivist finds they need additional information from you, we will contact you. Typically, donors do not have an active role in arranging or describing their papers, though we would like to remain in communication with you during this process.

Upon arrival to the DUMCA, your papers will be arranged and described by staff using the description you provided when the materials were donated. Materials will be arranged in acid-free containers and folders to ensure long-term preservation and prevent degradation. Some archival collections may contain materials that have physically deteriorated or are fragile. If necessary, these materials may undergo additional conservation treatments. The arrangement and description of your materials will provide intellectual and physical access to the collection. The materials will be stored in an environmentally-controlled, secure area and do not circulate outside of the DUMCA reading room except in rare cases where they require additional conservation or bulk digitization. Electronic and born-digital materials have their own preservation and management needs that are addressed on a case by case basis.

Your papers will be made available to researchers as soon as they are processed, or after a period of time specified by the donor (you). Materials will be able to be accessed in the Medical Center Archives reading room, located at 1408-A Christian Avenue, on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You should consult the Medical Center Archivist, who can be reached at 919-383-2653 or, if you believe your papers contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

The DUMCA provides safe and secure storage of permanently valuable records in a climate controlled environment. Materials will be stored in archival containers and, when necessary, may undergo preservation treatments to prevent degradation. Only staff members and other authorized individuals have access to our storage facilities, which are outfitted with locks and security cameras. The staff at the DUMCA will do everything in their power to prevent damage or theft of your materials in order to preserve your papers for posterity.

Donors may be entitled to take an income tax deduction by claiming their gift of rare or manuscript materials as a charitable donation. While DUMCA staff cannot serve as tax advisors, it is the DUMCA’s understanding that to claim a deduction for non-cash gifts in excess of $500 within a calendar year, a donor must file IRS Form 8283. See Instructions for guidance. A formal appraisal, performed no more than sixty days before the date of the gift, is required if deductions are sought for any gift valued at over $5,000. Professional standards, University policy, and IRS regulations prohibit DUMCA staff from making such a monetary appraisal.