Donate to the Collection

Since its inception in 1867, the Northern Indiana Historical Society has become the proud keeper of three historic homes and over 500,000 three-dimensional and archival artifacts that tell the history of the St. Joseph River Valley region of Northwest Indiana and Southwest Michigan from prehistory to today. These items are broken into three specific collections: the Archives, Permanent, and Copshaholm Collections.


Please read these FAQ’s about donating items to The History Museum


The Archives

The Archival Collection contains an unparalleled assemblage of public and private records unique to the St. Joseph River Valley. This collection includes photographs, architectural drawings and blueprints, manuscripts, personal papers, ethnic/immigrant papers and documents, business/industrial papers and documents, advertising, locally published newspapers dating back to 1830, scrapbooks, military records, bound volumes, and audio, video and film footage. Items dating back nearly 200 years help tell the rich story of the region, and contain personal papers of former Vice President Schuyler Colfax, records from the Oliver Chilled Plow Works, and the archives of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League.


The Permanent Collection

The Permanent Collection consists of over 300,000 artifacts from every walk of life; from prehistoric Native American tools to relics of the Industrial Age, and even to prom dresses barely a decade old. Those artifacts, some in sub-collections, help to tell the story of the region from the ancient past to today. Of the sub-collections, the Historic Clothing collection is by far the largest and includes personal, military, and other pieces that date as far back as the 17th century. The History Museum is also the national repository for the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, as named by the AAGBPL Players Association.


The Copshaholm Collection

The Copshaholm Collection includes the Oliver Mansion and its contents, the formal gardens on the property, and all buildings on the historic grounds. Home of industrialist J. D. Oliver, President of the Oliver Chilled Plow Works and the richest man in Indiana, the 38-room Queen Anne Romanesque mansion was designed by Charles Alonzo Rich and completed in 1897. Its 38 rooms include all original furnishings on three floors and features oak, cherry, and mahogany woodwork, Tiffany leaded glass windows, and fourteen fireplaces. Highlights from the Copshaholm Collection are period porcelains, glassware, silver, framed artworks, statuary, and furniture pieces, some of which date back to the 1500s. Copshaholm and its gardens are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Interested in Donating to The History Museum's Collection?

Thank you for your interest in contributing another piece of history to the Northern Indiana Historical Society. As keeper of the community’s memory, The History Museum’s Permanent Collection and Archives reflect the people who have lived here. These collections are comprised of over 450,000 objects that encompass the heritage of the St. Joseph River Valley Region. Over the last 150 years, nearly 95 percent of those items have been donations from individuals, families, and organizations. Donated items are preserved at the museum to be used for research, interpretation of community history, and as artifacts in exhibits and educational programs.


If you are interested in donating items to the museum, please complete the Artifact Donation Form, and allow 1-2 weeks for processing. If you have any questions, please contact The History Museum’s Registrar by phone at (574) 235-9664, ext. 245 or by email at


Please Note: Artifacts cannot be accepted without prior communication with Collections staff.

Frequently Asked Questions about Donations

How are my donations reviewed to be accepted into the collection?

Once an Artifact Donation Form is received, the item(s) presented will first be reviewed by a member of the Collections staff who will then make the recommendation to the museum’s Collections Management Committee. This committee is made up of staff knowledgeable in both the scope of the museum’s collection as well as the conservation issues associated with artifact and document care.

This committee uses several questions as guidelines to evaluate the potential of an item. These questions are:

Does the object fit with the museum’s Mission and Collections Management Policy?
Does the object represent a significant event, person, community, place, business, or organization in the St. Joseph River Valley region?
Does the object represent a milestone or pivotal point in history?
Does the object represent a unique material, technique, or design?
Does the object fill a void in, duplicate an item in, or support items in the existing collection?
Is there documentation (written or oral) on the object?
What is the overall condition of the object?
What impact would the object have on available storage space?

The committee uses these criteria as specified in the museum’s Collections Management Policy to guide its decisions. This policy also specifies the current areas of our collections.

To view a copy of our Collections Management Policy click here

What happens after the Collections Management Committee makes its decision?

The museum’s Registrar will contact individuals via phone or email and inform them of the decision. Further discussion on the next steps will take place at that time.

Will an item I donate be on display?

The Northern Indiana Historical Society cannot guarantee that any objects or documents donated to its collection will be exhibited unless expressly collected for that purpose. Only a small fraction of the collection is on view at any given time. This minimizes the risk of damage to artifacts and documents and helps us preserve those items for future generations. However, artifacts and documents can be made accessible for research purposes.

If my item is not on display, can I see it?

If you have donated an item to the collection and it is not on display, please know that it has been properly stored in the best materials to promote preservation of its current condition, and will remain so until removed for exhibition or research purposes. If you would like to see an item you donated, use the Artifact for Research Request form click here . Please allow 3-4 weeks for processing.

How can I use an item for research purposes?

Items belonging to the Northern Indiana Historical Society can be made available for researchers. This is by appointment only. If you would like to use an artifact from the Permanent or Archival Collections for research, fill out the Artifact for Research Request Form click here . Please allow 3-4 weeks for processing, at which time the Archivist or Registrar will respond to those requests.

Is my donation tax deductible?

Yes. The History Museum is recognized as a qualified charitable organization, making the fair market value of a donation generally tax deductible. To take advantage of your deduction, you must file tax form 1040 and, depending on the value of your donation, tax form 8283. It is recommended that you consult with your own accountant, attorney, or the IRS to ensure that you receive the maximum tax benefit.  You may also consult Internal Revenue Service Publication No. 526, Charitable Contributions, and Publication No. 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property

Can the museum give me an appraisal of my donation?

The History Museum does not provide appraisals of materials proposed for donation or for any other reason. Because the Internal Revenue Service regards museums and libraries as interested parties, monetary appraisals prepared for donors by such institutions are subject to question or disqualification. However, professional appraisers will perform this service for a fee. To find a licensed appraiser in your area, contact one of the following organizations for a referral.

American Society of Appraisers

International Society of Appraisers

Appraisers Association of America

Please know that we recommend getting an appraisal of items prior to proposing them to the museum for donation. All fees associated with appraisal are the responsibility of the donor.

Can I loan an item to the museum?

Yes, The History Museum does borrow items for exhibit. In addition to the museum’s artifacts, we sometimes borrow items that are not represented in our collection from other cultural institutions, businesses, or individuals to enhance our exhibits. However, the museum is unable to accept long term loans, loans for an unspecified period of time, or items that are not related to a specific exhibit. We may seek artifacts in support of upcoming exhibits, but these loans are for a limited time, no more than 12 months, and are based on our needs as determined by the Collections staff.

Can I donate to the Copshaholm Collection?

No, the Copshaholm Collection is a closed collection. Copshaholm, the Oliver Mansion, is presented today exactly as it was given to the Northern Indiana Historical Society in 1988, with the addition of barriers, rugs, and additional handrails to allow visitors to tour the home. Copshaholm and all items on display in the Oliver Mansion were given to the Northern Indiana Historical Society by the descendants of J.D. and Anna Oliver.

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