How to Donate to the Illinois State Museum’s Decorative Arts and History Collection

If you have an item or items you are interested in donating, please email the Curator of Decorative Arts and History and include the following information:

    • Description of the object
    • Photograph of the object
    • When the object was made/used
    • Who used/made the object
    • What condition is it in?
    • What is its connection to Illinois?
    • What special story or significance does this object have? I.e. Why should it be in a museum?

Donation Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What does the Illinois State Museum’s Decorative Arts and History department collect?

A. We collect a wide variety of materials made or used in Illinois, including historical objects, textiles, ceramics, furniture, metals, etc.

When accepting things for donation, we are seeking things that will fill in gaps within our existing collections or make an important contribution to the understanding of Illinois history and craftsmanship.  Examples of items which are already well-represented in our collection will generally not be accepted, unless they have an extraordinary story.

Objects which reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of Illinois’s people and those which are tied to major episodes in Illinois history are especially desired.

Q. Can I send or bring my item to the Illinois State Museum immediately?

A. Unfortunately, the Illinois State Museum does not have the manpower to handle unsolicited donations. If you’d like to donate something, the first step is to contact the Curator of Decorative Arts and History by email.  If the Museum is interested in learning more about the item, then a visit to your home or an appointment to bring the item in to the Museum can be arranged.

Please note: the Museum reserves the right to dispose of any unsolicited materials delivered to one of its sites.

Q. How do we decide what to accept?

A. We consider the following questions when evaluating an object for acceptance: What is its connection to Illinois?  What story does this object tell?  Do we have other items like it in our collection?  Do we have the space and resources to care for this object?

Q. Will the Illinois State Museum appraise my item?

A. The Illinois State Museum is unable to appraise items due to legal and ethical rules.   Contact one of the following organizations for a referral to a qualified appraiser:

American Association of Appraisers International Society of Appraisers

Q. What happens to my object once it becomes the property of the Illinois State Museum?

A. Once accepted into the State Museum’s collection, the object will be catalogued and stored in a climate-controlled and secure location.  It may be placed on exhibition or loaned to another institution. The Museum’s collections are available to the public for research purposes.

Q. Can an object donated by me or my family members be returned to me?

A. Upon making a donation, donors are asked to sign a Deed of Gift, which legally transfers ownership of the object to the Illinois State Museum. Once ownership is thus transferred, the object becomes the property of the Illinois State Museum and cannot be returned.

Illinois State Museum: Fine Art Collection

Art Collections Online

Amish Quilt Gallery
You can learn about the history of quilts created by Illinois Amish women of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The images and information are from the Museum publication Illinois Amish Quilts: Sharing Threads of Tradition, which can be purchased from the Museum by consulting the Publications Web page or telephoning the Museum.

Bevier Historic Dress Collection
Choice in clothing demonstrates social class, identity, individual aspirations, as well as available technologies at the time. Over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as debate raged about women’s place in society, their fashions reflected wider social expectations. The historic costume collection featured in this website reflects highlights of the dresses in the Bevier Historic Costume and Textile Collection.

Frank Sadorus Photograph Collection
Learn about the photographs of Frank Sadorus (1880-1934), a descendant of a pioneer family who founded Sadorus in east central Illinois. He lived and worked on the family farm, but during the off-season he photographed the people and landscape he knew intimately.

Frost Trade Bead Collection
Beginning in 1848, Stephen Allen Frost peddled beads and broadcloth among the Plains Indians as an itinerant merchant. His enterprise lasted longer than that of other traders because of his business acumen and that of his son, Dan. Learn about this collection of 71 trade bead sample cards from the Stephen A. Frost and Son Company and the men behind this interesting company.

Morton D. Barker Paperweight Collection Gallery
View the renowned Barker Collection of 252 glass objects including Classical French, British, American, and other Paperweights.

WPA Art Collection Introduction
Learn about the history Works Progress Administration in Illinois and view a sample of the Museum’s extensive Illinois WPA Art Collection.