Since the 1950s, the collection of the Dubuque County Historical Society has grown through the generous object donations of individuals, families, and businesses. We continue to welcome offers to donate objects across a wide range of topics and times.

Are you interested in donating an object? 

Please review these frequently asked questions before submitting the form linked at the bottom of the page. For additional questions, please contact our Curator of Historic Collections at

Due to ongoing historic collections projects and staffing constraints, we currently have limited ability to review and accept new acquisitions to the collection. As a result, we are temporarily pausing the submission of offered donations. Please check back in the fall of 2024 for an update on this status.

Object Donation FAQs

How can I submit a donation?

The fastest way to submit a donation is through the online form. Once submitted, a representative of the museum will contact you with the status of submission.  
What happens after I submit a donation form?
All donations are reviewed by members of the Collection Committee – including representatives of both museum staff and board members – who meet four times a year to approve new additions. Depending on when you submit, full consideration of the request and final response might take 2-3 months.

What happens if my donation is accepted?

If accepted, a staff member will set an appointment with you to schedule a time for dropping off the object(s). Please plan for at least 5-10 minutes at this appointment. Along with transferring the object, you will be asked for additional information to begin the official donation. This includes the best contact details, a brief description of the object, and permissions given to the museum for temporary custody until it is officially gifted.  Once the object is formally added to the collection, an official recognition letter and (2) two copies of a deed of gift will be mailed. Please retain a deed for your records but return a signed copy to the museum with the provided envelope.  

Why might an object be accepted?

We accept a wide range of objects related to Dubuque, Dubuque County, the Mississippi River and more. We consider objects of importance from all time periods from pre-history to today and from all perspectives. 

Some identified areas of need in the collection include, but are not limited to:

  • objects related to women’s history (themes like women’s clubs, education, and businesses)
  • objects of non-white European experience (such as the Black, LatinX, or Marshallese experience)
  • 21st-century Dubuque (such as the 2020 Pandemic, the 1980s Keep the Light On campaign, and more)

What happens if my donation is not accepted?

All requests will be responded to regardless of acceptance. If the donation is declined, we will often provide alternative suggestions for organizations that may be able to pursue them.

Why might a donation be declined?

A primary reason a donation is not accepted is if it does not meet our mission focus. An object must reflect one or any combination of the following criteria to be the most successful. 

Ask your object:

  • “Does it have a Dubuque/Dubuque County connection?”
  • “Does it have a story related to the Mississippi River or upper Mississippi River culture?”
  • “Does it have broad significance to the state or national story?” (Example might be Pandemic related)
  • “Is it in good condition?” (objects in moderate to good health are preferred, exceptions can be made)

Can I donate without submitting an object to review?

Objects are not automatically donated. Our collection policy requires every object to be reviewed and approved before donation. Please do not drop off or mail objects to the museum without providing a return address. The museum is not responsible for objects without a record of custody. 

Does the museum buy objects for the collection?
Currently, the museum does not purchase items for the collection. There are rare exceptions that require executive approval.

Can the museum help me value an object?

Legally the museum is not able to assist in assigning value to objects. We are also unable to suggest specific appraisal services. Please consider alternate resources to assign value such as antique shops or auction houses.  

Can I see my donated object(s) if not on display?

Yes, please contact our Curator of Historic Collection,, to set a time to visit the collection and see your object(s).

What will happen to my object donation?

Objects are first processed into the collection. This involves photographing and/or digitizing the object, capturing measurement and condition details, and creating an object record in our database. From there the object is stored in our archives until it can be used in programming, exhibit, or presentation. To maintain the health of objects, they are rarely used immediately after donation.

Objects on display are rotated often. 

DCHS is dedicated to the history, heritage, and culture of Dubuque County and is committed to ensuring equitable advancement of knowledge and serving public audiences by sharing successful operational strategies.