Research, Archives and Collections

Donation and Object Inquiry - Frequently Asked Questions

How do I donate an object to the Museum?
The Oshkosh Public Museum is grateful when an individual or organization considers donating their objects to our institution.

Our staff carefully researches a potential acquisition to ensure that it will advance the Museum's mission and meet its collecting criteria. If you would like to make an inquiry about donating an object, please contact:

For Artifacts:
Curator of Collections, Anna Cannizzo

For Photographs and Paper Materials:
Archivist, Scott Cross

It takes many hours of technical labor and significant resources to register, properly care for, and possibly display new objects. Because of the expense associated with these activities, donors may additionally choose to make a monetary gift to offset that cost.

The Museum abides by all local, state and federal laws in the collecting and holding of objects in our collections. We cannot accept specimens or artifacts unless they have been legally and ethically collected.

May I drop off or mail a donation?
We strongly discourage unsolicited donations through the mail or in person without prior communication with the Museum's curatorial and archival staff.

How long does the donation process take to complete?
The entire process can take up to 3 months, after Museum staff determines that an object fits the Museum's collecting criteria. Curatorial staff will then review the object and start the registration process. A Deeds of Gift is sent to the donor for signature to complete transfer of title and rights.

Can Museum staff appraise or authenticate objects?
Collections staff may be willing to identify objects if time and expertise allow. However, museums are legally and ethically prohibited from providing monetary estimates of the values of objects or specimens. A donor seeking an appraisal needs to seek the services of an accredited appraiser. If your donation is in the custody of the Museum, staff will make the objects available for assessment.

To find an appraiser in your area, please contact the following organizations:
American Society of Appraisers
International Society of Appraisers
Appraisers Association of America

Can I take a tax deduction for my donation?
Donors should consult with his/her tax professional or the Internal Revenue Service regarding their particular situation. Object donations to the Museum are generally tax deductible based on their fair market value which is determined by an outside professional. The Museum is not permitted to provide any appraisal for tax deduction.

Will materials I donate be exhibited or accessible for study?
The Museum's collection contains over 300,000 objects, and therefore only a very small percentage can be exhibited at any one time. The Museum strives to rotate object displays and disseminate information about the collection online via virtual exhibits and its media outlets. However, the Museum can allow access to collections that are without restrictions for research. The Museum further makes objects accessible for display at other cultural institutions through our loan program. If you would like to have access to collections for these purposes, please contact:

For Artifacts:
Curator of Collections, Anna Cannizzo

For Exhibitions:
Curator of Exhibitions, Debra Daubert

For Photographs and Paper Materials:
Archivist, Scott Cross

May I request that materials I donate be returned to me?
Signing a Deed of Gift legally and permanently transfers ownership and rights to materials to the Museum, which is a department of the City of Oshkosh. The Museum will consider your request however it is not required to return collection materials to a donor or a donor's family member.

Does the Museum accept objects on short-term loan?
The Museum occasionally accepts short-term loans for use in an exhibition. The Museum does not take object on long term loan because limited resources prevent the Museum from storing and preserving objects that it does not own. For questions regarding loans for exhibitions please contact Curator of Exhibitions:

Curator of Exhibitions, Debra Daubert

Does the Museum offer advice on how to care for or store important objects that I own?
We love preserving history whether it is located in our collections or yours! The Museum staff is happy to offer input and advice on how to care for your family treasures properly so that they remain preserved for generations of use and enjoyment. Please contact:

Curator of Collections, Anna Cannizzo

Curator of Exhibitions, Debra Daubert

Archivist, Scott Cross

What types of things does the Museum collect?

The Oshkosh Public Museum collects objects that serve to advance its mission:

Our mission is to identify, collect, document, preserve, and interpret material culture, ideas, and values representing Oshkosh and the Lake Winnebago Region. The Museum will strive to promote and nurture an understanding and an appreciation of this valuable legacy through easily accessible quality exhibitions, programs, publications and other educational experiences.

In keeping the mission, vision, and strategic objectives, the Museum may collect cultural heritage that furthers the appreciation and understanding of following areas and will enhance existing relevant collections. Collecting shall be restricted to the following areas:

The Museum may collect a range of archival and photographic materials significant to the historical documentation of the City of Oshkosh and the Lake Winnebago Region. The Museum's archival collection may collect cultural heritage with broader importance which reflect local activities, individuals, or events and may contain examples from other collecting areas listed in previous sections including, but not limited to, film, music, audio recordings, and various works on paper. While the Museum shall work to increase its holdings of archival and photographic sources, every attempt shall be made to ensure that the collection does not widely duplicate the holdings of other archives within the state. The Museum will maintain a library of books and periodicals relating to the scope of collections, for research and exhibition aids, and the museum field.

The Museum may collect examples of various types of art which are important to the interpretation of life and artistry in the Lake Winnebago Region. Included in the latter sections are examples of the various aesthetic movements of the early 20th century, including but not limited to Edwardian, Victorian, Arts & Crafts, Oriental/Japonism, Art Nouveau, and Colonial Revival.

Fine/Visual Art
The Museum may collect examples of fine/visual art that consist of works such as paintings, drawings, printmaking, and sculpture along with examples of new media and contemporary forms of expression such as collage, installation, performance, photography, and film-based arts that were produced to be appreciated primarily or solely for their imaginative, aesthetic, or intellectual content.

The Museum will selectively collect pieces by recognized local artists who exhibit exceptional quality and will sustain existing works in its collection of American artists who worked during the period of the Sawyer home (1908-1922), as well works from the American Impressionist period (1875-1920). These pieces represent the original core collection developed during the Museum's formative years. This collection also includes pieces belonging to the Sawyer family.

The Museum owns a substantial collection of 1930s art as a result of the sponsorship of Wisconsin artists by way of two federal programs during the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Federal Art Project (FAP). The Museum will actively collect and maintain pieces representing Wisconsin artists who participated in the WPA or FAP, or which depict the people, places, and cultural life of the Lake Winnebago Region and Wisconsin.

Applied/Decorative/Folk Art
The Museum may collect examples of applied, decorative and folk art, significant and related to the understanding of life, culture, and artistry of the Lake Winnebago Region. This category includes all forms of works that represent functional, utilitarian but ornamental works. These works will represent areas of design such as industrial, graphic, fashion, architectural and interior in mediums such as glass, ceramics, ivory, stone, wood, metal, textile, and lacquer. Included in this area are all forms of household, service, personal and professional wares in addition to furniture/fixtures, mosaic, stained glass, and tapestry art.

Within this category, the Museum may collect works produced by regional artists, from all time periods, who have received recognition, have had an influence, or represent artistic endeavors on a regional or national level. The Museum may also collect works created by regional unschooled artisans who have produced works that reflect and express the culture, values, and traditions of the region. Special care will be given to selecting objects illustrative of a company or maker, a manufacturing process, a school of design or region, a historic time period, or representative of artists recognized to be influential to the development of applied, decorative or folk art.

Performing Arts
The Museum may collect examples of performing arts that are significant and/or related to the understanding of life, culture, and events in the Lake Winnebago Region. This category may include all works resulting from creative activities where an artist uses an aspect of their physical being, in front of or for an audience. Examples of performing arts include drama, theatre, music, opera, magic, spoken word, puppetry, circus arts, performance art, recitation, public speaking, film and dance.

The Museum may collect various types of anthropological cultural heritage relating and significant to the interpretation of past, present, and future peoples and cultures of the Lake Winnebago Region. The Museum may collect material culture concerned with all aspects of human behavior, customs, and beliefs which may serve to construct cultural chronology and life-ways, and further the discovery of the processes which motivate and form human behavior. Included in this category is archaeological, ethnographic, and linguistic material culture from indigenous and/or foreign, historic and/or contemporary cultures of the Lake Winnebago Region.

The Museum may not expand the collection to include materials that do not derive from the Lake Winnebago Region collections unless those items further an understanding of associated cultures, or may further the study of geographically wide-spread cultures (EX. the pre-historic Mississippian Culture).

The Museum complies with all federal laws such as NAGPRA and has repatriated human remains and goods associated with mortuary contexts to appropriate Native American tribes. The Museum no longer seeks to expand this collection by actively collecting or accepting specimens of this nature.

The Museum may collect materials significant to the understanding of the multifaceted history of Oshkosh and the Lake Winnebago Region and represent the cultural, social/societal values of its community. The Museum may collect to represent all levels of society and shall not restrict its collections to predetermined eras. Rather, the Museum shall judiciously collect objects from those time periods which represent early contact through the present time. The Museum may collect historical objects that relate to and represent the development of the city and region along with the activities, events, and lifestyle of its community. Included but not limited are objects associated with regional demographics, urban development, economics, politics, industry, transportation, education, labor, scientific and technological developments, military participation, citizen action movements, community organizing, sports and recreation.

The Museum may collect natural history specimens from the subject areas of zoology, botany, geology, and paleontology that are related, relevant and significant to the understanding of the Lake Winnebago Region. The Museum may enhance an existing collection with specimens to augment educational programming and exhibition.

Whenever possible or practical, the Museum will salvage and use birds and mammals from highway accidents or other similar sources provided the animals or birds were obtained in accordance with state and federal laws.