You are here

The AAM Guide to Donating Collections

The AAM Guide to Donating Collections

April 9, 2010

by Carol Mead

The following article was published in April/May 2010 issue of MAA Focus. The full issue is available here.

As the Archivist for the Archives of American Mathematics (AAM) at the University of Texas at Austin (UT), I am frequently asked ’What types of records do you want?â? and ’How do I donate them?â? Some people may also wonder what happens to materials after they arrive.

To understand the AAM’s role better, let’s start with its mission. As stated on its website, the AAM ’is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and providing access to the records of American mathematicians and mathematical organizations for use by historians, mathematicians, educators, and others interested in the history and development of mathematics.â? To that end, the AAM houses and provides access to the papers of individual mathematicians and the records of organizations, including the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), for which the AAM is the official repository.

What are Archives?

Archives collect records created or received by individuals or organizations and preserve them because of their enduring historical value. Archival records typically consist of a variety of documentation reflecting an individual’s life and career or an organization’s activities. For example, the Paul Halmos Papers, which the AAM houses, reveal Halmos’s professional and personal interests and activities through student notes, diaries, correspondence, and photographs. The records of the MAA, also part of the AAM, document its long history through correspondence, photographs, committee documentation, and meeting minutes.

Whether the papers of individuals or the records of organizations, these collections are important because they further our understanding of history by revealing ideas with historical significance, decisions made and actions taken, and the role of a person or organization in that history.

What to Donate

Types of documents vary from collection to collection, depending on the person or the organization. However, there are general guidelines one may follow when thinking about what to preserve. A list ’ not comprehensive ’ of typical documents that we accept and encourage you to send to us is listed in the box. It should be noted that in addition to paper records, we also accept digital files.

What happens after we get your donation

When we receive your donation, we will send you a letter of acknowledgement and a Deed of Gift, in which you indicate any restrictions and copyright issues (hopefully there won’t be any), and which you sign and return to us. The University’s Office of Development signs the Deed and we return a copy of the signed version to you.

After the Deed is in place, we will ’processâ? the collection, which means we will go through it to establish a logical arrangement, re-house the documents in acid-free folders and boxes, and create a ’finding aid,â? which consists of a biographical summary, a review of the collection’s contents, and a box listing. The next step is to catalog the collection in the UT library system and upload it to the web. Finally, we put the collection on the shelf, where it is ready to be used for research.

Sending the Collection

To initiate the process of sending your papers or records, please contact me at I will want to know the nature of the collection, its contents (e.g. letters, photographs, notebooks, etc.), and its volume. Once we have determined that what you have is appropriate for deposit here, I ask that you pack up the documents in a reasonable order in very sturdy boxes ’ preferably not large ones, as big, heavy boxes tend to fall apart more easily than smaller, lighter ones.

Please send your donation by UPS to my attention:

Carol Mead
2313 Red River St., Unit 2
Austin, TX 78705
For more information about donating your collection, please see the AAM web page,, or email me. I look forward to hearing from you.

For more articles on the Archives of American Mathematics, check out MAA's Archives of American Mathematics Spotlight.