Artifact Donations | National Civil Rights Museum - Memphis, TN

Artifact Donations and Loans

The public is invited to add to the Museum's collection by donating or loaning photos, artifacts, news clippings, documents, textiles, or other items that feature key people and significant events in the American Civil Rights Movement.  Donations to the museum's permanent collections are highly encouraged.

If you have documents, photographs, objects, or textiles you are considering for donation, please fill out this form to contact us and provide information on your donation. Please do not send items to the National Civil Rights Museum before contacting the Collections Manager, Michelle Lopez,

To submit a collections inquiry, click below.


The Collections at the National Civil Rights Museum represent the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, including objects representative of racial segregation and civil rights grassroots and national organizations. The Museum actively collects archival materials, books, photographs, clothing/textiles, audiovisual materials, art, and 3-D artifacts that represent the struggle for civil and human rights in the United States.

Due to generous artifact donations, the National Civil Rights Museum is able to accomplish its mission of honoring and preserving the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., chronicling the American civil rights movement, telling the story of the ongoing struggle for human rights, and educating and serving as a catalyst to inspire action to create positive social change.

The Museum is actively seeking donations related to the following themes:

  • Local and national civil & human rights organizations
  • Women’s organizing activities
  • Contemporary civil & human rights movements like:
  • Movement for Black Lives/Black Lives Matter
  • LGBTQIA+ movements
  • Latinx movements

For more info click to read our Object Donation Process document.


Check out our From the Vault blog for examples of items donated to the Collections!

Read our collections blog, "From the Vault"



Through generous donations and purchases, the museum actively collects archival materials, books, photographs, clothing/textiles, audio visual materials, fine art and historic objects. The museum's overall collection includes institutional history and educational objects and materials that are used in museum programming. The museum is honored to be stewards of original court records and physical evidence collected and compiled from the James Earl Ray criminal investigation of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from the district attorney general, Thirtieth Judicial District of Tennessee, and Shelby County Criminal Court Clerk. The museum also maintains a long-term loan with the Tennessee State Museum.

Recent Acquisitions

The museum actively collects archival materials, books, photographs, clothing/textiles, audio visual materials, fine art, and historic objects. Selected recent acquisitions are below. To learn more about these items, contact the Collections Department at

Loan Process

Loaned materials may enhance a museum's exhibition or be used as an educational outreach tool at other museums and institutions. The National Civil Rights Museum actively loans its collection for exhibition and education programming to museums and historic institutions. It also welcomes incoming loans from institutions and private lenders. All loans are vetted by the museum's collections committee to determine approval or denial.

Incoming Loans. To initiate a loan to the museum, lenders will be required to complete the museum's loan agreement. The agreement details the loan time frame, loan value, care and handling responsibilities observed by the museum as well as insurance coverage, shipping arrangements, lender's proof of ownership and reproductions and credit instructions. A thorough physical review of the object's condition will be performed by the collections team to determine stability for exhibition and/or program use. The museum will not clean, restore or make any physical alterations without the written consent of the lender. Loans made to the museum will be for a specified time period with renewal possibilities confirmed and agreed upon by both the museum and lender. To prevent items from being stored at the museum's expense, the museum discourages long-term loans that are not actively being used. While the object is in the custody of the museum, the lender agrees not to misrepresent or inflate the objects' value nor use the museum as an endorsement.

Outgoing Loans. The museum shares its collection to other museums/institutions and welcomes loan requests. Loan requests should be in writing and should be sent to the director of education and interpretation or to the Collections Department at least two months prior to the loan date. The request must include the loan object or type, the purpose of the loan and time frame along with the institution's loan agreement. If the institution does not have a written loan agreement available, the museum's outgoing loan agreement will be used. The requesting museum or institution must show proof of insurance and submit a facility report, preferably the facility report issued by the American Alliance of Museums. Approvals for loan request are made by the museum collections committee.

For information about artifact donation or for the museum's loan policy for both incoming and outgoing loans, call the Collections Department at


Frequently Asked Questions

What are the steps involved in donating to the National Civil Rights Museum?

Our Object Donation Process Information Sheet describes the steps involved with object donations.

Does the Museum accept sensitive objects, including racist imagery, objects from hate groups, blackface objects, and other stereotypical depictions of African Americans?

The National Civil Rights Museum strives to tell the full unadulterated story of the struggle for civil and human rights. We are open to receiving donations of materials from all perspectives of these issues. Each item is assessed on a case by case basis.

Do we accept artwork?

Yes! We accept art into the Collections on a case-by-case basis. If you are an artist or collector who would like to give artwork to the National Civil Rights Museum, please contact the Collections Manager, Michelle Lopez, at collections@civilrightsmuseum.orgwith the following information:

  • Images of the artwork
  • Provenance history, if known
  • And information about the artist, including exhibition history.
Are objects from other countries and/or cultures accepted?

Yes! The struggle for civil and human rights did not start or end with the US Civil Rights   Movement. In fact, the US Civil Rights Movement inspired many movements for civil and human rights across the globe. The Museum accepts objects that  reflect  these  stories  on  a  case-by- case basis as they fit within our mission.

Does the National Civil Rights Museum do appraisals?

In accordance with regulations from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the National Civil Rights Museum does not offer appraisal services or provide donors with a value for tax- deductible objects. We suggest contacting a certified appraiser in your area if you require an appraisal.

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