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Ames Historical Society Acquisition Policy

Local history is being lost almost daily as people discard or destroy accumulated possessions. The Ames Historical Society encourages residents and organizations to contact us at (515) 232-2148 to determine if material has historical significance before its disposition. What is thrown away may be of value to future researchers studying our community. This Acquisition Policy provides general guidance for potential donors.

Regional Collecting Area

In order to avoid duplication of collecting efforts by other historical organizations within Story County, Ames Historical Society defines its area of responsibility as the city of Ames and its immediate vicinity (portions of Washington, Franklin, Milford and Grant townships). This accommodates documenting the history of the early village of Bloomington as well as North Grant School. Time periods collected encompass the prehistoric era to the present.


Collections come to the Society mainly by means of gift, but occasionally by bequest, purchase,   formal agreement and loan.   A Deed of Gift establishes the donor's clear title to the material and transfers it to the Society.   The Society does not provide authentication or monetary appraisals of donations.   Material is acquired, processed, organized, cataloged, preserved and stored by observing current best practices to the best of our abilities.

Types of material collected include :

  • Reference material - sources of information such as directories, books, maps, serials, media, and databases used for answering patron inquiries.
  • Archival material - documentary materials created or received and accumulated by a person, family, organization, government or other public or private entity in the conduct of affairs and preserved because of their enduring value as evidence of and information about activities and events.   Some examples of formats include manuscripts, letters, diaries, photographs, audio and visual material, artwork, books, and the digital equivalents of these.
  • Artifacts -  three-dimensional objects made by humans, created or used in a significant manner.
  • Specimens - preserved remains (fossil / taxidermy) of naturally occurring plants & animals.

General criteria are:

  • Relevancy - Our collections emphasize items originating in or relating to Ames and those materials that add to the understanding of the relevance of Ames within the larger scope of Iowa and national social, economic, cultural, ethnic and political history.
  • Size - Existing space limitations confine our acquisitions to small and medium-sized objects.
  • Condition - Items should be in good and stable condition.   Preference is given to material in prime over problematic condition.   Occasionally, items will be accepted with condition issues due to their local importance or rarity.   Conservation is typically limited to work that can be provided in a timely and cost effective manner.   Items posing risk to the collection, staff or visitors are not accepted (e.g. hazardous chemicals, live ammunition, etc.)
  • Age - Collectible items may range in age from several thousand years (Native American artifacts) to objects made in the current year.   Significant contemporary items as well as selected ephemera documenting important events are collected while they are still available.
  • Interest - Preference is given to material that will engage audiences of all ages.

Collection Strengths

  • Photographic archives: Ames Tribune, Farwell T. Brown collection, private collections, scanned loans
  • WWII Story County veterans service records
  • WWII rationing (the most requested topic on our website)
  • Building plans from City Inspections Department
  • Art created by local artists
  • Early school textbooks and children's books

Reference Collection

This collection is available in the research room and consists of telephone directories, R.L. Polk city directories, plat books, sheet maps (city, county, Sanborn, topographical, and topical), school yearbooks (Ames and Iowa State University), and Multiple Listing Service (MLS) sheets. Several online genealogical and newspaper databases are available. Also in this collection are the Ames 'vertical files' created by Ames Public Library staff containing clippings from periodicals, pamphlets and mounted photographs arranged for ready reference. These files are updated by our own staff using current and donated clippings.

Ames Historical Collection

This collection represents the core of our collecting efforts, consisting of archival material and artifacts that document life in Ames and its special character throughout history. The Archive is organized under ten categories: Physical Environment, Prehistory & Early Settlement, City Government, Schools, Businesses, Organizations, Residents, Transportation, Events & Celebrations, and Other Entities (Federal/State/County).

Hoggatt School

The first schoolhouse in the vicinity was built in 1861-1862 to serve area residents before the city of Ames was established. The acquisition, move, and restoration of this school were the driving forces in the founding of the Society.   In 1981, the one-room, log-frame building was moved to its present location on the grounds of Meeker School and restored. Year-round preservation is ensured by storage of artifacts at the downtown headquarters during winter when Hoggatt is closed to visitors.

Teaching Collection

This collection is used in-house as well as offsite in schools. Ideally, artifacts should be able to survive supervised, repeated handling when used in interactive exhibits or hands-on instruction. Additionally, the condition should be that as originally used. For educational purposes, non-provenanced generic objects lacking a strong Ames connection can be appropriate to illustrate how basic activities were conducted or artifacts were used by past generations.   Priority will be given to objects that possess the potential to engage and excite first time viewers or activate the "nostalgia gene" in older adults.

Financial Support

Because of the nature of historical materials, their storage, preservation, processing and cataloging incur ongoing costs. Therefore, we invite donors of large collections to also consider providing financial support to sustain the viability of their material gifts. Financial contributions may be large or small, and may be made on a one-time basis or annually. This funding is used to offset the costs of extra processing time, preservation and any necessary professional conservation. Financial support accompanying gifts of historical material assists substantially in extending the life of a legacy, and, of course, is tax deductible.

Adopted December 2002; updated August 2004; revised January 2006; revised February 2012