Carefully consider the strengths of your collection or archive and which public collection it might relate to, any particular subjects or locations that are covered in detail. There might be a specialist body which would be particularly interested in the work, whether that is a company, institution or membership body. A full list of 39 Subject Specialist Networks in the UK can be found here. Your local museum will be best placed to direct you if your collection is regionally specific. If you are unsure which museum to contact, the Museum Development Network may be able to assist, details here, or get in touch directly with the PCN at email@example.com. National Museums do occasionally acquire archives, but have strict acquisition policies in relation to their collecting priorities. For example, The Imperial War Museum lists the specific areas from which it accepts donations of individual items, and it also lists the items it does not collect. If you are contacting an institution it is advisable to initially supply a brief, organised summary of the content of your collection or archive, including:
- Approximate date range of the material.
- The subject matter.
- Number and type of works (prints, contact sheets, negatives, etc).
- Details of supplementary material (letters, drawings, etc).
- Approximate space the material occupies (e.g. 3 linear meters of shelving/4 filing cabinets).
The more organised you are, the better the chance of an institution being able to acquire the collection. Reading a major collection’s mission or vision statement can also help gain an understanding if the organisation is a good match to your own collection. It is increasingly the case in the UK that organisations seek a bequest of money alongside donations of collections, in order to fund the additional cost of storing and cataloguing the collection. For this reason it reason it would be useful to have informal conversations with other donors or recipients if possible. If you are a professional photographer, it is important to plan for your legacy in general, and the cataloguing and archiving of your work. If you are a Photographic Collections Network member please see our legacy planning events. A useful website for examples of how photographers have planned the future of their archives is the Photo Legacy Project.