Donate to the Collections

The Strong welcomes individuals or organizations to donate items that advance the museum’s mission to collect, preserve, exhibit, and research the topic of play. The museum is interested in objects, publications, personal papers, business records, advertising and other promotional materials, photographs, and other items that illustrate and document the role of play in learning and human development and the ways it illuminates cultural history, particularly but not exclusively, in North America.

For Toys, Dolls, and Games

Victoria Gray
Collections Manager
vgray@museumofplay.org
585-410-6320

For Library and Archival Materials

Beth Merkle
Director of Libraries
bmerkle@museumofplay.org
585-410-6349

For Video and Other Electronic Games

Jon-Paul C. Dyson
Director, International Center for the History of Electronic Games
jpdyson@museumofplay.org
585-410-6341

Video Games

Shannon Symonds
Curator
ssymonds@museumofplay.org
585-410-6318

Digital Games

Andrew Borman
Curator
aborman@museumofplay.org
585-410-6393

Frequently Asked Questions About Donating Materials

The Strong welcomes donations that advance the museum’s mission to collect, preserve, exhibit, and research objects, publications, personal papers, business records, advertising and other promotional materials, photographs, and other items that illustrate and document the role of play in learning and human development and the ways in which it illuminates cultural history, particularly but not exclusively, in America.

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What We Collect

Is The Strong actively collecting additional toys, games, dolls, video games, and other play-related materials?

Yes. The Strong is actively seeking and acquiring additional examples of play-related materials.

What types of play objects are of interest to The Strong?

From individual items to comprehensive collections, The Strong seeks a broad range of materials used for play by children and adults. The museum’s definition of play includes adult hobbies and leisure activities as well as the types of play most frequently associated with children. The museum’s collection reflects play from past centuries right through today. Materials of particular interest include toys, games, video games and their platforms, handheld game systems, toys that combine digital and traditional play, dolls, sports equipment, souvenirs, amateur crafts, and holiday decorations.

Artifacts accompanied by stories that show how donors used them are especially important. Personal photographs and videos of people at play can also help the museum document play.

What types of library and archival materials are of interest to The Strong?

From individual items to comprehensive collections, The Strong is interested in a broad range of play-related materials for its Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. Of primary interest are the records of toy, tabletop game, and electronic game designers, inventors, and companies; marketing, advertising, packaging, and other promotional and informational materials about toys and games; publications of the toy, game, and electronic game industries; personal and professional papers and publications of play scholars; primary and secondary publications that document the history of play; and published and unpublished works written by dedicated collectors of toys and games.

What’s less interesting to The Strong?

With its emphasis on items used for play, The Strong is less interested in items marketed exclusively to adult collectors, such as limited-edition porcelain dolls and international souvenir dolls. We have extensive collections of stuffed animals, jigsaw puzzles, and pre-1940 dolls, so we’re typically not looking to expand those areas of the collection.

How You Can Donate

How do I make a donation?

Emailing or phoning one of the above individuals is the best way to offer a donation. Describing what you have and explaining the quantity and condition provides us with crucial information. Attaching photographs can be especially helpful.

What happens after I make an offer?

The museum considers each potential acquisition carefully. The appropriate curator, librarian, or archivist evaluates each item or collection to make sure it supports the museum’s mission and doesn’t duplicate items already in the museum’s collection. When items or groups of items fit those criteria, the staff member responsible for the initial review presents a written justification for acquisition to The Strong’s Acquisitions Team. If that group agrees, a Deed of Gift form is prepared for the donor.

Must donated materials be in mint condition?

Items or collections offered to the museum should be complete (not missing significant parts) and in stable condition, but they do not have to be mint-in-box or look the way they did when new. It is not necessary to clean objects prior to offering them to The Strong. Curatorial and conservation staff members examine each artifact to assure that its condition will allow it to be preserved for future exhibition, research, and educational needs.

Should I organize my collection before offering it to The Strong?

It’s not necessary to organize a collection prior to offering it to The Strong. Staff from the museum’s Collections Team will organize the materials after they arrive.

Should I clean or repair my objects before offering them to The Strong?

It’s not necessary to do cleaning or repair work prior to offering it to The Strong. Staff from the museum’s conservation staff will evaluate what steps are necessary once items are accepted by the museum.

What about intellectual property rights?

The museum is aware that donors of papers, documents, and other materials may not hold copyright or intellectual property rights to the content. The Strong provides those donors with clear and specific ways to designate the appropriate limitations involved with intellectual property.

Can I drop by the museum with my donation?

Please make an appointment first with one of our staff members—a curator, librarian, or archivist—before you bring items to the museum. Advance notice allows us to assure that the proper staff person is available. The museum’s security officers and admission desk hosts aren’t allowed to accept donations.

When You Donate

What is a Deed of Gift?

A Deed of Gift is a formal document that transfers legal ownership of the donated item(s) to The Strong. Provisions within the document allow donors to choose how they want their donation acknowledged, to define or assign intellectual property rights, and to specify preferences for research access.

What are the financial implications of a donation?

The Internal Revenue Service has determined that The Strong qualifies as a 501(c)(3) organization. In keeping with professional standards and accreditation requirements of the American Alliance of Museums, The Strong does not appraise items offered for donation. Donors are encouraged to seek the advice of counsel before claiming deductions for the purpose of computing income and heritance taxes under state and federal laws.

Will my donations be displayed?

Only a small percentage of the museum’s collections can be shown in its exhibits and displays at any one time. However, donations are shared with a worldwide audience by way of the museum’s online collections database and the online catalog of The Strong’s Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. Both serve as a resource for curators and outside researchers.

Can I get to my materials again after I donate them?

Yes, you are welcome to make an appointment with the museum’s staff to provide you access to items not on display.

Other FAQs

Does the museum repair dolls or other items for individuals?

The Strong’s conservation staff does not provide repair services for dolls or other objects owned by outside individuals. The American Institute for Conservation (AIC) offers a form on its website to help link members of the public with appropriate conservators.

Does the museum offer appraisals?

The Strong doesn’t offer appraisals. The experts at appraisers.org and appraisersassoc.org supply online directories of appraisers. They should be able to direct you to local appraisers or possibly connect you with an expert who could offer input via email if you have images available to share. Alternatively, a quick search on eBay’s current listings or completed listings (in the advanced search option) often proves helpful to gauge an item’s current selling price.

Why don’t you photograph or scan everything so that it’s available online?

With more than 510,000 items in the museum’s collection, library, and archives, The Strong doesn’t have the staff capacity or digital storage space to duplicate everything it owns for online viewing. That said, the museum is constantly increasing the proportion of its holdings that can be accessible via the internet.

I live 2,000 miles away from Rochester. How can I access the collection?

The Strong shares tens of thousands of items with a worldwide audience by way of the its online collections database and the online catalog of The Strong’s Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play.

I’m an author who needs museum images for a publication. What steps do I need to take?

The Strong provides images to individuals and organizations, once they agree to the museum’s image policies and pay the associated fees. For more information, please contact:

For Toys, Dolls, Games, and Video Game Collections
Victoria Gray
Collections Manager
vgray@museumofplay.org
585-410-6320

For Library and Archival Materials
Beth Merkle
Director of Libraries
bmerkle@museumofplay.org
585-410-6349

I’m working on a documentary and want to visit the museum to capture footage of objects on-site. What steps do I need to take?

Please contact:

Shane Rhinewald
Senior Director of Public Relations
srhinewald@museumofplay.org
585-410-6365

Do you give tours of the areas where collections are stored?

Staff limitations and security concerns do not allow the museum to provide tours of collections storage areas.

I saw something listed under a collection object record that was incorrect. How can I let the museum know?

The Strong always wants the information it shares to be as accurate as possible. Please contact:

Victoria Gray
Collections Manager
vgray@museumofplay.org
585-410-6320