Collections and Archival Research & Donations

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Researchers of all persuasions are welcomed to explore our collection and archival vaults on their own research journeys.  Whether you are a student looking for the perfect source for a research paper or an amateur historian looking to know more about your neighborhood, we’re here to help you where we can.  As a collecting institution, we have subject and time period gaps.

All preliminary research reviews are free of charge and should be sent to info@berrienhistory.org.

Distance Research Requests

If you are not local to the southwest Michigan region, our staff is able to conduct research sessions for you.  There is a fee associated with this service and it must be paid in full before we begin.

Our Schedule of Fees will help you plan your project’s budget.

On-site Research Requests

Those local to us are welcomed to schedule an appointment to complete their research on-site at the Courthouse Square during our business hours Wednesday through Saturday.

There is no fee associated with this service, but photocopies and digital scans of items will incur charges.  Payments can be made via cash, check, credit card while on site.

Media Use Information

Commercial uses of our images and artifacts are available, although the BCHA has right of refusal if we feel the project does not reflect our mission or values.

Fees for these projects vary based on the style and need.  We recommend reviewing our  Image Reproduction Permission Form to help you plan your project’s budget.

Donating Artifacts to the BCHA

The Berrien County Historical Association accepts donations of artifacts and archival items to our collections.  Donations will be reviewed by the curator and director to determine if the donation will be accessioned into our collections.  This review is determined by our Collection Policy as set by the Board of Directors.

We review each donation individually with the following rubric and if the answer is no to four of these five questions, we will reject the donation, although exceptions may apply on a case-by-case basis.

  1. Does it have a direct connection to Berrien County or Southwest Michigan history?
  2. Does it help flesh out existing stories we tell or does it tell us a new story?
  3. Do we have the resources to care and maintain the item?
  4. Can we use this item or is it too damaged?
  5. Does the donor have restrictions?

To donate an item or items to our collections, please call 269-471-1202 to speak to our curator or contact him at jmoga@berrienhistory.org.  Items that are left on the property will be deemed abandoned and discarded without review.

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What we are looking for:

The BCHA has several gaps in our collections that we are looking to fill through your donation.

General History Subjects

  • Women
  • African American
  • Asian American
  • Native American*
  • Latinx American
  • LGTBQ+
  • Disability
  • Post-WW2

Subject Specific

  • Business (all sizes)
  • Recreation & Sports
  • Non-profits & Social Groups
  • Home front, WW2
  • Home front, WW1
  • Home front, Civil War
  • Pioneer & Frontier Life
  • Religious Groups
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Architecture
  • Legal & Law

Items

  • Diaries, Letters, Journals, and similar materials
  • Photos, postcards, and photo albums
  • Textiles & Costumes
  • Souvenirs & Promotional Items
  • Paper goods (i.e. brochures, catalogs, etc.)

*Must have proof it was obtained appropriately and legally

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What will not be accepted:

Because the BCHA has limited resources and space to support our collections and archives, we are not looking for the following items or accepting items under the following conditions.  Exceptions may apply, please see the bottom of the page.

Not Accepting

  • Military uniforms and memorabilia (1)
  • Munitions of any type (bombs, bullets, etc.)
  • Guns and weaponry (2)
  • Frames
  • Large furniture
  • Farming instruments
  • Tools
  • Large industrial items
  • Wagons, buggies, carts, or other vehicles
  • Boats or other maritime vehicles

Rejected Conditions

  • Rust or corrosion
  • Broken, torn, or damaged
  • Missing parts or pieces that inhibit storytelling
  • Dangerous elements such as poisons, radium, etc.
  • No clear provenience (ownership)

Exceptions

  • (1) Unless it pertains to underrepresented groups (see left) or to the Berrien Springs Light Guard
  • (2) Berrien Springs Light Guard or locally made examples