Donations of Archival Materials

Photo copyright Matt Harrington

A donation of materials to the LBI archives ensures that they will be preserved and made available to scholars for generations.

The Leo Baeck Institute Archives collects documents and artifacts that record German-speaking Jewish life and culture from throughout the long history of German-speaking Jews in Central Europe and in the diaspora. The Archives collects, arranges, describes and preserves this material, and provides researchers and visitors with access to it, especially through comprehensive digitization of archival holdings.

The goal of the Leo Baeck Institute is to continue to expand its existing archival collections. The next few years will be decisive in this regard. The LBI calls upon all German-Jewish immigrants and their descendants to consider donating items as described above. The LBI, in turn, will carefully care for and preserve these materials so that they will serve as a research and information resource on German-Jewish history for future generations.

The Leo Baeck Institute Archives seeks not only to collect and preserve materials related to well-known personalities of German-Jewry, but accepts material from any and all individuals, families, communities, and businesses of German-Jewish origin.

If you are interested in donating materials please contact the Director of Research, Dr. Frank Mecklenburg, at fmecklenburg@lbi.cjh.org.

Guidelines for Archival Donations

Desirable collections include records and material such as:

  • Diaries, biographical and autobiographical writings
  • Letters and correspondence
  • Birth, death, marriage, divorce, circumcision, and Bar Mitzvah records
  • Family trees and family histories
  • Diplomas and certificates
  • Membership and ID cards
  • Visas and emigration documents
  • Books (as part of larger collections) with personal inscriptions, dedications, or genealogical information
  • Rabbinical documents
  • Material from Jewish organizations, institutions, and schools
  • Photographs
  • Artifacts and ritual objects

The Leo Baeck Institute Archives requests that all materials donated be accompanied by a general description of the contents and their approximate dates. Photographs should be donated with information identifying their content, as well as with approximate dates and any copyright or reproduction restrictions. Items donated to the archives will be examined for archival merit by archival staff under the direction of the Director of Research before being accepted by the Leo Baeck Institute.

It should be noted that the following materials are not acceptable for donation:

  • Items unrelated to the collection and preservation mission of the Leo Baeck Institute;
  • Widely available, published, commercial materials (please contact the LBI library if you are interested in donating these kinds of materials);
  • Personal financial or medical records;
  • Copies or printouts of documents downloaded from Internet databases;
  • Large amounts of copies or printouts of documents available in other libraries or archives;
  • Software packages of any kind;
  • Videos or DVDs made by the donor of copyrighted materials (such as TV shows, movies, documentaries and other off-air materials).
  • Any audio-visual materials lacking content and licensing information;
  • Information stored on computer hardware that is no longer an acceptable standard (such as floppy discs).  Present acceptable standards include magnetic tapes (such as VHS and audio-cassette tapes), CD’s, and DVD’s.  If these formats are found to be inaccessible, however, they will be discarded.
  • Objects, clothing and other textiles not of direct importance to the history of German-speaking Jewish culture.

The preservation archivist will review the condition of all incoming materials to determine their stability for acceptance in the archives. In addition, the preservation archivist will examine all incoming items that contain or are made of cloth, wood, metal, and plastic. Examples include clothing, tablecloths, billfolds, and suitcases. Items deemed out-of-scope or possibly harmful to collection preservation will not be accepted.

These materials include:

  • Illegible or severely damaged documents;
  • Materials containing mildew or mold, which can spread and endanger other materials in the archives;
  • Documents or artifacts with excessive stains caused by water or other fluids, which can lead to mildew and mold outbreaks.

The LBI archives does provide summary information about all its collections in its online catalog, but is unable to provide translations or photocopies of extensive collections of correspondence, memoirs, documents, etc., to donors.