Loaning historical materials is not an everyday occurrence for most institutions. Generally, requests for loans are either for exhibits, private research, or administrative purposes:
- Exhibits are usually designed to convey information rather than showcase the physical objects. In many cases, requests for loans can be satisfied by creating a reproduction of the requested item.
- Loans to individuals for research are not common. However, institutions can form a consortium allowing the loan of materials from one research institution to another, thereby providing researchers access to materials at the nearest consortium repository. Many repositories also allow for the loan of microfilm, photocopies, or facsimiles, as opposed to original records.
- Individual or corporate donors may request the loan of records they donated. The procedures for loaning records to donors should be clearly identified in the original deed of gift.
- Loan Agreements
Before a loan is made, the repository should require a loan agreement be signed by both parties. This document outlines the specific details of the loan so that there will be no misunderstanding or confusion later. A loan agreement should include the following:
- Lender’s Name and Contact Information—This will enable the recipient to easily contact the lender if a question arises about the loan or the item.
- Recipient’s Name and Contact Information—This will enable the lender to easily contact the recipient if a question arises about the loan or the item.
- Purpose of Loan—The agreement should describe why the item is being loaned and how it will be used. For example, is the item to be used in an exhibit that will be open to the public? Is the item to be displayed at a private fundraising reception? Is the item to be used by the recipient’s staff for research purposes? Is the item being provided to a vendor or other institution to be scanned?
- Period of Loan—The agreement should designate how long the loan will last.
- Description of Item—The agreement should carefully describe the item so that it can be readily identified. “Civil War letter” could describe a large number of documents. “Letter from Col. John Doe related to troop movements, dated Sept. 3, 1862, accession number 12345” makes it clear to what document the loan agreement refers.
- Condition of Item—The agreement should describe the condition of the item when it was loaned, noting any blemishes for which the recipient should not be held accountable and providing the lender with a means to demonstrate the condition of the item when it left their care in case it is returned damaged.
- Disclaimer or Other Conditions—Some repositories include information on how the item must be stored, that it cannot be altered, whether or not it is insured, whether or not the recipient is liable for damage, who is responsible for transportation or other costs related to the loan, how the item should be credited in public displays, and similar issues of concern. Some of these issues may be ones with which a repository will be concerned on every loan, and some may be specific to a particular loan agreement. Generally, repositories develop a list of standard conditions to be included in every loan agreement, either directly in the text or by attachment.
- Signature, Title, and Date—Representatives of the lender and recipient, who are authorized to enter into a legally binding document (e.g. the historical society president or director of a museum), should sign and date the loan agreement.
- Acknowledgement of Return—The loan agreement should include an area to be completed upon the item’s return in which a representative of the lender acknowledges that the item was received and notes the condition upon return.
Regardless of the type of loan, certain security procedures should be in place to protect the materials. Evidence of security procedures needs to be present before a loan agreement is signed.
- A repository’s loan policy should require the individual or agency requesting the loan to provide a written request detailing the materials requested, duration of the loan, transportation requirements, environmental conditions where the materials will be stored or displayed, and security measures in place at the institution. In order to protect records, this information should be established before a director or other official considers pursuing a loan agreement or approaching a board for approval to loan an item. The information in the written request can then be used to help complete the loan agreement if a decision is made to loan an item.
- The repository should create a detailed inventory of each item on loan and its condition before it is loaned out and after its return. This serves as a reference of all items currently on loan and a record of all the loans to which the repository has agreed over time.
These sample loan agreements are meant to serve as examples, of format and content, for your institution.