Donating to our Collections

1/09/2022: We won't be able to accept in-person donations at the Museum from October 2022. Instead, please email our curators on with a picture of the item/s and any related information. See our service changes page for more information.

Canterbury Museum is grateful for the generosity of the Canterbury community for its support and gifts to the Museum over many years.

The Museum welcomes offers of gifts but please be aware that we are not able to accept everything. All gifts are reviewed by a committee, who are guided by our collecting themes and policies.

If you have an item that you are thinking of gifting to the Museum, please contact or 03 366 5000. See below for Frequently Asked Questions.

If you would like to donate or bequest money to the Museum, please go to our sponsor and donors page or to our bequests page.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the Museum decide what to collect?

 The Museum decides what to collect based on several criteria:

  • Whether the object comes under our Collecting Themes: Antarctica, People of Waitaha/Canterbury, New Zealand natural history, Iwi Tawhito/New Zealand before European contact or Design in New Zealand.
  • The object’s provenance. Who made it, who used it, what for, who has owned it in the past. Or for natural history specimens, where and when it was collected and by whom. Basically, why is it important?
  • The object’s condition
  • If the Museum already has the object. We don’t usually collect duplicates.
  • If the object is original. We don’t usually collect copies.
  • Practical considerations such as storage space or conditions.
  • The object’s ownership status (see legalities below).

How do I donate?

First, get in touch with the Museum by phone or email to tell us what you have. Ideally, send us a photo! Our curators should be able to tell you relatively quickly if we don’t want the item or if we’d like you to bring it in to show us.

If you’re invited to bring the object in a curator will make an appointment to meet you. Bring your objects along with any information you have about them. If the curator is interested in the objects, they will ask you to complete an Object Receipt form.

What if I have a large collection to donate?

Get in touch first by phone or email. We may arrange for a curator to come and see your collection at your home. We may not wish to collect everything, perhaps just a selection of your objects.

What happens to my object after I’ve donated it?

The Object Receipt form does not mean that we have accepted your object into our collection. Rather, it means we have accepted temporary custody of it in order to give it proper consideration and conduct due diligence. Our curator will now make a proposal as to whether to collect the object or not, which will be considered by our Collections Development and Management Team. This team meets monthly to consider acquisition proposals. If they accept your object, you will be notified and you’ll receive a formal thank you in the form of a Certificate of Gift.

There is no guarantee that your object will be displayed in the Museum if it is accepted but our collection is an important resource for researchers. Objects are often viewed and studied even if they’re kept in storage.

What happens if the Museum doesn’t want my object?

If the Museum declines your object and you have indicated on the Object Receipt form that you want it returned, you will be notified in writing. You will have one month to come and retrieve it from the Museum or we will dispose of it on your behalf.

What information do I need to provide with my objects?

The two most important things you can provide are your contact details, and the object’s provenance (history) – where and when it was made, by whom and why, what it was used for, its ownership history, etc. Or for natural history specimens, where and when it was collected and by whom.

What are the legalities around donation?

Our Object Receipt form is a legal document. By signing it you are confirming the following:

  • That you are the legal owner of the object or that you are the approved agent of the legal owner. If either of these statements are untrue then you will be committing a crime by signing the form.
  • That you are giving the Museum temporary custody of the object so that we can give it proper consideration and conduct due diligence. If the Museum decides to accept the object you are giving us legal permission to take permanent ownership of it.
  • If the Museum decides not to accept the object you are giving us legal permission to dispose of the object as you indicated on the form, i.e. you will retrieve the object within one month of notification, or the Museum will dispose of the object on your behalf.
  • That you, your heirs and relatives relinquish any rights you have over the object. You or your family cannot ask for it back at a later date.
  • That any copyright you hold over the object is transferred to the Museum.

Can I lend my objects to the Museum?

The Museum does not accept loans except in very specific circumstances, e.g. for research or exhibitions. The Museum never accepts objects on indefinite or permanent loan.

What if I have taonga Māori to donate?

If you are the legal owner of the object then there may be several options depending on your personal circumstances. Please contact us by phone or email to discuss.

If you found the taonga, e.g. through fossicking, whilst digging in your backyard or walking along the beach, then you are not the legal owner and the object may be considered taonga tūturu. The Museum will notify the Ministry for Culture and Heritage of such objects, who then work through the Māori Land Court to determine custody or ownership.

Please note that fossicking of archaeological sites is illegal.

Refer to Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage for further information.

What if I have a natural history specimen to donate?

Laws governing the collecting and keeping of animals, dead or alive, mean that the rules around donating them to Museums are different to other objects. If you bring a native vertebrate (bird, reptile, amphibian, fish or mammal) into the Museum we cannot return it to you under any circumstances. Instead we will:

  1. Decide if we want it, in which case we will add it to our collection.
  2. Offer it to other cultural, scientific or government institutions.
  3. Offer it to Ngāi Tahu for cultural use, e.g. incorporation of feathers into weaving.
  4. Dispose of it by destruction.

Refer to the Wildlife Act 1953 and the Marine Mammal Protection Act 1978 for more information.