Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Most of the museum’s treasures were donated by generous community members. The museum does not accept unsolicited donations or purchase artifacts, but if you have a museum-quality artifact you would like to donate, please fill out the Proposed Artifact Donation Form.

Can I drop off a donation at the museum?

Artifacts brought to the museum without first submitting an Proposed Artifact Donation Form or making an appointment cannot be accepted. After carefully reviewing your submission, we will contact you with the next steps in the process. Please note that for various reasons, not all artifacts considered for donation to the collection can be accepted.

What kinds of artifacts does the museum collect?

The museum collection can be divided into the following two categories:

A. Artifacts pertaining to San Diego’s historic Chinatown and the Chinese American experience including:

  • Excavated materials from the immediate area surrounding the Museum (i.e. pottery shards, medicine vials, game pieces, pipes, etc.)
  • Historic photos of San Diego’s Chinatown (i.e. photos of significant buildings, businesses, residents, etc.)
  • Tools and other implements used by residents and businesses in historic Chinatown (i.e. irons, laundry printing machine, Chinese lottery punch, etc.)
  • Books and documents (i.e. correspondence written by residents of Chinatown, business records, contracts, etc.)
  • Objects and materials reflecting the experience of San Diego area Chinese American Veterans
  • Scale models of historic Chinese American businesses, workplaces, settlements, and communities.

B. Artifacts from China (including Taiwan) and overseas Chinese communities representing broader aspects of Chinese history, art and culture including but not limited to:

  • Painting
  • Pottery/ceramics
  • Sculpture
  • Wood carving
  • Books/documents
  • Calligraphy
  • Currency
  • Photographs
  • Textiles
  • Tools
  • Religious items
  • Domestic items
  • Furniture
  • Technology & Medicine
  • Jewelry and precious stones
Can the museum appraise my artifact?

The IRS and museum ethics restrict the museum from providing appraisals of artifacts. The cost of obtaining an appraisal is the responsibility of the donor. To find a licensed appraiser, please contact one of the following organizations:

American Society of Appraisers
International Society of Appraisers
Appraisers Association of America

If you are interested in finding a conservator, visit The American Institute for Conservation at

How are potential donations reviewed?

The Museum’s Collection Committee reviews potential donations to the museum collection. The Committee reviews if the donation fits in the scope of the museum collections policy, the condition of the object and museum resources for properly caring for and storing the artifact.

If I donate artifacts to the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum, will they be returned to me at my request?

Once the Museum’s Collection Committee accepts your donation for the collection, you will be asked to sign a Deed of Gift, which legally transfers ownership of the materials to the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum. The Museum cannot return accessioned artifacts to the donor or the donor’s family.

Can artifacts and documents be removed from the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum collection?

Donations shall be retained in the collections as long as they retain their physical integrity, identity, and authenticity, and as long as they remain relevant and useful to the purposes and activities of the Museum. Deaccessioning of donations may be considered when these conditions no longer prevail or if the Museum should receive similar items in better condition or with local historical associations. Donations shall be deaccessioned only upon the recommendation of the Executive Director to the Board of Directors, and then by vote of the Board of Directors.

Does the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum accept long-term loans?

The museum does not accept long-term loans due to the cost involved. However, the Museum accepts loan materials on a short-term basis in conjunction with exhibitions and other programs

If you have any other questions or concerns, feel free to contact us!

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