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Digital Initiatives: Donations

Digital Initiatives department at the North Dakota State Library


Help build, share, and preserve North Dakota history! Having primary sources accessible online is crucial for future generations to understand the past. Now is the time to tell stories that have not yet been told. Explore the sections below to learn more about how you can contribute content. Donations are welcome from organizations and private citizens.

Donating 101

Digital Materials

A great way to help and get involved is by donating materials to the ND State Library for inclusion in its digital collections. Donations are accepted to these digital collections:

Digital Initiatives only collects digital copies of materials, so you do not have to donate your physical items (like photographs, documents, objects, books, etc.). In some cases, Digital Initiatives may borrow your materials for a period of time, but once digitization is complete, the physical items will be returned.

Physical Materials

The ND State Library is not an archive so the physical preservation of these materials falls out of its scope. If you are interested in donating your archival items to an institution that can properly store and care for them, consider contacting a local museum or historical society. You may also want to consider contacting the State Historical Society of North Dakota (either the Archives or Museum division).

What We Collect/  What to Donate

For its digital collections, the ND State Library accepts copies of:

  • Atlases & plat books
    • North Dakota locations only
  • Audio/ visual materials
    • Oral histories
    • Videos
  • Books
    • Histories (county, town, church, organization, etc.)
    • Cookbooks
    • Diaries
    • Books must have a North Dakota connection
  • Documents
    • Letters, diaries, booklets or pamphlets, certificates, recipes, programs, etc.
  • Images
    • Photographs, negatives, slides, etc.
  • Objects
    • Paintings, badges, medals, artworks, commemorative plates, awards/ plaques, etc.
  • Yearbooks
    • Yearbooks must be from a North Dakota school and be at least 50 years old (because of copyright and privacy - consult the Yearbooks page for more information)

Additional Suggestions

The ND State Library encourages submissions of photographs, documents, objects, oral histories, videos, etc.

  • It is preferred that items have some North Dakota connection.
  • It is highly recommended that these items be identifiable (meaning things like the people, location, and approximate time period are able to be determined).

Still not sure what to submit? Here are a few suggestions and tips to give you some ideas.

  • Items can be from any time period, but more recent items (like photographs) should have been taken by participants so there are no copyright issues.
  • Family photographs are probably the most commonly submitted items. When it comes to family photographs, the older they are, the better.
  • If possible, submit a digital version of the original item (like photographs or documents) instead of a digital version of a copy.
  • As a general rule, do not submit anything that you would not be comfortable having displayed online.


Copyright is another thing to consider. In the case of books, if it is protected by copyright, it cannot be digitized and made available online without permission from the rights holder. The ND State Library prefers to focus on materials that are in the public domain, covered by Fair Use, have no known copyright restrictions, or items that the rights holder has granted permission. Consult the copyright pages for more information.

Additional Resources

Consult these handouts for additional information on what should or should not be submitted:

Who Can Donate

As long as the proper criteria are met (see the other sections on this page), the ND State Library accepts donations for its digital collections from:

  • Private citizens
    • Residents of North Dakota, nonresidents who still have a connection or a love for North Dakota, etc.
  • Cultural heritage institutions
    • Libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, etc.
  • Other organizations
    • Businesses, churches, schools, etc.

How to Donate

There are a few different ways content can be contributed to the ND State Library's digital collections. Consult the sections below to learn more.


If you live or work in the Bismarck-Mandan area, or happen to be passing through, you can contact Digital Initiatives and set up an appointment at the ND State Library (which is located on the Capitol grounds).

  • Your items will be borrowed, digitized, and then returned to you. You will also be provided a flash drive containing digital copies of your items. Depending on the number of items, it may take several days or weeks to digitize the items so Digital Initiatives would have to borrow your items for an extended period of time.

  • Or, if your items have already been digitized, you could drop them off on a flash drive, external hard drive, CD, etc.


If you live outside of the Bismarck-Mandan area, or outside of the state, but would still like to contribute your content to the ND State Library's digital collections, your items could be mailed to the Digital Initiatives department. Your materials will be borrowed for a period of time, but once digitization is complete, the physical items will be mailed back to you.


If your items have already been scanned and are in a digital format, they can easily be submitted electronically to the ND State Library. Digital Initiatives will work with you to set up a transfer of your digital files. Depending on their content and context, the items may qualify for the Virtual ScanDay program, or they may be incorporated into another project and/or digital collection.


If Digital Initiatives has planned a ScanDay with a library in your area, consider attending to get your items digitized and donated.

ScanDay is an event hosted with or in libraries across the state, in which Digital Initiatives staff from the ND State Library bring scanning and photography equipment to a community and digitize photographs, documents, objects, etc. from the collections of local institutions and private citizens. After digitization, the items are returned and each participant is given a flash drive containing digital copies of their items.

Filling Gaps

Additionally, the ND State Library needs your help to fill the gaps in its digital collections!

Some of our digital collections are missing content from certain areas (like counties) in North Dakota. Consult the link below to see the list of collections and counties. If a county is missing content in a collection, it will have "N/A" listed.


If you have any questions, to learn more about donating, or to set up an appointment or file transfer, contact Digital Initiatives.

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Many of these resources and programs are funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.