We welcome offers to fill gaps in our extensive collection—find out more about the kinds of objects we’re collecting.
Our object-rich collections have been built up over the past 150 years, but some gaps still exist, and you might have precisely the right object to fill them—so do get in touch. (But please don’t bring objects into the museum without having made a prior appointment with the relevant curator.)
Find out more below about what we’re collecting and how to donate.
Our Collections Development Group makes decisions on what we collect. It’s made up of curators and other specialist staff, and meets every month to select from the many items offered to the museum, choosing the ones that are most suitable for exhibition or research.
Our focus now is on collecting objects that reflect the impact railways have made on society, culture and technology—including developing technologies—and to represent key human stories in railway history. We want to explain these objects to visitors of all ages, and make them available to people doing historical research.
We can’t display all the objects in the collection, so many are put in storage. They’re available for researchers and visitors to look at by appointment, and may be brought out for gallery displays and temporary exhibitions. Some are loaned to other institutions for their own exhibitions, if they meet the specific criteria required to take care of loan objects.
Please make an appointment with the relevant curator before bringing an object into the museum or sending it by post. Contact us in writing with some details about your object, and include a photograph so we can assess it.
Write to: National Railway Museum, Leeman Road, York YO26 4XJ
After this, there’s a formal approvals process (see our collecting policy), and you also might need to help our curators and registrars by giving them information about the object and where it came from.
There are a variety of reasons we may not be able to accept your offer—it could be that we already have a similar example in the collection, that your object is simply too big, or of a type we don’t collect. We will always tell you why we can’t accept it, and suggest other museums that might be interested.
We are not currently accepting archival ephemera created before 1993. This is to avoid duplication as we work through a backlog of material. This covers items such as timetables, rule books, technical manuals, company literature, promotional items, forms, procedural documents and others.
We can’t accept objects with specific conditions attached, or on long-term loan.
We also do not collect firearms or objects containing the following hazardous substances:
- Flammable material
- Potentially carcinogenic or radioactive material
We cannot give a valuation for any object.
If you have questions about the the potential tax implications of a donation, talk to an accountant, solicitor or independent tax adviser.
- Download a list of repositories who may be interested in acquiring railway archives relating to their geographical area or subject specialism
- The National Railway Museum is part of the Science Museum Group