The collections department is responsible for receiving artifacts from a variety of sources, considering them for acceptance into the collection, then properly identifying and storing them, preserving the artifact and the story behind it for future generations.

The Museum is happy to receive items that tie to Montana history for care and preservation. We do reserve the right to reject items that do not meet our mission. We are also unable to accept donation of personnel records that may include social security numbers or other identification that could be used for criminal purposes. When an item is donated, the story behind that item including information about the person who used the item helps make it come alive. It also helps those who follow understand its purpose and importance to our history. We ask all donors to complete and provide a deed of gift with the items. This will give us contact information for you, information on the item being donated including its significance. This document gives the museum authorization to care for the item.


It’s said that only ten percent of an iceberg is visible above the ocean’s surface. Most museums are similar, with the objects on exhibit only a small portion of those that are part of the collection.

This does not reflect on the historical value of any item but rather how a particular item fits in the story being told at any given time. When an item is offered as a donation to a museum, it begins a process that must be followed before the item is assessed, that is, accepted as part of the collection. The flow chart below follows the path of a fictitious object offered as a donation to the Montana Military Museum.


The son of a Montanan who served in the infantry in Vietnam offers his dad’s Zippo lighter as a donation to the museum.


Often more important than the item being donated is the story behind it, so we always ask you for some history when donating objects to the museum. This lighter, carried in the Montana soldier’s breast pocket, deflected the bullet from an enemy’s rifle and prevented a serious or fatal wound.


Our Accessions Committee, made up of the Collections Manager and other staff members, review each donation to judge how it fits the mission of the museum.


The Accessions Committee agrees that while thousands of soldiers carried Zippo lighters, many embellished with unit crests or other art, the history of this one makes it deserving of a place in our permanent collection.