Artifact Donation Guidelines at the Ocean Institute


Artifact Donation Guidelines at the Ocean Institute


The Ocean Institute is a 501c(3) organization committed to expanding awareness and understanding of marine environments of the guests who visit. Using labs, aquaria, off-shore experiences, and artifacts, the Ocean Institute works to inspire actions of learning, sustainability, and conservation. Our collections are reflective of these ideas and support the educational opportunities we provide for schools and the community.

We have great interest in acquiring items that will positively promote our organization’s mission. If you have an item you would like to donate, please read the conditions outlined below. Understanding the policies, we have and the ones we must conform to as a scientific educational facility, will help make the donation process as smooth as possible.

Thank you.

Before Bringing your item in:

Tell us about it! Contact us with as accurate information as you can about the item (photographs are appreciated). This helps us correctly access its possible position within our collection and whether the donation aligns with Ocean Institute’s mission. Please do this before bringing your collection item to the Ocean Institute. Addressing the items before they come also helps to understand the significance of the donation and gives the opportunity to provide accurate education and/or history about the item.

We can’t accept everything

Please understand that the Ocean Institute can not accept everything that is being proposed as a donation to us. Objects that bring into question State or Federal regulations (explained below), or do not align with the mission of Ocean Institute, are more likely to be denied. The most likely situations where donations will be accepted is if:

  • It has a clear connection to the mission,
  • It doesn’t duplicate artifacts we already own,
  • It has proper documentation,
  • It has feasible care requirements

Our collections

Our collections are used for the education of the community and school groups. We currently have 3 categories for collections:

Living Collections- Collections consisting of living animals occupying our aquaria that are used for educational programs and research. It is intended for the organisms here to be cared for in alignment with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Exhibit Collections- This collection is used for exhibit displays and educational programs. It is comprised of objects used in research as well as those documenting the aspects of maritime history, marine science, and terrestrial ecology. It is intended that objects in this collection are preserved and maintained for an elongated amount of time.

Teaching Collections- This collection consists of objects used in educational programs, hands-on demonstrations, or as component parts to repair or create facsimile artifacts. It is not intended that items in this collection are preserved.

Conditions for Live and Exhibit Collections

Live animals, animal parts, or artifacts have stipulations when it comes to accepting them as donations. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NMFS) have regulations that we, as a scientific institution, must abide by. These conditions correspond with the Marine Mammal Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, protected state and federal lands and coastal areas, and state protected species.

ANY bird parts, bones, feathers, or otherwise, cannot be accepted at this time.

Bones, preserved parts, or parasites taken from any marine mammal after the year 1972, or endangered species parts after 1973, must have:

Copies of permits or other documentation showing the material was obtained legally by the donor.

Artifacts that were collected before the years 1972-73 must submit a letter outlining how the artifact came into their possession.

Acceptance of these types of artifacts depends entirely on the legality of owning them, in accordance with CDFW and NOAA laws or regulations.

The localities of the collection of all said artifacts MUST be known.

We will take live animals regardless of endangered status. However, this does not mean they will be able to stay within our collection. If an animal has special status, protected status, is endangered or threatened, the correct officials will be notified, and their assessment will determine where the animal goes.

The Ocean Institute does have much of the proper permitting to allow for most of these items. Donation items of this nature may require extra documentation or the communication with state and federal agencies. Please allow time for the assessment of donations, apart from live animals.

Donations are Tax Deductible

As a non-profit institution, donations made to the Ocean Institute may be claimed as tax deductions. In order to be claimed, the object must be appraised for its value. In accordance with the regulations issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), appraisal or estimates of an artifact’s value is solely the responsibility of the donor and that benefiting institutions cannot provide a fair market value. Therefore, the Ocean Institute cannot provide appraisals or fair market evaluations, either expressed or implied, to donors. We ask that you consult your attorney, the IRS, or a licensed appraiser for any questions or concerns addressing tax deductible donations.

Donation uses and display

All the donations Ocean Institute receives are important; whether they are displayed or not. Items that are donated for exhibit purposes are placed into a rotating collection. This means that certain exhibits may change throughout the year, and our displayed artifacts with them. We cannot guarantee that artifacts will be displayed; display may affect the condition of some artifacts, artifacts may be loaned to other institutions, or it doesn’t match our collection at that time.


The Ocean Institute, because of the nature of our collections and rotations, must accept gifts free of trust, obligation, or conditions that need to be met. We ask that items being donated are surrendered of ownership by the donor. If you would like to receive back your donation at some point in time, please contact the appropriate staff to discuss the loaning of an object.

We cannot accept unsolicited donations. Please do not mail, ship, or drop off any items intended for donation without consulting an appropriate staff member of the Ocean Institute. Information detailing the origins and “story” behind item, to the best of the donor’s ability, is required.


To inquire about or submit donations for review, please email the Compliance Liaison at