Leaving us your collection

We are always grateful to be offered collections. We believe in keeping collections together, although we may dispose of material that is not considered suitable for conservation.

To do our job we need both the collection and, if possible, your copyright to be transferred as well. This will allow us, for example, to publish photographs in our digital catalogues and make them available on the Internet.

The wording in your will could be:

I bequeath to The Mills Archive Trust of Watlington House, 44 Watlington St, Reading RG1 4RJ, Registered Charity no. 1155828, my … collection, including books, research notes, photographs, postcards, computer files and any mill-related material, together with any relevant intellectual property rights, to be deposited with or otherwise used at the discretion of the Trustees for the benefit of the Mills Archive.

It would help us and your executors if you would consider providing an itemised description of the contents of your collection. If needed, we are always ready to help to draw up such a list and to provide labels, etc.

Sometimes the boundary between your mill collection and other items may not be so clear. It could save your executors a great deal of trouble if you leave it to us to sort out the mill material from other items in your collections. We will offer important items that rightfully belong elsewhere to relevant archives and sell remaining non-mill material and any published material that is duplicated in our collection to raise funds for the Archive.

Potential benefactors are encouraged to discuss any bequest at an early stage with the Chairman of the Trustees, if necessary in total confidence, who can provide advice on our collecting policy. It is helpful if the Trustees can have a copy for our files of that part of your will that specifically refers to any bequest and of any related list of items.


We ask that you also think about leaving a financial bequest so that we can do your collection justice. If you are able to leave us some money at the same time as donating items or material, this will assist us greatly in preserving and making the most of what you are giving us. This is known as a “dedicated bequest”: find out more.

Financial legacies are a vital source of income for charities such as ours. More information about financial legacies.


We are happy to consider offers of material at any time. Please see our information page on donating archival collections.


Once ownership is transferred to us, we work in three phases:

  • An initial inspection determines the vulnerability, scope and importance of the collection. Irrelevant material is disposed of, possibly to other archives, sold to raise funds or returned to the donor.
  • Finding aids are constructed which list the content of the collection (usually in spreadsheet format) and are based on the collector’s notes and classifications. These are made available in the catalogue so that researchers know they can come and see the originals or request digital copies. Material is usually reboxed at this stage to ensure easy retrieval.
  • Detailed cataloguing is undertaken of important items (such as documents or images) or data (such as family histories). At this stage much is digitised and made freely available on the web. We always credit the photographer and collector where we have that information. The items once catalogued are stored in appropriate archival media, and are then available for use by researchers under supervision.

We are an entirely voluntary body with no government or institutional support, so our third stage cataloguing priorities are determined by the importance of the collection and by the availability of funds: volunteer time is at a premium and archival enclosures are very expensive.

Further information may be obtained from the Archivist.