University of Toronto
Scientific Instruments Collection

Collections Policy

The primary goal of the UTSIC is to preserve the material record of scientific research performed at the University of Toronto. The collection seeks scientific instruments and associated documents, either originating or used at the University of Toronto, or directly relevant to work that was done there.

Instruments suitable for collecting include:
  • Representative instruments: e.g. a typical student microscope.
  • Unique instruments: e.g. instruments specially built or modified at the University of Toronto.
  • Instruments related to significant research done at the University of Toronto.
  • Instruments related to important technology developed at the University of Toronto.
  • Instruments considered interesting or meaningful by those who used them at the University of Toronto: e.g. instruments with stories.
  • Documentation relating to objects in our collection: e.g. receipts, instruction manuals, catalogues photographs, lab notebooks, etc.
  • Instruments suitable for an active teaching collection (see below).
In some cases instruments may be added to an active teaching collection. These instruments will be permitted to be used by students for classroom investigations, though always under the supervision of an experienced UTSIC member. Such instruments should be sturdy enough to be handled frequently and need not necessarily be from the University of Toronto. The use of these instruments as part of an active teaching collection will only be done with the explicit permission of the donor.

Decisions concerning the acquisition of instruments will be made by the curators of the UTSIC.

Instruments from U of T Science Departments

The University of Toronto does not currently have a university-wide policy to ensure that all scientific equipment is examined for its potential historical value before disposal. However, the UTSIC encourages the science departments to consider the value of scientific instruments in documenting their scientific legacy. The following steps can be taken to ensure that material evidence remains for future scholars to study:
  • Contact the UTSIC before disposing of scientific equipment meeting any of the above criteria.
  • If old equipment is kept in an insecure location such that it might be discarded over the long term, contact the UTSIC and we will tag it with our contact information.
  • If historically relevant equipment is currently considered securely stored, such that it should remain where it is, please contact the UTSIC and we will tag it and add it to our catalogue.
  • Consider forming a committee of interested faculty and/or students to identify and safeguard potentially historically valuable instruments in your department.
The UTSIC will consider adding any artefacts to its collection that are offered. Whether they can be accepted will depend on a number of factors including relevance, existing holdings, and available space. When an instrument is transferred from a science department to the UTSIC, the department can be issued a document detailing the transaction.

Private Donations

Private donations of instruments relevant to the history of scientific research at the University of Toronto are greatly appreciated. Whether they can be accepted will depend on a number of factors including relevance, existing holdings, available space, and the cost of the transaction.

Accepted donations with a monetary value are eligible for a tax receipt from the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology for fair market value as determined by a qualified appraiser. However, given the limited resources of the UTSIC, those who wish to receive a tax-receipt are encouraged to consider the cost of an appraisal as part of their donation.

All donations become the exclusive property of the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. The UTSIC may store, display, or interpret donations according to the discretion of its curators in keeping with standard museum practices. Donors will receive a document detailing the transaction. The donor’s name will be added to the confidential records of the UTSIC. Donors may choose whether or not to be identified in the online catalogue.

Deaccessioning Instruments

The UTSIC reserves the right to remove from its collection instruments in the possession of the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. This will be done only in collaboration with, and with the consent of, the IHPST administration. Deaccessioning can occur if an instrument is duplicated or overrepresented in the collection, or if it is in poor physical condition. Deaccessioned instruments will be removed from the collection in accordance with UTSIC guidelines.

Last updated March 14, 2011.