Introduction to Cultural Property

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Teaching session to the Leicester University Country House Management course on 'Managing Cultural Property'.

Teaching session to the Leicester University Country House Management course on 'Managing Cultural Property'.

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  • 1. Managing Cultural Property: Illicit trade, theft & spoliation Nick Poole, CEO, Collections Trust
  • 2.
    • Content
    • Welcome & introductions
    • About Collections Trust
    • A look at Cultural Property
    • Illicit Trade
    • Spoliation
    • Break
    • Theft
    • Restitution & repatriation
    • Q&A
  • 3.
    • Welcome & introductions
  • 4.
    • About me
    • CEO at Collections Trust
    • UK representative for culture at the European Commission
    • Chair, ICOM UK
    • Councillor, Museums Association
    • Chair, European Content Council
  • 5.
    • About Collections Trust
    • UK and international organisation for Collections Management
    • Support museums, libraries, archives and galleries in unlocking the potential of their collections by:
      • Providing know-how
      • Developing and promoting excellence
      • Challenging existing practices
      • Pioneering new ideas
      • Bringing experts together
  • 6.
    • Two websites you need to know about:
  • 7.
    • Session 1 - A look at Cultural Property
    • What do you understand by ‘Cultural Property’?
  • 8.
    • Cultural Property is...
    • A broadly-defined term
    • Art & antiquities of cultural/religious significance
    • Protected under International law
    • “ Immovables and movables, including monuments of architecture, art or history, archaeological sites, works of art, manuscripts, books and other objects of artistic, historical or archaeological interest, as well as scientific collections of all kinds regardless of their origin or ownership.”
      • Hague Convention, 1954
  • 9.
    • What are the main areas of Cultural Property law?
  • 10.
    • Main points:
    • Preventing illicit trade nationally and internationally
    • Restitution and repatriation of artefacts
    • Ethical management of human remains
    • Issues of looted art, particularly during the period 1933-45
  • 11.
    • What are the main issues for your property?
  • 12.
    • Key issues:
    • Protecting yourself and avoiding illicit trade
    • Understanding the legal implications of ownership
    • Media management and Public Relations
    • How to handle problems if they arise
  • 13.
    • Some recent examples...
  • 14.
    • The Natural History Museum has been approached by a group led by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre in Australia.
    • TAC requested the return of a number of partial skulls and bone fragments. The NHM agreed, on the sole condition that they could remove tiny fragments of bone for destructive DNA testing, which would help them complete an ongoing record of DNA sequences worldwide.
    • TAC argued that any form of testing, for whatever purpose, represented a violation of the sanctity of the remains of their forefathers and that holding them in this way would ‘keep their souls in torment’ until a formal burial could be carried out.
    • You are the NHM. What would you do?
  • 15.
    • In Summer 1964, the crew of the Italian fishing vessel Ferrucio Ferri snagged their nets on a bronze statue. Instead of alerting the authorities, they smuggled it home and sold it to two local entrepreneurs for 4m lire.
    • Over the next 13 years, it was bought and sold a number of times, before being purchased by the Getty for the new Getty Villa for $4m.
    • The Italian authorities, learning of the purchase, issued an immediate request for the statue to be repatriated (it was a Greek statue, stolen by the Romans and lost at sea for an estimated 2000 years).
    • In 2010, an Italian judge ruled that it had been removed from Italy illegally, and should be returned. When the statue was actually found, the ship was in international waters.
    • You are the Getty. What would you do?
  • 16.
    • In 2001, the Taliban in Afghanistan used dynamite and rocket-propelled grenades to destroy the ‘Bamiyan Bhuddas’ – 2 monumental statues that had stood at the entrance to a stone carved temple for 1500 years.
    • It was presented as a campaign to destroy ‘false idols in keeping with the teaching of Islam’, but was actually a show of political will and indifference to the intervention of the international community.
    • 2 campaigns have since emerged. One is to rebuild the statues as an expression of the rebuilding of identity and solidarity in the region. The other is to create a museum which presents their destroyed remnants as a reminder of the mindless damage inflicted during the conflict.
    • You are the Afghan delegate to UNESCO. What would you do?
  • 17.
    • The value of art treasures stolen and traded illegally worldwide each year is £7bn
    • (Source: Argos Insurance, France)
  • 18.
    • Session 2 - Combating illicit trade:
    • When might it be illegal to buy or sell an object?
  • 19.
    • When:
    • The objects have been stolen from their owners
    • The objects have been removed illegally from archaeological sites or monuments
    • The objects have been exported without export licenses
    • The sale involves the import/export of banned substances
  • 20.
    • Combating illicit trade:
    • Why worry about it?
  • 21.
    • The Law:
    • Dealing in Cultural Artefacts Offences Act 2003
    • The Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Heritage during Armed Conflict (1954)
    • Second Protocol to the Convention (1999)
    • Up to 7 years imprisonment, plus a hefty fine
  • 22.
    • The principle:
    • Trade in illicit goods damages lives and reputations, proceeds can be used to fund organised crime and the illegal export and transfer of goods impoverishes entire cultures.
  • 23.
    • Combating illicit trade:
    • How can you protect yourself?
  • 24.
    • Protecting yourself:
    • Verify the identity of the seller
    • Buy from a professional trade association
    • Check the object against the databases of stolen art
    • Ask for a certificate of authenticity
    • Ask for provenance, including country of origin
    • Written invoice, including full details of the seller
    • Ask for an export license if the item has been exported
    • Pay by cheque and get a receipt
    • Seek expert advice
  • 25.
    • eBay & online auction sites:
    • eBay does thriving trade in art & antiquities
    • The legislation and risks are identical
    • Particular problems include:
      • The verification of identity and provenance
      • Overseas export and export licenses
      • Tendency to forego normal physical documentation
    • Don’t trust ranking systems!
    • eBay actively works with the BM & others
  • 26.
    • Common examples of documentation:
    • A copy of an export licence
    • Publication of information about the export in a reputable journal
    • A will specifically mentioning the item
    • An inventory specifically mentioning the item
    • Family correspondence mentioning the item
    • Photographic evidence
    • Auction catalogues
    • Excavation field notes
    • Receipt of purchase
    • Always ask for originals, facsimiles are easier to fake
  • 27.
    • Session 3 - Spoliation
    • What do you understand by the word ‘spoliation’?
  • 28.
    • Spoliation:
    • A large number of cultural objects and works of art were systematically looted by the Nazis and others during the Second World War and the Holocaust Era from 1933-1945; an activity which is often described as spoliation.
  • 29.
    • Your responsibilities:
    • Publicly-funded bodies have a legal obligation to demonstrate due diligence in checking their collections for potentially spoliated works
    • Private owners/collections need to be aware of, and take steps to manage, the potential for claims from relatives of original owners
  • 30.
    • Tackling Spoliation:
    • How might you go about demonstrating ‘due diligence’?
  • 31.
    • Tackling Spoliation:
    • You have to take a balanced approach to the risks
    • Begin by identifying ‘safe’ works
    • Research provenance of at-risk works
    • If you do discover works for which documentation is partial, or for which there is evidence of spoliation, don’t hide them!
    • Contact the DCMS Spoliation Advisory Panel for advice
  • 32.
    • Tackling Spoliation:
    • Which works are likely to be ‘safe’?
  • 33.
    • Safe(r) Collections:
    • Artefacts which have a full provenance in the UK
    • Artefacts acquired directly from archaeological excavations
    • Commissioned works
    • Works acquired new
    • For other works, it is a question of making a balanced judgement based on the likely monetary and/or cultural value of the object.
  • 34.
    • Break
  • 35.
    • Session 4 - Theft:
    • Have you experienced a theft from your property?
  • 36.
    • The case of Edwin Rist
    • Edwin Rist was an American flautist, in London to study at the Royal Academy of Music.He was also an obsessive fly-tyer.
    • In 2009, he began posing as a professional photographer, and made arrangements to photograph bird pelts from the Natural History Museum at their outpost at Tring.
    • On the 23 rd June 2009, he broke into the museum and stole 299 pelts. He then systematically destroyed these pelts and began turning them into fishing lures.
    • Many of the pelts were from extinct or endangered species.
  • 37.
    • John Nevin’s House
    • John Nevin was a Gallery Assistant and technician at the Victoria and Albert Museum between 1944 and 1953. He lived in Nightingale Close, Chiswick with his devoted wife.
    • Suspicions were aroused after an audit, and the police eventually raided Nevin’s house, where they found more than 2,000 artefacts from the V&A Collection, ranging from large furniture to statues and paintings.
    • Their curtains were made from a rare early tapestry. Mrs Nevin carried her shopping home in a 19 th century Italian leather satchel.
    • Nevin had brought their dining table home from the museum in pieces hidden in his trousers.
  • 38.
    • Theft:
    • The annual trade in stolen art and antiquities worldwide is worth some £7bn, with an increasing number of works being stolen to order by concerted criminal enterprises
    • Sadly, many cases do turn out to have had help from an insider, or to involve contractors who have worked on the property
  • 39.
    • Theft:
    • What are the main deterrents to theft from your property?
  • 40.
    • Deterrents to theft:
    • Building envelope/physical deterrents*
    • Intrusion detection systems
    • Staff awareness & invigilation
    • Sound inventory practice
    • Rapid distribution of information to inhibit onward sale
    • In the vast majority of cases, even where there are significant defences in the perimeter of the property the building shell is regarded as the perimeter and the main focus for physical deterrent.
  • 41.
    • Theft:
    • What physical methods/systems do you use to deter theft?
  • 42.
    • Physical deterrents:
    • Limiting physical openings in the building shell (eg. works)
    • Strengthening doors, windows and rooflights
    • Steel roller shutters, collapsible gates or grilles
    • Pipes, ledges and buttresses provide potential modes of entry
    • Emergency exits not monitored
    • Limiting hiding spaces by avoiding dead ends & unused spaces
    • A secure division between areas that are open or closed to the public
    • External factors, and particularly overgrown vegetation
    • Risk of attack from less secure adjacent buildings
    • Use of attack-resistant display cases
    • Use of secure fixings into walls and panels
    • Use of CCTV
  • 43.
    • Points to consider:
    • Where full protection is not practical, consider defining an internal ‘high security’ perimeter with higher-grade protection
    • Alarm systems should be live-linked to police authorities, don’t just rely on the bell!
    • Physical deterrents can never be attack-proof, but should be sufficiently attack-resistant to provide time for your secondary (intruder detection and alarm) systems to work
    • Police authorities maintain policies on callout and response – it is worth finding out about yours
  • 44.
    • 90% of thefts from museums are ‘inside jobs’ perpetrated by staff, owners or people connected to them.
    • (Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation, USA)
  • 45.
    • A significant number of cases result in the return of the artefact (largely due to increasingly effective limitations on international trade), but often not in a conviction.
    • (Source: Cultural Property Advice, 2007)
  • 46.
    • Art Loss Register ( )
    • A permanent computerised database of stolen and missing works of art, antiques and valuables, operating on an international basis to assist law enforcement agencies in the battle against art theft.
    • Supporting the vital work of law enforcement agencies worldwide, The Art Loss Register helps with the recovery of stolen art, antiques and valuables, discourages art theft and prevents fraud.
    • Founded in January 1991 on the initiative of the insurance and art and antiques industries and operating as a commercial venture, the ALR is a significant development in the fight against art theft.
    • 1000 artefacts recovered worth over £25m
  • 47.
    • TRACE ( )
    • Since 1990, Trace has assisted in the identification and recovery of over £65 million of stolen art, antiques and collectables, making it the most effective service available today for the detection and retrieval of valued possessions
    • Trace Magazine is the only publication of its kind in the world and forms an important part of the Active Crime Tracking System (ACTS). This stolen art and antiques property database, developed and managed by Trace, is used on a daily basis by UK Constabularies and law enforcement agencies worldwide. 
    • The information is also disseminated by Interpol to 182 countries around the world.    
  • 48.
    • ObjectID
    • International standard for describing art & antiquities
    • Based on the SPECTRUM documentation standard
    • Used by law enforcement and detection agencies worldwide
    • Basis of a sound inventory
    • Significantly enhances likelihood of retrieval
  • 49.
    • Session 5 – Restitution & repatriation:
    • What do you understand by ‘restitution’ & ‘repatriation’?
  • 50.
    • Resitution & repatriation:
    • Repatriation can be described as the process by which cultural objects are returned to a nation or state
    • Restitution is the process by which cultural objects are returned to an individual or a community.
    • Collectively referred to as ‘return’
  • 51.
    • Restitution & repatriation:
    • What do you think about the Natural History Museum/TAC situation?
  • 52.
    • Resitution & repatriation:
    • Issues of restitution and repatriation are notoriously sensitive
    • Raise issues of personal and political identity
    • Often raise issues of religious belief
    • Can rapidly become highly complex
    • Are often used as a pawn in wider negotiation between nation states
  • 53.
    • Restitution & repatriation:
    • What do you need to think about if you receive a request for return?
  • 54.
    • Points to consider:
    • The validity or authority of the organisation
    • The potential reputational/political/public risk of the request
    • The cultural/religious significance of the material
    • Creating an atmosphere of trust, mutual respect and understanding
    • Documenting all correspondence
    • Briefing of senior staff, such as a Board of Trustees
  • 55.
    • Restitution & repatriation:
    • The single most important thing is to make a decision based on best evidence, make it quickly, announce it publicly and be prepared to back it up with documentation
  • 56.
    • Handling the media:
    • How might you deal with media interest in a request?
  • 57.
    • Handling the media:
    • Don’t publicise a claim until it is made formally in writing and supported by evidence
    • Be proactive, issue a clearly-worded press release as soon as you have formally received the claim
    • Involve the press at every newsworthy stage
    • Confirm the content of releases with everyone including the claimant
    • Brief all staff, particularly senior staff and Trustees
    • Create a single point of contact
    • Respond quickly to all enquiries
    • Avoid saying ‘no comment’
    • Avoid all forms of speculation – stick to the facts
  • 58.
    • Restitution & repatriation:
    • The single most important thing is to make a decision based on best evidence, make it quickly, announce it publicly and be prepared to back it up with documentation
  • 59.
    • Restitution & repatriation:
    • Most newsworthy claims are best handled ‘in plain sight’ – the public at large tend to understand the challenges on both sides, and the greatest danger is in being seen to be obstructive or furtive in your relations.
  • 60.
    • Session 6 – Question & Answer
    • How much of a risk do you think your collections present?
    • What simple steps might you take to counter the risks?
    • How vigilant are you?
  • 61.
    • Contact:
    • Nick Poole
    • Collections Trust
    • @NickPoole1
    • [email_address]