What national legislation governs cultural property issues?
The Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003 is of primary importance. It makes it an offence to deal dishonestly in tainted cultural property from anywhere in the world. It is essential that you understand and comply with this legislation when purchasing an object of historical, architectural or archaeological interest. Buying with confidence will help you to comply with the legislation. Factsheet Legislation provides further information.
What international legislation governs the prevention of illicit trade?
The 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property was ratified by the UK in August 2002. It is the main international convention governing this area of work. UNESCO has produced a Cultural Heritage Laws Database. The database is reliant on member states submitting their own national legislation to the database.
An understanding of the export licensing restrictions for other countries so that objects can be acquired or lent from another country is essential but often very hard to achieve. The information that is available is contained in Factsheet International export control.
Some legal issues
All those dealing in, acquiring, buying or borrowing items of cultural property have a duty to:
- keep abreast of legal issues;
- understand the implications of non-cultural international legislation such as the European Convention on Human Rights and its fourteen protocols and national laws such as the Freedom of Information Act 2000;
- seek advice as necessary to ensure that the institution does what is right both in the spirit and the letter of the law, recognise a legal problem and understand whether expert advice is required.
Who can advise me further?
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has produced Guidance to help people understand the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003. Guidance on export licenses and legislation is available from the protection and prevention section of this site. Further information is available from your national and international professional bodies.