Friday, September 7, 2007

Cultural Property Advice

I was browsing the UK Cultural Property Advice website. This was announced with great fanfare in February 2007:

"If you are thinking of buying or selling art, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) has created a website that should be every art and antiques enthusiast’s first port of call. Launched today, the Cultural Property Advice website contains vital information on collecting, buying and selling art, antiques and antiquities legitimately and with confidence.

The website supports private collectors, trade organisations and individuals working in public collections like museums, libraries and archives. It is a reliable, accurate and practical source of information and guidance on cultural property including: exporting and importing cultural objects; current legislation; news on stolen and illicitly traded objects; and lots of checklists and factsheets to support what you are doing."

What is this?

"Cultural Property Advice is a comprehensive on-line advisory service to help you to collect, buy and sell art, antiques and antiquities legitimately and with confidence. It provides a reliable, accurate and practical source of information and guidance on cultural property including: exporting and importing cultural objects; current legislation; news on stolen and illicitly traded objects; and lots of checklists and factsheets to support what you are doing.

Cultural Property Advice supports: the trade including dealers and auction houses; private individuals whether one-off purchasers or collectors; those working in public collections including museums, libraries and archives.

Cultural Property Advice was commissioned by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), with funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in July 2005. Hopkins Van Mil carried out a wide consultation with potential users of the site and developed content for it based on the resultant discussions. They worked with rba design to develop an appropriate look and feel for the site. MDA project managed the publication of the site which was launched in February 2007."

There is the most bland discussion of ethics you are likely to find and a section on Illicit Trade where you can download a simple checklist for "Acceptable evidence for due diligence" - hardly a challenge for the sophisticated way that antiquities have moved from Italy to North America. (See earlier discussions.)

There is another checklist "Due diligence processes". Ponder complex questions such as: "Does it show signs of certain types of ingrained dust or dirt or has annotations which may demonstrate it has been on display, used or stored as part of an older collection?" Perhaps they have the sort of patina found on the ivory pomegranate in the Israel Museum.

At least there is one good piece of advice:

"If you have any suspicions about an object you must not acquire it".

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