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Cultural Property

Many museums collect cultural property, which is defined as the tangible items that are part of the cultural heritage of a group or society. The Alliance has compiled this set of cultural property resources from amongst its own offerings as well as those throughout the nonprofit and museum sector.

Alliance Resources

Advocacy Brief: Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act

Enacted in 1990, NAGPRA provides a process for museums and federal agencies to return certain Native American cultural items to lineal descendants, culturally affiliated Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations. Museums have invested significant resources to work in close collaboration with federally recognized tribes in this area.

20 Years and Counting

Museum magazine explores looks at the 20th anniversary of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and the administrative and financial issues surrounding repatriation. The article includes a summary of the legislative act and an exploration of federal agency compliance.

Standards Regarding Archaeological Material and Ancient Art

The Alliance provides standards to guide the operations of museums that own or acquire archaeological material and ancient art originating outside the U.S.

Standards Regarding the Unlawful Appropriation of Objects During the Nazi Era

The Alliance provides separate standards and best practice statements regarding a museum’s obligations to public trust.

Standards Regarding Archaeological Material and Ancient Art

The Alliance provides standards to guide the operations of museums that own or acquire archaeological material and ancient art originating outside the U.S.

Other Resources

Art Theft

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) assists law enforcement agencies in resolving art theft crimes, including theft of individual works of art, illegal export of objects protected by international laws, and pillaging of archeological sites. The site lists statutes for which the FBI has responsibility.

Database of National Cultural Heritage Laws

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) provides a database of the national laws of its Member States. In the event of a legal question about the origin of an object, it is useful to have rapid access to the relevant national laws.

ICOM International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) supports a comprehensive program to fight the illicit traffic of cultural property. The Observatory is a long-term international cooperative platform network between law enforcement agencies, research institutions, and other external expert stakeholders; an information databank for the network and the public, and an innovative tool that will contribute to preventing and fighting the illegal trade in cultural property and related crimes at both national and international levels.

National NAGPRA

The National Park Service (NPS) assists in the implementation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). The National NAGPRA program develops regulations and guidance for implementing NAGPRA; provides administrative and staff support for the Review Committee; assists Indian tribes, Native Alaskan villages and corporations, Native Hawaiian organizations, museums, and Federal agencies with the NAGPRA process; maintains the Native American Consultation Database; provides training; manages a grants program; and makes program documents and publications available.

Report on the Stewardship and Acquisition of Sacred Objects

The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) has issued a report on the stewardship and acquisition of sacred objects (PDFs).

Sacred Claims: Repatriation and Living Tradition

The first book to analyze how religious discourse is used to articulate claims under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Greg Johnson argues that Native representatives used mainly religious language to persuade non-Native audiences that human rights principles apply to cultural remains.

Statement Concerning the Acquisition Of Cultural Properties Originating from Abroad, from Indigenous Cultures, and from Private Collections During the Nazi Era

The College Art Association (CAA) guidelines encourage anyone entrusted with the acquisition and/or custody of works of art and material culture to assure such acquisitions or possessions are in accordance with the highest international provenance standards.

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