Protecting cultural objects on loan
How UK museums and galleries can arrange to protect exhibits on loan from abroad from court-ordered seizure.
Objects on loan from abroad in temporary exhibitions in UK museums are protected from seizure by the UK courts when they are on display in a museum or gallery which has been approved by the Culture Secretary and where the museum or gallery has published information about the objects on loan.
We offer protection for international loans in this way because, in some cases, the ownership of art can be disputed and many other countries will not lend to the UK without this protection.
This guide explains the application process and conditions which must be met by participating institutions. It also includes a list of museums and galleries which have already received approval.
An object is only protected if it is:
- usually kept outside the UK
- not owned by a person resident in the UK
- not in contravention of a prohibition or restriction on import
- brought into the UK for temporary public display by an approved museum or gallery
- publicised for exhibit in line with the regulations
How museums and galleries obtain approval
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport approves applications for approval from museums and galleries in England. Northern Irish, Welsh and Scottish ministers approve applications from their countries’ institutions.
To get approval, a museum or gallery must demonstrate that it follows the due diligence guidelines on collecting and borrowing cultural objects.
The steps for obtaining approval are as follows:
- read our application guidance
- complete the application questionnaire
- return by post and email, at least 12 weeks before an object requiring protection under the Act enters the UK, to:
Cultural Property Unit
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
100 Parliament Street
London SW1A 2BQ
Museums and galleries in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should contact their appropriate approving authorities.
You can read the full regulations on protecting cultural objects.
Once a museum has received approval
Approved museums do not have to re-apply for each exhibition or item that needs to be protected. But they must make sure that the conditions for protection are met each time.
Approval can be withdrawn from an institution if it has:
- inadequate procedures for establishing an item’s place of origin or ownership
- failed to comply with a requirement of the Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan (Publication and Provision of Information) Regulations 2008 on the publication of information about the objects to be borrowed.
The borrowing institution must publish detailed information on its website about the objects for which protection has been sought :
- before arrival, at least 4 weeks before the day on which the object enters the UK
- after arrival, the day after the initial 4 week period ends and for at least 12 weeks or for the duration of the exhibition, whichever is longer
- The Ashmolean Museum
- The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham
- Barbican Art Gallery
- The British Museum
- Compton Verney
- Dulwich Picture Gallery
- Gallery for Russian Arts and Design GRAD
- Historic Royal Palaces
- Houghton Hall
- Leighton House Museum
- Manchester Museum, the University of Manchester
- Manchester City Galleries
- The Courtauld Gallery
- The Fitzwilliam Museum
- The Hayward Gallery
- The Henry Moore Foundation
- The National Gallery
- The National Maritime Museum
- The National Portrait Gallery
- The Natural History Museum
- The Royal Academy
- The Royal Armouries
- Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
- The Science Museum
- The Victoria and Albert Museum
- Waddesdon Manor
- The Whitechapel Gallery
- Wolverhampton Arts and Museums
Published: 5 February 2016
Updated: 6 August 2014
- First published.
- updated to show latest approved institution AND update departmental address