Features - Legal Protection of Cultural Property: A Selective Resource Guide

Originally Published April 11, 2004, updated April 24th, 2007

Louise Tsang is a research librarian at Greenberg Traurig. Before moving to New York, Louise was a reference librarian at Georgetown University Law Library. Louise is also an EISIL content author. Other guides she has published on LLRX.com are here.

I. Introduction

The purpose of this guide is to direct the reader to important sources of information, both print and electronic, concerning the protection of cultural property in wartime, international trade in cultural property, and the laws applicable to the illicit traffic of art and antiquities. Section V of this guide highlights resources that are specific to the topic of restitution of Nazi-looted art. Section VI highlights resources on stolen cultural property in Iraq. This guide focuses on materials in English.

II. Background Resources

A. Other Resource Guides

B. Background Websites

C. Major Treatises

  • Association of Art Museum Directors. Professional Practices in Art Museums. New York: Association of Art Museum Directors, 2001. [First published in 1971, revised every ten years thereafter.]
  • Akinsha, Konstantin, et al. Beautiful Loot: the Soviet Plunder of Europe's Art Treasures. New York: Random House, 1995.
  • Alford, Kenneth D. The Spoils of World War II: The American Military's Role in the Stealing of Europe's Treasures. New York: Birch Lane Press, 1994.
  • Bator, Paul. The International Trade in Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.
  • Briat, Martine and Judith A. Freedberg, eds. Legal Aspects of International Trade in Art - Les aspects juridiques du commerce international de l'art. Paris; New York: ICC Pub.; The Hague; Boston: Kluwer Law International, 1996.
  • Feliciano, Hector. The Lost Museum: The Nazi Conspiracy to Steal the World's Greatest Works of Art. New York: Basic Books, 1997.
  • Gerstenblith, Patty. Art, Cultural Heritage, and the Law. Carolina Academic Press, 2004.
  • Greenfield, Jeannette. The Return of Cultural Treasures. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
  • Howe Jr., Thomas Carr. Salt Mines and Castles: The Discovery and Restitution of Looted European Art. New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1946.
  • Hoffman, Barbara, ed. Art Cultural Heritage: Law, Policy & Practice. Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  • International Bureau of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, ed. Resolution of Cultural Property Disputes: Papers Emanating from the Seventh PCA International Law Seminar, May 23, 2003. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2004.
  • Kowalski, Wojciech W. Art Treasures and War: a Study on the Restitution of Looted Cultural Property, Pursuant to Public International Law. London: Institute of Art and Law, 1998.
  • Kurtz, Michael J. Nazi Contraband: American Policy on the Return of European Cultural Treasures, 1945-1955. New York: Garland, 1985.
  • Meyer, Karl E. The Plundered Past. New York: Atheneum, 1973.
  • Merryman, John Henry, ed.. Imperialism, Art and Restitution. Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Merryman, John Henry. Thinking About the Elgin Marble: Critical Essays on Cultural Property, Art and Law. The Hague, Boston: Kluwer Law International, 2000.
  • Murphy, J. David. Plunder and Preservation: Cultural Property Law and Practice in the People's Republic of China. Hong Kong, New York: Oxford University, 1995.
  • Nicholas, Lynn H. The Rape of Europa: the Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War. New York: Knopf, 1994.
  • OSS Art Looting Investigation Unit Reports, 1945-46. Washington, D.C., National Archives and Records Administration, 2000 (microfilm). [more information at http://www.archives.gov/research_room/holocaust_era_assets/art_provenance_and_claims/oss_art_looting_investigation_unit_reports.html]
  • O'Keefe, Patrick J. Trade in Antiquities: Reducing Destruction and Theft. Paris: UNESCO pub; London: Archetype, 1997.
  • Petropoulos, Jonathan. Art as Politics in the Third Reich. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.
  • ____________________. The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • The Protection of Movable Cultural Property I: Compendium of Legislative Texts. Paris: UNESCO, 1984-.
  • Prott, Lyndel V. Commentary on the Unidroit Convention on Stolen and Illegally Exported Cultural Objects 1995. Leicester: Institute of Art and Law, 1997.
  • ______________ and P.J. O'Keefe. Law and the Cultural Heritage, v.1 Discovery
    and Excavation and v.3 Movement. Abingdon, Oxon.: Professional Books, 1984-1989.
  • St. Clair, William. Lord Elgin and the Marbles. Oxford, New York: Oxford
    University Press, 1998.
  • Simpson, Elizabeth, ed. The Spoils of War: World War II and its Aftermath: The Loss, Reappearance and Recovery of Cultural Property. New York: H.N. Abrams in association with the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, 1997.
  • Smyth, Craig Hugh. Repatriation of Art from the Collection Point in Munich after World War II: Background and Beginnings with Reference Especially to the Netherlands. Maarssen, Netherlands: G. Schwartz, 1988.
  • Toman, Jiri. The Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict: Commentary on the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its Protocol, signed on 14 May, 1954 in the Hague, and on Other Instruments of International Law Concerning Such Protection. Aldershot, Hants, England; Brookfield, Vt, USA: Dartmouth Pub. Co., 1996.
  • Wechsler, Helen. Museum Policy and Procedure for Nazi-Era Issues. Resource Report. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Museums, 2001.
  • Williams, Sharon A. The International and National Protection of Movable Cultural Property: a Comparative Study. Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, 1978.
  • Yeide, Nancy H., Konstantin Akinsha, and Amy L. Walsh. The AAM Guide to Provenance Research. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Museum, 2001.

To find other books on the topic, check the catalog of your library for books with the following subject headings:

  • Art treasures in war
  • Cultural property - Protection
  • Cultural property - Protection - Law and legislation
  • Cultural property - Protection (International Law)
  • Restitution
  • World War 1939-1945 - Confiscations and contribution
  • World War 1939-1945 - Destruction and pillage

D. Symposia

  • Illicit Traffic in Cultural Property in Southeast Asia: An International Seminar, Bangkok, 24-26 March 2004

E. Bibliographies

  • Fiedler, Wilfried. Bibliography on the Law of the International Protection of Cultural Property. Berlin: De Gruyter Recht, 2003. (in German and English)
    • includes works in German, English, French, Italian and partly also Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese published up to the year 2000, very extensive, well-organized, and well-indexed.

F. Journals Dedicated to Cultural Property Law and Art Law

G. Journal Indexes

  • Index to Legal Periodicals
  • LegalTrac (Current Law Index)
  • Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals
  • Academic Search Premier
  • PAIS International

H. News Sources

III. Legal Instruments

A. International Legal Instruments

  • Article 238 of the Treaty of Peace between the Allied & Associated Powers and Germany, Versailles, June 28, 1919, 112 BFSP 1, 212 (protocol); 11 Martens (3d) 323, 672 (protocol); 2 Bevans 32, 235 (protocol).
  • Inter-Allied Declaration Against Acts of Dispossession Committed in Territories under Enemy Occupation or Control, London, January 5, 1943
    • Also known as the London DeclarationSee Appendix 9 (p.287), E. Simpson, ed. The Spoils of War--World War II and Its Aftermath: The Loss, Reappearance, and Recovery of Cultural Property. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1997.
    • See also Annex 1, International Bureau of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, ed. Resolution of Cultural Property Disputes: Papers Emanating from the Seventh PCA International Law Seminar, May 23, 2003. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2004
  • Statutes of the International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, December 5, 1956, 1321 UNTS 286; 22 UST 19 (as revised, Apr. 24, 1963, and Apr. 14-17, 1969); TIAS 7038.

Treaty Collections

  • International Conventions (The Illicit Antiquities Research Centre, IARC)
    • The text of UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and the Final Act of the Diplomatic Conference for the Adoption of the Draft Unidroit Convention on the International Return of Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish

B. European Legal Documents

Council of Europe Documents

European Union Documents

C. Regional Treaties

  • Treaty on the Protection of Movable Property of Historic Value, April 15, 1935, OASTS 28.

D. Bilateral/Multilateral Treaties

Many peace treaties between nations at war include provisions for restitution of cultural objects. A few examples:

  • Treaty of Peace with Austria, with Supplementary Protocol, Declaration and Special Declaration, and Protocol of Signature (also known as the Treaty of St. Germain of 1919 with Austria), September 10, 1919, 11 Martens (3d) 691.
  • Treaty of Peace with Hungary (also known as Treaty of Tranon of 1920 with Hungary), June 4, 1920, 12 Martens (3d) 423; BTS 19 (1920), Cmd.896.
  • Treaty of Peace (also know as Treaty of Riga of 1921), March 18, 1921, 6 LNTS 123; 13 Martens (3d) 141.

E. National Legal Documents

United States

Other Countries

  • To find laws of a specific country, identify the sources of law first. One of the best sources to gather such information is: T. Reynolds & A. Flores, Foreign Law: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World (Littleton, CO: Rothman, 1989- ). The electronic version provides links to web sites where full text of or information on the law can be found.
  • The Handbook of National Regulations Concerning the Export of Cultural Property prepared for UNESCO by Lyndel Prott & Patrick O'Keefe in 1988

IV. Efforts to Protect Cultural Property

A. International/Regional Conferences/Organizations/Agencies

  • European Heritage Network (HEREIN)
    • It is "a permanent information system of the council of Europe linking European governmental departments responsible for cultural heritage conservation… It has been developed as an instrument for implementing and monitoring the European conventions on the architectural and archaeological heritage."
  • Holocaust Art Restitution Project
    • "The Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP) has as its goal to provide the best possible information on the paths of dispersal of many valuable works of art that disappeared or changed hands during the course of the Holocaust. HARP will aid those searching for lost objects and teach and share knowledge with all people about the art collections that were dispersed at the hands of the Nazi government and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945. Images and stories of found and lost art will be published and made available to educators, scholars and the public. The mission of HARP is to assemble and share large amounts of information for those who need it. It is not within HARP's mandate actually to recover the artworks."
  • International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM)
    • Established in Rome in 1959, ICCROM is an intergovernmental organization aiming at improving the quality of conservation practice as well as raising awareness about the importance of preserving cultural heritage. The decision to found ICCROM was made at the 9th UNESCO General Conference in New Delhi in 1956.
  • Object ID
    • Object ID is an international Standard for describing cultural objects with the aim to combat art theft. Initiated by the J. Paul Getty Trust, the standard is being promoted by major law enforcement agencies, art appraisal organizations, and insurance companies.
  • Red List
    • The site includes Red List of African Archaeological Cultural Objects at Risk, Red List of Latin American cultural Objects at Risk, and Emergency Red List of Iraqi Antiquities at Risk.
  • UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organziation)

B. U.S. Organizations

  • The President's Cultural Property Advisory Committee
    • "The Committee convenes when a request is received from a country asking for U.S. Assistance under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention. The committee is responsible for reviewing requests and recommending a course of action to the US State Department, where the president's decision-making responsibility under the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act resides."

V. Responses to Nazi Looting

A. Efforts During and Immediate After WWII

  • Wiesbaden Manifesto, November 7, 1945
    • Annex II of The Resolution of Cultural Property

B. Current Efforts

1. International Agencies

2. Regional Agencies

3. National Agencies

United States

  • Project for the Documentation of Wartime Cultural Losses (the Documentation Project)
    • Under the auspices of the Cultural Property Research Foundation, Inc, the Documentation Project engages in research relating to works of art, archives, and other types of cultural property displaced as a consequence of war (with a focus on World War II) and disseminates research results on their web site. Three research projects are now available: The Jeu de Paume and the Looting of France, the Art Looting Investigation Unit Final Report, The Russian Law on "Trophy Art."

United Kingdom

  • Art and Antiques Stolen Property Database (A.C.I.S.)
    • Under the auspices of the Cultural Property Research Foundation, Inc, the Documentation Project engages in research relating to works of art, archives, and other types of cultural property displaced as a consequence of war (with a focus on World War II) and disseminates research results on their web site. Three research projects are now available: The Jeu de Paume and the Looting of France, the Art Looting Investigation Unit Final Report, The Russian Law on "Trophy Art."

Canada

Other Countries

VI. Cultural Property Stolen in Iraq

  • Regional Meeting to Fight the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property Stolen from Iraq, Amman, Jordan, 1st & 2nd June 2004 (INTERPOL)

VII. Other Useful Resources