Arts Council England appoints IAL to develop new guidance on restitution and repatriation

Posted on: March 19, 2020 by

On Monday 16 March, Arts Council England announced the appointment of the Institute of Art and Law (IAL) to develop new guidance for museums on the restitution and repatriation of cultural objects. The guidance, which will be published in Autumn 2020, will aim to encourage a more proactive and coordinated approach across UK museums by providing them with a practical tool that will include case studies, best practice and signposting to other resources. [Note: due to the ongoing pandemic, the publication will be pushed back to Spring 2021]

The guidance will be applicable to museums throughout the UK; of all sizes and types including national, local authority, independent and university; and across all collection types and disciplines. It will cover moral, ethical and legal considerations and best practice across all areas of museum activity – from proactive collections research and building relationships with international cultural institutions and communities, to dealing with claims and making decisions on the potential return of objects.

The IAL will be working with Professor Janet Ulph from the University of Leicester. The team has extensive expertise in restitution and international cultural property issues and in working with the UK museum sector, including producing guidance such as the Museum Association’s Disposals Toolkit. They will be conducting wide-ranging research and consultation across and beyond the UK museum sector, including with international museums and representatives of claimant communities.

Kate Bellamy, Director, Museums and Cultural Property, Arts Council England, said: “In recognition of the growing interest and debate around restitution and repatriation, the Arts Council is delighted to have appointed the Institute of Art and Law to develop new guidance on this important and complex issue. We look forward to working with them to fulfil our aim of supporting museums in dealing with restitution issues and promoting best practice.”

Alexander Herman, Assistant Director of the IAL, said: “We have worked for many years with museum professionals who often tell us there is little in the way of guidance for dealing with claims for restitution and repatriation and related issues. We therefore applaud Arts Council England in taking this step and look forward to working with them to produce clear and practical guidance for the sector. UK Museums have an opportunity to play a leading role in this area.”

For more information contact:

Nisha Emich, Communication Officer, Arts Council England

Tel: 020 7268 9563 / Email:

Notes to editors:

  • The guidance will not signify a change in UK government policy, nor direct museums towards any particular outcome, recognising that restitution should be considered on a case by case basis. It is a practical resource, produced by the Arts Council as part of our role as the national development body for museums in England (although the guidance will be applicable UK-wide).
  • The Arts Council has convened a steering group to oversee the project including its UK National Partners for museums – the Northern Ireland Museums Council, Museums Galleries Scotland and the Museums and Archives Division of the Welsh Government – as well as the Museums Association, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) UK and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. A group of expert advisers consisting of external stakeholders and specialists including international representatives will also be formed, to advise and support the project consultants.


The Institute of Art and Law, which was founded in 1995, is an educational organisation that runs courses for the art, museum and legal sectors, and publishes numerous books and a quarterly journal. On its courses, it covers art contracts, copyright, art theft and all aspects of the restitution and repatriation of cultural objects. It also offers insight into these issues through its public programming, responses to public consultations and commentary in the press.

Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture. By 2030 we want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish and where everyone of us has access to a remarkable range of high quality cultural experiences. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help deliver this vision.