The IAL was delighted to be invited to share some thoughts on current issues in art and cultural heritage law with museum professionals from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden in the bi-annual Nordic Registrars’ Group meeting. The conference was held last month, on October 22nd and 23rd in the inspiring surroundings of ARoS Art Museum in Aarhus, Denmark.
The IAL’s brief was to introduce those attending to the Institute’s work, in particular the training courses we provide. It has been a pleasure over the past few years to welcome participants from the Nordic region to courses such as the Diploma in Law and Collections Management, held in London each year during October (as well as in Australia, approximately every 24 months). Indeed, it was at the kind invitation of one of our former students that we attended last week’s meeting to give a flavour of the course to more colleagues from the Nordic countries who may wish to expand their understanding of the many legal issues they regularly confront in their roles as registrars, collection managers and exhibition co-ordinators. We discussed the kinds of questions which often arise: How do we know if we have title to objects in our collection? What are the key terms to include in our loan agreements? When do I need a copyright licence in respect of items we have on loan? What are the options for resolving disputes?
The topic of loan agreements was discussed by a number of speakers who explored the complexities involved in sharing precious works of art with institutions and audiences across the globe. Colleagues from the National Museum of Denmark described how they have recently overhauled their procedure for loans, in part by creating new ‘loan coordinator’ roles to liaise between curators and others involved in the process. A representative from the Moderna Museet in Sweden considered a whole host of factors to take into account “before we think about moving art”. One very interesting observation was the importance of bringing a balanced and collaborative approach to loan agreements. It makes perfect sense that the terms we seek to include in agreements when lending should be ones we also feel comfortable in accepting when borrowing.
This spirit of collaboration was evident throughout the conference. Colleagues were keen to share the systems and methodologies their institutions have developed to address a myriad of practical issues. These included best practice with regard to facilities and condition reports as well as a fascinating study of the use of RFID technology (radio frequency identification, for those not in the know!) to track the movement of museum objects (Nasjonalmuseet, Norway).
We are grateful to our Nordic colleagues for the kind invitation to take part in what was an enlightening two days. At a time of division and polarisation in so many spheres of life both in the UK and the wider world, it was heartening and uplifting to be assured of the ‘team spirit’ which pervades the museum sector and typifies the approach of those who work in it.
Photograph: (c) Anne Mette Thomsen, ARoS Art Museum