Diploma in Law and Collections Management

A diploma course for museum and art world professionals

Diligent management of collections and claims is vital to museum professionals. This specifically modelled training programme offers expert teaching in the legal issues of collections management. The programme focuses on the practical and pragmatic use of legal tools to improve the running and development of museums, their collections and their collaborative exhibition programmes.

By the end of the course you will:

  • recognise what can go wrong including physical hazards and legal entanglements;
  • be familiar with essential sources of law as they affect cultural objects and institutions;
  • understand how to read and write agreements;
  • know how to detect and intercept legal embarrassments and make the most of the safeguards the law has to offer;
  • comprehend ethical principles that bear upon the management of museum collections.


The UK course will next run in London in 14-18 October 2024, kindly hosted by Boodle Hatfield LLP.

An Australian version will run 13th-17th May in Brisbane and a New Zealand version will run from 4th-7th June, both courses processed by the Australasian Registrars Committee.


This course is designed for museum administrators and officials, and other arts professionals, and requires no pre-existing knowledge of the law.


The course is assessed through an oral presentation that will take place at the end of the course. A 3,000 word dissertation is also due several weeks following the conclusion of the course. IAL will provide all documentation, and award a Diploma of the Institute, the Diploma in Law and Collections Management.


The course is delivered over a five-day period and combines formal seminars and orchestrated discussion groups.

The course is led by IAL Director Alexander Herman and Assistant Director Emily Gould. Teaching will also be provided by IAL Senior Fellow Professor Geoffrey Bennett, along with other guest lecturers.


The cost of the course is £1,800.00 (£1500.00 + VAT). A 10% discount is available for IAL members (and UKRG members).

Note: a 5% admin charge will be added for credit card payments.


  • “Overall it was absolutely excellent and an invaluable course.” (Interim Head of Collections Management, National Museum Wales)
  • “Overall a truly wonderful learning experience… Really enjoyable, pitched at exactly the right level and left me feeling confident in myself and excited to get back to work!” (Loans coordinator, British Library)
  • “The course was amazing. I’m very grateful for the presenters and their knowledge. The subject matter was broad and interesting.” (Collection manager, Museums Australia)
  • “Really fascinating overview of the legal issues surrounding collections management. They made even copyright interesting!” (Registrar, Natural History Museum)
  • “Overall the course is excellent. I feel much more confident in my role now, affirming what I already do and the reasons why, but giving the context and understanding of some issues that I lacked.” (Manager, The National Archives)


(Subject to slight change)
Day 1: Introduction / Ownership of Collection Items: how a museum can acquire or lose title in an object; how the passage of time can affect issues of title and ownership;   the vital role of record-keeping; planning for the resolution of opposing positions among lenders, claimants and museum authorities.

Day 2: Ethics, Deaccession and Restitution: which ethical guidelines need to be followed when acquiring an object; rules around deaccession of collection items; how a museum should respond to a claim for the return of an object; what is the larger international framework that exists to combat the trade in looted cultural property; the particular situation of Nazi-looted works of art and human remains.

Day 3: Loans, Bailment, Contract and Gift: framing and phrasing agreements; how a well-devised contract can avoid future pitfalls; contractual protections in situations of sale and loan; legal issues in assembling revising and upgrading collections; the gift vs loan problem for museums; how the law of bailment applies to museums.

Day 4: Intellectual Property and Collections: copyright in artistic works and other museum objects; protection of photographs of objects in a collection; dealing with works in the public domain; the duration of copyright protection; exceptions protecting users of copyright material, such as fair dealing; moral rights of artists.

Day 5: Insurance and Immunity from Seizure: how to ensure objects going out on loan are protected from possible judicial seizure (immunity from seizure); how immunity applies in the UK; private insurance options; government indemnity; oral assessments.

Note that nothing provided on the course should be taken as legal advice.


To apply for the next intake, download the application form and return it via email. To register your interest, please write to Jo Crabtree at jo.crabtree@nullial.uk.com.