Provenance and museums

Dutch Heritage Law, Ethical Code for Museums, National Collections: the world of museums and heritage involves laws, regulations and terms that are not always easy to understand. On this page, you will find a clear explanation of their meaning.

Claim for return or restitution

A request for the return of cultural goods from the original owners and their descendants to the current owners.

Cultural goods

An object designated by a country for religious or secular reasons as significant in terms of antiquity, prehistory, history, literature, art or science, and therefore essential as a cultural heritage of that country.

Code of Ethics for Museums (2004)

The code provides a tool for professional self-regulation in a number of areas where the museum has specific expertise and responsibility. The code lays down minimum standards for the conduct and qualifications of museum employees and also states what the public may reasonably expect from the museum sector.

UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970)

Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, concluded in Paris on 14 November 1970. This convention came into force in 1972 following ratification by three Member States. The Netherlands adopted the convention in 2009. Since that year, Dutch law prohibits the import into the Netherlands of cultural goods that have been: 1) exported from the territory of a State Party in violation of the provisions laid down by that State Party in accordance with the objectives of the UNESCO Convention with regard to the export of cultural goods from that State Party or with regard to the transfer of ownership of cultural goods, or 2) stolen from a State Party.

National collections

Cultural heritage that is the property of the Netherlands or whose care has been entrusted to the Netherlands.

Dutch Archives Act (1995)

Established frameworks for government organisations on what information should be archived, who is responsible for the archive tasks, how long information can be kept and who is allowed to view the information.

Dutch Heritage Act (2016)

Legislation in the field of cultural heritage, in order to give legal shape to the handling of museum collections, to regulate the alienation of cultural goods owned by governments and to modernise the system of quality assurance in archaeology, among other things. The act replaces earlier acts, such as the 1988 Monument Law, the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act and the Act on the Privatisation of Governmental Museum Services.

Dutch colonial cultural goods

Cultural goods from former Dutch and European colonies that are in Dutch possession. The term has no bearing on the manner and legality of the acquisition.

Back to Frequently asked questions regarding the provenance of the museum collection