Due Diligence

1.1. Introduction

Due diligence is defined by ICOM as 'The requirement that every endeavor is made to establish the facts of a case before deciding a course of action, particularly in identifying the source and history of an item offered for acquisition or use before acquiring it.' (ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, 2013)

A due diligence risk assessment should be undertaken before an object is acquired or borrowed by a museum.

Freda Matassa wrote:
museums... are bound to research the history and provenance of new material and to satisfy themselves as far as possible that the objects in question have a complete provenance history, with no suspicious gaps. An object must not have been illegally excavated, exported or imported, must not have been looted, stolen, or taken under duress in any Nazi-occupied country between 1933 and 1945, and must not appear on the ICOM Red List as coming from a country notorious for illegally exporting cultural property.


1.2. Areas to consider when undertaking due diligence

1.2.1. Title & Provenance

1.2.2. Illicit Trade


1.2.3. Spoliation

A large number of cultural objects and works of art were systematically looted by the Nazis and others during the Second World War and Holocaust Era from 1933-1945; an activity often described as spoliation.

1.2.4. CITES

National Museum Directors Council\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s Spoliation Statement wrote:
Reasonable steps must be taken to ensure the museum can be satisfied the object has not been wrongfully taken without restitution having taken place subsequently.

In undertaking due diligence assessment for objects created before 1946, consider whether the is any evidence the object was in Germany or any other country that was not under control of its own legally constituted sovereign government between 1933 and 1945, are there any gaps in the ownership history during the period 1933-1945, is the object an item of fine art, sculpture, porcelain, gold or silver (these types of object were especially vulnerable to spoliation.)



  • 1. Museum Collections Management, Freda Matassa, London, 2011, Facet Publishing 

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