Guidelines for Consideration of Requests for Return of Cultural Property

Proposals or requests for the return of human remains, or artefacts incorporating human remains, from MAA collections, should be directed to the University of Cambridge Registrary’s Office. Full details of the procedure entailed are available at:

These guidelines were approved by the Museum Committee on 5 February 2014.

A. Proposals or requests for the return of artefacts, not incorporating human remains, will be considered by the Museum Committee, after evaluation by the Curators. Decisions by the Museum Committee shall be regarded as final except in the case of requests concerning human remains. Each item shall be considered individually.

B. The following issues need to be considered in every case:

1. If the request concerns one or more objects from a collection, what will be the effects on that collection as a whole?

2. What is the importance of each item, assessed in terms of

a        General cultural and historical significance

b       Reasons for return (cultural, historical, sociological, political)

c        Rarity

d       Reasons for retention

e       Possible alternatives (eg substitution of a copy, or another object, from this or another museum)?

3. How was the object collected/excavated and acquired by this Museum? How does this compare with established practice and legal requirements, both now and at the time of acquisition?

4. What is the status of the body or individual making the request? Is there any direct relationship between this body or individual and the object or objects in question?

5. What is the standing and competence of the institution, if any, where the object would be kept?

6. How would the object’s availability for study be affected if it were returned? Are there implications for its documentation?

7. What action can this Museum take to foster links with the applicant institution and/or the country concerned?

8. Are there any constraints, legal or otherwise, on its removal from this Museum’s collections?

9. If the object is to be returned, is it to be a gift, exchange, or loan?

10. What are the implications, if any, vis-à-vis the Museum’s agreed disposals policy?

C. The Museum Committee shall re-examine these guidelines after five years.

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