New Acquisitions of Archaeological Material and Works of Ancient Art

The Registry of New Acquisitions of Archaeological Material and Works of Ancient Art provides information on acquisitions of select works of archeological and ancient art by AAMD member museums since June 4, 2008, the date new AAMD Guidelines went into effect. These works are only those lacking complete provenance after November 1970, the date of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import and Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

Art museums regularly acquire archaeological material and works of ancient art, of which objects with incomplete modern provenance represent but a fraction. A complete recent ownership history may not be obtainable for all archaeological material and every work of ancient art. Recognizing this, AAMD believes that its member museums have the right to exercise their responsibility to make informed judgments about the appropriateness of acquiring such an object. AAMD is committed to ensuring that these acquisitions take place transparently and in full public view.

The Registry of New Acquisitions of Archaeological Material and Works of Ancient Art is a central component of AAMD's process to make information about such objects freely available to students, teachers, visitors, source countries, officials, as well as possible claimants. For information on individual museums’ acquisitions, follow the links to their web sites.

 

Cover image: Greece, c. 470-460 B.C.E. Red-figure column krater (attempted abduction of Helen by Theseus; three draped youths). Dallas Museum of Art

In 1973—a decade before the U.S. Congress passed legislation incorporating elements of the 1970 UNESCO Convention into U.S. law—AAMD passed a resolution urging members to cooperate with foreign countries to prevent illegal trafficking in art as described in the new UNESCO Convention.

In 2004, AAMD issued guidelines for its members regarding the future acquisition of archaeological material and ancient art. The heart of the document reinforced the need for transparency in acquisitions, the strict observance of U.S. law, and specific procedures to allow acquisitions to continue if, after due diligence, no information came to light that stood in the way of purchases, gifts, or bequests. As part of the larger global dialogue taking place, AAMD’s guidelines helped stimulate discussions about the role of responsible collecting by museums and the importance of a licit market.

AAMD determined it should refine the 2004 guidelines to affirm more clearly and tangibly its members’ commitment to helping protect and preserve archaeological resources worldwide, and to strengthen the principles and standards used in making decisions regarding the acquisition of archeological materials and ancient art. The results, reflected in the 2008 guidelines are:

  • The adoption of November 1970, the date of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import and Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, as an important threshold date when considering an acquisition;
  • Research protocols that are even more rigorous than those included in the previous guidelines; and
  • The establishment of this searchable Object Registry, which ensures an even higher level of public transparency for members’ acquisitions.

In 2013, AAMD issued revisions to the 2008 Guidelines on the Acquisition of Archaeological Material and Ancient Art. The changes in the 2013 revisions focus on specific aspects of the guidelines, as follows:

  • The existing requirement to post information about new acquisitions of archaeological materials and ancient art to AAMD’s Object Registry has been clarified: members must now post all provenance information of which the museum is aware, as well as specific details about how the acquisition meets the standards of the guidelines.
  • At the same time, the AAMD Object Registry has been strengthened by making posts to the Registry a requirement of AAMD’s Code of Ethics.
  • The revised guidelines provide more detail about the considerations to be taken into account when deciding whether to acquire a work that is either archeological material or ancient art.
  • The guidelines also address an area that was not covered in the 2008 report: guidance on the handling of promised gifts and estate plans made before the 2008 report was issued. The revised guidelines state that gifts promised and bequests made prior to 2008 can be accepted provided they are posted to the Object Registry when accessioned into a museum’s collection.

 

The objects documented in this Registry meet the standards of AAMD’s 2008 guidelines, as determined by the acquiring institution. Follow this link to read AAMD’s guidelines, formally titled the: Report of the AAMD Task Force on the Acquisition of Archaeological Materials and Ancient Art (Revised 2008). For information on AAMD's mission and members, please visit the main website at AAMD.org

Questions regarding any object in the Registry of New Acquisitions of Archaeological Material and Works of Ancient Art can be directed to the acquiring institution by using the Contact Us link at the top of the screen.