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The Society for the History of Collecting together with the Victoria and Albert Museum present: ‘Violated National Heritage: Theft, Traffic and Restitution’

23 March, 2021 at 4.30pm (GMT)

Attendees who paid for the 2020 event will be refunded, and ticket registration will open in early 2021. If you registered for the 2020 date, you will need to register again for the 2021 date.  

About this Event

Have you ever wondered how ancient art from countries such as Egypt, Greece and Rome came to fill European and American museums? And how did national Pacific collections come into being? This conference, with a dynamic list of international speakers, will address how collecting has developed since the 16th century, and how, over the centuries, it has been regulated, even circumvented in various ways. It will also look beyond the boundaries of legal trade of art and artefacts to consider how the criminal orbit operates, how heritage-rich countries confront the trafficking of their patrimony and how museums are involved in such debates.

This conference will not tackle the Parthenon marbles debate nor war booty, but it will raise issues around patrimony laws, looting, trafficking, faking provenance and money laundering. Presentations on particular historical contexts will be followed by talks focusing on the contemporary situation, including the policing and voluntary restitution versus surrender of objects as the result of investigative evidence. Trafficking takes many forms and may include forgeries in order to satisfy demand. Both source and receiving countries have sharpened their laws, policing and prosecutions.

This conference is aimed not only at students but also art world and museum professionals, indeed at anyone interested to hear the latest information, much of which is unpublished, and to learn more about the realities behind these key issues.



Chair: Dr. T. E. Stammers, Durham University

Vernon Rapley (Director of Cultural Heritage Protection and Security) & Laura Jones (Cultural Heritage Preservation Lead): The V&A’s Culture in Crisis Programme;

Eleni Vassilika, Former museum director (Hildesheim and Turin), on the operations of placing illicit Egyptian antiquities in museums;

Christos Tsirogiannis, Assoc. Prof. and AIAS-COFUND Research Fellow, Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Aarhus, formerly at the Archaeological Unit at Cambridge, as well as the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Greek Police Art Squad: on recent thefts and restitutions to Greece;

Lynda Albertson, CEO, Association for Research into Crimes against Art: Hiding in plain sight with the help of the art market’s laundrymen: Reflections on the restitution and “grey” market in Italy’s antiquities;

Hilke Thode Arora, Keeper Oceanic collections (Museum Fünf Kontinente, Munich), on Pacific ‘gifts’;

Ian Richardson, Registrar for Treasure Trove (The British Museum), on how the TTAct functions;

Roland Foord, Senior Partner, Stephenson Harwood LLP, on procedures for restitution.


To register for this event click here


The Society for the History of Collecting is grateful to the Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards and the Gilbert Trust for the Arts for their support in making this event possible.

The image above: detail for a coloured lithograph after L. Boilly, 1823, Wellcome Collection. CC BY.



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