UNESCO maintains that the world's cultural heritage must be preserved and transferred to future generations as evidence of human achievement and as sources of information and education. However, there is international concern at the historic and more recent examples of the pillage of various world cultural heritage and archaeological sites. In addition, the theft of objects from museums is increasing.
Museums and art galleries may protect themselves against theft by putting into place a systematic inventory of collections and by improving security norms. Museum and art gallery staff can also protect themselves and their institutions by seeking full details of provenance and other information related to items being considered for acquisition. They should also ensure sources are researched and sufficiently exhaustive enquiries relating to illegal activities in the field are made before recommending the acquisition of or import for exhibition or research purposes of loan material.
It is important to be familiar with a range of international legal instruments such as the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and the UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects adopted in Rome on June 29, 1995.
- UNESCO Convention on the Transfer of Cultural Property (UNESCO.org)
- UNESCO Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (cites.org)
- UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects (UNIDROIT.org)
Other International Treaties may also be relevant to the collections and activities of museums and art galleries in Aotearoa New Zealand and include:
- Antarctic Treaty (www.ats.aq)
- Madrid Protocol for international trademark registration (www.madridprotocol.info)
- International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (www.iczn.org)
- Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (www.berne.org)