Department for Culture Media and Sport

protection of items on loan from abroad

Objects on loan from abroad for temporary exhibition in UK museums and galleries are protected from court-ordered seizure.

The need for legislation

In response to concerns from museums that an increasing number of international lenders were refusing to lend items to UK museums without a guarantee of their safe return, legislation was created to protect these objects.

If the conditions of this legislation are met, a court cannot make an order to seize an object that has been loaned from abroad for an exhibition, except where required to under EU law or the UK’s international obligations.

Part 6 of the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 ("the Act") contains details, including the conditions that need to be met.

Back to top


Under section 134 of the Act, an object is only protected from seizure if all the conditions set out in section 134(2) of the Act are met when the object enters the UK. The checklist of requirements (PDF 61kb) gives full details.

In summary, the conditions require that the object:

  • is usually kept outside the UK
  • is not owned by a person resident in the UK
  • does not contravene a prohibition or restriction on import
  • is brought into the UK for temporary public display by a museum or gallery that is approved

and that the museum or gallery has complied with all the requirements about the publication of information, specified in the Regulation.

Back to top


The authority responsible for approving a museum or gallery depends on where the institution is located:

  • England - the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
  • Wales - Welsh ministers
  • Scotland - Scottish ministers
  • Northern Ireland - the Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure

To be approved, a museum or gallery must demonstrate that its procedures for undertaking 'due diligence' are robust, meet international standards and follow the Combating Illicit Trade: Due diligence guidelines for museums, libraries and archives on collecting and borrowing cultural material, issued by DCMS in 2005. When assessing applications, approval authorities will be assisted by independent experts.

Future borrowing
When a museum has been approved, it will not have to re-apply for each exhibition or article that need to be protected. However, the institution must make sure that the conditions for protection are satisfied on every borrowing occasion.

Withdrawing approval
Under Section 136(3) of the Act, the authority may withdraw approval from an institution if:

Back to top

Spoliation Advisory Panel

In 2000 the Spoliation Advisory Panel was established to provide advice to claimants and museums to resolve claims for works of art held in permanent collections in museums in the UK. This panel aims to return items wrongly taken during the Nazi era. It also prevents looted or stolen works of art coming to the UK via international loans.


Back to top

Publication requirements

The Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan (Publication and provision of Information) Regulations 2008 ("the Regulations") require borrowing institutions to publish detailed information about any object on loan at least four weeks before the day on which the object enters the UK.

The information must be made available to the public, free of charge, on the borrowing institution's website. This will enable anyone who may have an interest in any of those objects to raise questions about them before they come to the UK.

After the object has arrived in the UK, the borrowing institution must also make the information available, free of charge, on their website for an additional period. This period begins on the day after the four week period ends and lasts for at least twelve weeks or for the duration of the exhibition, whichever is the longer period.

The Arts Council website lists museum websites with published information about protected objects.

Back to top

Applying for approval

To apply for approval under Section 136 of the Act, museums and galleries in England should complete the below application questionnaire and return it to DCMS at least six weeks before an object requiring protection under the Act enters the UK.

Return your questionnaires by both hard copy and email to:

Mark Caldon
Cultural Property Unit
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
2 - 4 Cockspur Street
London SW1Y 5DH

Tel: +44 (0)207 211 6158

The Note on the approval of museums and galleries under section 136 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (PDF 31kb) and the Accompanying Q&A (PDF 52kb) will give you more information about the application process.

We have examples of training materials from approved museums which you might find helpful when completing your application. Contact Mark Caldon for copies.

Museums and galleries in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should contact the appropriate approving authorities there. Contact Mark Caldon for further details.

Back to top

Approved Museums

The following museums have been approved by the Minister under section 136 of the Act:

Back to top