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Kelsey staff members are often asked why the Museum’s list of recent acquisitions is either extremely short or nonexistent. In fact, the Museum does occasionally improve its collections by selective acquisition through gift, purchase, or bequest. But since 1973 our acquisition of ancient artifacts has been drastically curtailed by the 1970 UNESCO Convention, which strictly constrains the importation of cultural property from museums or monuments in other participating countries.

In compliance with this Convention, the Museum will not acquire objects if the legality of their expatriation is questionable. Furthermore,

A) Objects that left their country of origin or were imported into the United States after December 30, 1973, require a valid export title, a receipt showing that they were acquired legally within the country of origin, or some other acceptable documentation showing that the objects’ export from their country of origin, and, where applicable, from their country of acquisition, was legal.

B) In the case of an object expatriated before December 30, 1973, for which complete documentation is unavailable, the Museum attempts to establish its pedigree through reasonable investigation. When possible, the burden of this process is placed on the source that offers the object to the Museum. If the Museum finds the documentation for the object in conformity with museum policy, the object may then be acquired.

C) The Museum will refuse to acquire objects if there is reasonable cause to believe that the circumstances of their recovery involved the recent unscientific or intentional destruction of sites or monuments.

Learn more about the 1970 UNESCO Convention.