Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Yorkshire and Humberside Museums Council


  1.1  The Yorkshire and Humberside Museums Council (YHMC) is the regional strategic, development and advisory body for museums and galleries in the Yorkshire and Humberside region. The Council, which was founded in 1963, is a membership organisation which represents nearly 200 local authority, university, regimental and independent charitable trust museums.

  1.2  The main activities of the Council include the provision of advice and information, in-service training, the administration of Government grant aid for museum projects, and representation of its members' views at regional and national level.

  YHMC encourages museums to work together through a variety of regional initiatives such as marketing schemes, collection surveys and museum education projects.

  The Council also provides a strategic overview and independent advice to many external bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Regional Government Office.

  1.3  The Council is a limited company and registered charity. Its work is overseen by an annually elected Board of Management, which is advised by a professional Joint Advisory Panel. On a day-to-day basis the Museums Council is managed by the Director, who is a museum professional. YHMC receives its core funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport via the Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries.


  2.1  There needs to be a clear, agreed and inclusive definition of the term "cultural property".

  2.2  A central source of advice and expertise is required to assist not only museums and galleries, but also private collectors and the art trade. Information on cultural property legislation and export regulations in other countries should be a particular priority.


  3.1  It is often difficult, if not impossible, to obtain details of provenance for items sold by auction houses. The lack of a requirement for provenance information is a contributory factor in the theft of cultural property both in the UK and in other countries.

  3.2  Sales of cultural property in shops, through catalogues and via Internet sites should be governed by ethical retail policies. Tighter government regulation may also be required.

  3.3  In order to combat illicit trade and theft within the UK eg of archaeological material, there needs to be greater co-ordination between police forces.


  4.1  Any proposals to tackle illicit trade in the UK will have to relate to current European legislation. Many museums and galleries would welcome better information on the operation and interpretation of existing European legislation.

  4.2  YHMC strongly recommends that the UK should ratify the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention and the 1970 UNESCO Convention in order to provide a clearer legislative framework with which to combat the illicit trade in cultural property.

April 2000

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