Diploma in Law and Collections Management



Diligent management of collections and claims is vital to museum professionals. No project can be secure unless its architects know how to predict and intercept legal conflict. The risk of such conflict hangs over the entire field of museum activity from acquisitions to loans to de-accessions. It is common throughout the global museum community. In all these fields there is a rising demand for realistic training in hands-on legal management.

To respond to these demands, the Institute of Art and Law (IAL) invites museum administrators and officials to subscribe to a specifically modelled training programme offering expertise in the legal issues of collections management and leading to a qualification awarded by the Institute.

The programme requires no pre-existing knowledge of law. The key emphasis will be on the practical and pragmatic use of legal tools to improve the running and development of museums, their collections and their collaborative exhibition programmes. Legal rules and resources will be examined, not in terms of abstract theory, but in terms of what they mean to everyday museum management, how they can be used and what they can do for the museum community.

The programme has been run to acclaim in previous years in London, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Some comments from past delegates can be found at the bottom of this page.

Aim of the qualification

The programme will provide practical guidance and grounding on the following linked matters:

What can go wrong: studies of real-life adverse events that have challenged museums, including physical hazards and legal entanglements

Essential sources of law: civil law, criminal law, public and private international law, intellectual property law, statutory and case law, all as they affect cultural objects and the institutions that possess them

Detecting and intercepting legal embarrassments: how to negotiate and maximise the advantage from a sale or loan agreement, how to handle legal trickery or disingenuousness, how to side-step a repetition of historic blunders

Reading and writing agreements: putting aims into words; how to draft and understand contracts for the acquisition of cultural objects into permanent collections and the creation of bailments (in-loans and out-loans)

Triggering legal protection: making the most of the safeguards that law has to offer, such as import and export considerations, immunity from seizure, time for verification of title etc.

Ethical principles that bear upon the management of museum collections: is conformity to law enough; must museums show a responsible concern for issues that go beyond their own legal protection; how do these responsibilities mesh with law?

Delivery of the programme

The course is delivered over a five-day period and will take the form of a combination of formal seminars and orchestrated discussion groups. The course will be led by IAL Assistant Director Alexander Herman and Senior Researcher Emily Gould. Leading barristers and solicitors will provide guest lectures throughout. Full documentary materials will be provided.


Examination will be by oral presentation at the end of the course and by 3,000 word dissertation to be submitted several weeks following the conclusion of the course. IAL will provide all documentation, and award a Diploma of the Institute, the Diploma in Law and Collections Management.

Skeleton programme

Day 1: Guiding Principles for Collections Managers: framing and phrasing agreements; how a well-devised contract can avoid future pitfalls; the vital role of record-keeping; planning for the resolution of opposing positions among lenders, claimants and museum authorities.

Day 2: Acquisitions, Loans and Bailments: how a museum can acquire title in an object, contractual protections in situations of sale and loan; legal Issues in assembling revising and upgrading collections; the gift vs loan problem for museums; how the law of bailment applies to museums.

Day 3: Intellectual Property and Collections: copyright in artistic works and other museum objects; protection of photographs of objects in a collection; dealing with works in the public domain; the duration of copyright protection; exceptions protecting users of copyright material, such as fair dealing; moral rights of artists.

Day 4: Restitution and Repatriation Claims: how a museum should respond to a claim for the return of an object; which ethical guidelines need to be followed; what is the larger international framework that exists to combat the trade in looted cultural property; the particular situation of Nazi-looted works of art.

Day 5: Case studies, enacted scenarios, drafting exercises and experiential learning; oral assessments.

Comments from past delegates:

“This has been so helpful and instructive in understanding the legal aspects that complement and reinforce ethics in the heritage sector.”

“Interesting and informative course that I would highly recommend to anyone in the profession.”

“Really enjoyed this course which I found to be highly relevant, well structured and extremely well delivered.”

I want to thank you again for the course in Sydney. It was challenging, thought-provoking and has definitely inspired me to look at a number changes (particularly to documentation) we need to look at introducing here.”

“Many thanks … once again for your commitment, enthusiasm and passionate interest in this subject. I have learnt an invaluable amount and would recommend this course to all of my colleagues.”

“Found the course so fascinating and enjoyable I thought long and hard about whether I could afford to go back to law school (I can’t) and have taken the position as Director at a regional museum instead.

“I think all museum professionals should do this course!”  

Cost of course

The cost of the course is £1,560 (£1300 + VAT).

If you would like to express interest in the next intake, please download an application form and return it to us.