Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan

The Australian Government’s Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan (PCOL) Scheme was established to administer the Commonwealth Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Act 2013 (PCOL Act).

The Act encourages international loans by limiting the circumstances in which lenders, borrowing institutions, exhibition facilitators and people working for them can lose ownership, physical possession, custody or control of objects while they are in Australia.

The protection provided by the Act is often referred to as immunity from seizure and suit. Under the Act most types of legal action including seizure and suit (legal proceedings brought to a court of law) and the enforcement of judgements and orders are prevented from the time of import until the export of the object.

The PCOL Scheme provides legal protection for cultural objects on loan from overseas lenders for temporary public exhibition in Australia.

In order to be eligible for protection under the Act, the objects must be loaned by a lender ordinarily resident or incorporated in a country outside Australia or the government of another country, and the items must be imported into Australia for the primary purpose of temporary public display. The items will be protected from the date of import, until they are exported from the country.

Further information about the Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Act and Scheme can be found on the Commonwealth Ministry for the Arts website.

Enquiries and claims

Museums Victoria encourages and facilitates access to and sharing of the Collections for public benefit and understanding, and also borrows items from other museums, institutions and individuals for similar purposes. It is committed to evaluating and considering all ethical and legal risks for every Collection item that it acquires, proposes for deaccession, borrows or lends for research or temporary public exhibition.

Items that Museums Victoria is proposing to borrow or has borrowed from overseas and that are subject to the Act are published on the Museums Victoria website. Images and information about such items will be published a minimum of four weeks prior to the importation of the items into Australia and only removed once the items leave Australia.

As part of this commitment, the Museum invites people to contact us if they have an enquiry or claim in relation to custodianship or ownership, restitution, return, incorrect provenance or authenticity for an item in the State collections, or an item either borrowed, or about to be borrowed, from overseas.

Please contact Museums Victoria if:

  • you wish to make a claim (such as an ownership claim) over an item
  • if you have any questions about such an item
  • if you want further information about such a item’s ownership or provenance.

The Museum will endeavour to resolve any concerns regarding Items in the State collections and inward and outward Loans for the purposes of research or temporary public exhibition in a consistent, sensitive, transparent and timely manner. Where the dispute cannot be resolved directly, or through loan agreements, the Museum’s Collection Provenance and Legal Title Enquiries and Claims Procedure will be followed, and the Director, Collections, Research and Exhibitions will be notified of the claim.

We set out below information about our enquiry and claims handling procedures in relation to items Museums Victoria is proposing to borrow or has borrowed from overseas. Item s borrowed from overseas for exhibition will usually be subject to the provisions of the Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Act 2013 which prevents their seizure as a result of legal proceedings while they are in Australia.

What information do I need to provide if I am making a claim or enquiry?

To make a claim or enquiry, or to request additional information about an item Museums Victoria is proposing to borrow from overseas or lend to another institution, you will need to provide us with the following in writing:

  • your name, address and contact details
  • if you are making a legal title claim or enquiry on behalf of someone else, that person’s name, contact details and their relationship to you
  • a short summary of the claim to the item
  • copies of any documents or other evidence that may be relevant to the legal title claim or enquiry and
  • a statement confirming that you are aware that Museums Victoria may inform the lender of the request and supply them with information on the legal title claim or enquiry.

How will Museums Victoria consider my enquiry or claim?

Museums Victoria will consider each enquiry and claim it receives in relation to an item proposed for inward loan from overseas or outward loan, based on the nature and circumstances of each enquiry or claim.

In determining whether an enquiry or claim in relation to an item borrowed from overseas and subject to the Act is justified, Museums Victoria will consider:

  • the documentation and evidence you provide;
  • if you are known to Museums Victoria and whether you have already made the same or a similar claim in another country and
  • in the case of Australian cultural material (including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander material), a close examination of the work’s known provenance and history, including how the work left the custody of any relevant individual or community and the circumstances in which it was exported from Australia.

What response should I expect to get back from Museum Victoria?

Where Museums Victoria is satisfied that an item’s provenance is established we will provide you with information on the provenance and due diligence procedures we followed. Such research will be in accordance with the policies and procedures of Museums Victoria and is required under the Act.

Museums Victoria will also allow the lender an opportunity to respond to a claim or enquiry made in relation to an item and will provide you with an outline of the lender’s response to your claim or enquiry.

We will also direct you to any additional information about an item available either on our own website, or elsewhere.

Please note, however, that Museums Victoria retains the right not to disclose any of the above if we determine that it is not, in all the circumstances, appropriate to do so.

How long will it take for Museums Victoria to respond to my enquiry or claim?

Museums Victoria will respond to you within 28 days of receiving your enquiry or claim. To assist in a prompt response, please make sure you provide all the details that Museums Victoria will likely need to assess your claim and to accurately identify any information you have requested.

What will happen if Museums Victoria determines that a claim I make is justified?

If Museums Victoria determines that you have a legitimate claim in relation to an item before that work is imported into Australia, Museums Victoria will assess whether or not it is appropriate, in all the circumstances, to continue with the loan. In making that assessment, Museums Victoria will have full regard to its due diligence and provenance standards, as set out in Museums Victoria Collection Care and Use Policy (DOCX, 56KB).

Please note, however, that once an item has been imported into Australia on loan from overseas, your ability to take legal action in relation to that work in Australia may be limited by the provisions of the Act. For information on the Act, refer to the Department of Communication and the Arts website.

Who do I contact at Museums Victoria if I want to make a claim or enquiry?

If you want to make a claim or enquiry in relation to an item that Museums Victoria intends to borrow, or has borrowed from overseas, please write to us:

Please note that this information relates to enquiries and claims concerning the ownership or provenance of an item borrowed from overseas for temporary public exhibition. For all other comments and enquiries about items, please refer to Collection Access Requests.


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