Cultural Property Case Resource (CPCR)





The  Columbia Journal of Law and the Arts recently published project co-author Charles Cronin’s article discussing the implications and possibilities of 3D printing technology for the resolution of cultural property repatriation disputes. The article is critical of the record of accommodation by the US Government and US museums of foreign cultural property repatriation claims, and suggests that rather than ostensibly resisting the international distribution of cultural artifacts found within their borders, source nations might instead profit from their surpluses of such artifacts by selling them to those willing to pay for the “aura” of the original objects.  A copy of the article is available here.

The University of Minnesota’s Journal of Law, Science, and Technology will publish (Spring 2016) a related article by Charles Cronin, “Possession is 99% of the Law: 3D Printing, Public  Domain Cultural Artifacts, and Copyright.” A draft of the article is available here.

Erik Nemeth, co-author of this project, has published a book Cultural Security: Evaluating the Power of Culture in International Affairs (Imperial College Press, 2015).  This is the first book in the literature that touches upon the interrelation of the financial value, politics, and security of cultural property, and suggests the implications for the power of culture in global affairs. The intersection of these issues forms the basis for a new field which this book examines — cultural security.  The RAND Corporation’s website offers more details about this title, as well as information on obtaining a copy.



This site is the prototype of a online resource for comprehensive information on cases (i.e., spontaneous returns, formal requests, litigation) involving objects claimed to be national cultural property. The resource will cover cases from the past two centuries, worldwide, and track current cases.

This information is offered in a non-partisan context with the objective of better informing all perspectives on cultural property cases, past and current. Partisan and personal views are expressed only in blog postings that we encourage readers to submit and comment upon.

The Purpose page states the motivations for, and objectives of, this project, and identifies categories of readers who may find it informative. The Case Index page identifies the types of cultural property that the resource will cover.

The Analysis page offers various graphical representations of quantitative information derived from metadata for the cases. Such information should be useful to those seeking information for empirical study of trends in the field of cultural property cases. Below, for instance, are graphical representations of trends in initiation and resolution of cases based on the current data set.

Relatively few cultural property cases are litigated; most are resolved privately and confidentially.  Accordingly, only cases involving high-profile objects and collections are widely reported, and primary documentation relating to claims and defenses of the many non-litigated cases is difficult to obtain.

In the graph above, the red line depicts the rate at which cases are being initiated, the blue line depicts the rate of resolution, and the black line depicts the change in the total number of unresolved cases. The red line shows a steep increase in the number of cases initiated since 2001, and the blue line shows a steep increase in the number of cases resolved since 2006. The black line depicts an increasing gap between initiated and resolved cases. In other words, the current data set suggests that cases are being initiated faster than cases are being resolved. On the other hand, the graph below indicates that the duration of cases is decreasing from close to 40 years to a year or less.