2010 cultural heritage legal summary

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2011


The year 2010 was a relatively quiet one for legal developments with respect to archaeological heritage. Some court decisions that were expected this year, such as that concerning foreign sovereign immunity for artifacts on loan from Iran to the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, did not materialize, while other disputes remain on appeal, such as that involving the disposition of 500,000 gold and silver coins taken from an early 19th century Spanish shipwreck by Odyssey Marine. One of the most closely watched cases, the trial in Italy of the former J. Paul Getty Museum curator, Marion True, ended inconclusively when time ran out for the prosecution. Nonetheless, recovery and restitution of cultural objects that were brought illegally into the United States continued, as did controversies concerning the bilateral agreements concluded between the United States and other nations, pursuant to the 1983 Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, the United States' legislation implementing the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The following review focuses on legal developments primarily in the United States, as the United States participates in international treaty regimes to protect cultural heritage.