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Communications principles when dealing with a potentially spoliated or illicitly-traded item

If your organisation has received a claim for an object which may have been spoliated, or you discover that an object in your collection has been illicitly traded in the past, there are some basic principles to follow in all of your communication channels:

  • If you have published spoliation reports and records make sure that they are up to date. If you haven’t published a report and records for your organisation, consider doing so, and contact the Collections Trust for more information.
  • Do not communicate a claim for restitution or repatriation externally until you have received it in writing and you have formally assessed it for validity.
  • Always confirm the contents of a press release with all of those involved including a claimant before going to press– you can base press releases around the press release template (Word doc).
  • Always refer to your organisation’s communications strategy, and plan your communication in advance as you set about researching spoliation or illicitly traded objects – see the planning guidance on restitution and repatriation.
  • Take steps to inform the press appropriately to ensure that the stories about objects in your collection are presented factually and represent the views of all interested parties.
  • Make sure that the contact person on a press release is available to talk to journalists.
  • When speaking to the press, or informing the public about spoliation research or claims through your own channels, keep to the facts and don’t speculate.
  • Respond promptly to press enquiries – if you can’t give a full response, make a ‘holding’ comment with a date by which you will respond in full.
  • Be proactive about making your own statements through your own channels.
  • If you do not have the relevant skills in-house, take expert advice.

Date created: 2015

Publisher: Collections Trust