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Researching and processing a restitution or repatriation claim

If a claim for restitution or repatriation is received by a cultural heritage organisation, a transparent and open process for assessing the claim should be followed. The aim of the process is to always research and assess the claim in a constructive manner, demonstrating trust and mutual respect. It is important to ensure that the requesting party is confident at all times that your organisation is taking a professional and equitable approach to the claim.

The steps in this process may be:
  • Sending a written acknowledgment of the claim to the claimant.
  • Setting up a file for the claim, and filing the written claim.
  • Making an initial assessment of the claim – see Recording a Claim Template.
  • Creating a plan which describes how your organisation is going to come to a decision about the claim. The plan should include:
    • Following due diligence principles – investigating all lines of enquiry and keeping records of all activity and evidence.
    • The background to the claim.
    • Legal, ethical and policy criteria against which you will assess the evidence collected in your research. You will need to have reference to a statement by your organisation as to the circumstances under which it is legally and ethically bound to return an object.
    • The research you need to carry out into the identity and validity of the claimant – see Researching the Validity of a Claim Checklist (Word doc).
    • The research you will need to carry out into the object(s) of the claim – this will include your own documentation, historical references and catalogues, and external databases of stolen property.
    • The roles and responsibilities of those involved in the research.
    • The resources required for the research, including an assessment of the levels of expertise required and reference to external sources of advice and expertise.
    • The timescales for the research.
    • A communications plan which identifies:
      • Your organisation’s main contact for the claimant, the governing body and the press.
      • A schedule for communications to the claimant, the governing body and the press carrying out your plan.
    • A written decision which is based on the evidence of your research, and judged against legal, ethical and policy criteria.
    • Endorsement of the decision by your organisation’s governing body.
    • Communication of the decision to the claimant and press.
    • Amendments to your organisation’s Spoliation reports and records, if appropriate.
    • Revisions to your organisation’s policies and procedures in the light of the claim, if appropriate.

Date created: 2016