Protecting cultural heritage

Individuals and countries can all do more to protect cultural heritage.

What you can do

  • Take care when purchasing items and use all available means to determine their origin and provenance: this is particularly true for cultural objects that appear to originate from conflict zones;
  • Use INTERPOL’s Stolen Works of Art Database to check every object you deal with. The database is open to the public and access can be requested.
  • Compile inventories of collections, with photographs and exact descriptions of each object.
  • Refuse to buy objects without adequate documentation about their origin;
  • Make objects easily identifiable [i.e. marking by the owner or by specialist private companies];
  • Protect the premises where collections are held;
  • Report thefts immediately to the police or other law enforcement authorities and provide them with a full list of stolen items together with photographs.
Cultural heritage

At the national level

  • Create, where they do not exist yet, specialized police units solely dedicated to the protection of cultural heritage to investigate cases of trafficking of cultural property.
  • Create a national database connected to INTERPOL’s Stolen Works of Art Database.
  • Develop and enhance national legislation to protect cultural heritage and regulate the art market (UNESCO Database of National Cultural Heritage Laws);
  • Use and contribute to the INTERPOL’s Stolen Works of Art database by sharing information regarding stolen works of art;
  • Become party to international conventions such as the 1970 UNESCO Convention and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention;
  • Assess the potential use of the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) to fight illicit trafficking of cultural property;
  • Prepare inventories of public collections using standards which will make it possible to circulate information in the event of theft;
  • Develop a computerized database along the lines of those currently in use, to avoid duplication of effort;
  • Circulate information on thefts as rapidly as possible;
  • Raise public awareness with regard to the cultural heritage both in the country and abroad;
  • Develop training courses for law enforcement services, customs and judicial authorities, with the support of cultural institutions.