Which objects are protected under the 1970 UNESCO Convention?

In 2009 the Kingdom of the Netherlands accepted the 1970 UNESCO Convention by means of an Implementation Act: the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (Implementation) Act. In 2016 the Implementation Act was included in the Dutch Heritage Act (Chapter 6, paragraph 1).

The scope of the Act is determined by the definition of the cultural property to which it applies. These must be objects of essential importance to the cultural heritage of a state for archaeology, prehistory, history, literature, art or science and which belong to one of the 11 categories of cultural property listed in article 1 of the Convention.

Protected cultural heritage in the Netherlands

In the Dutch Heritage Act is mentioned which cultural property is legally protected (Chapter 3). This includes (national) monuments and archaeological monuments, cultural objects, collections or ensembles, and municipal and provincial heritage.

Section 4.22 of the Heritage Act indicates what is prohibited to remove from the Netherlands without consent of the rightful owner(s):

  • Objects from public collections in institutions such as museums, archives and libraries that are funded by a public body;
  • Objects inscribed in the inventories of ecclesiastical institutions;
  • Protected historic buildings and monuments and parts thereof;
  • Archival materials and elements thereof provided that they are more than 50 years old;
  • Unlawfully excavated archaeological objects;

Also objects which are included in the Register of protected cultural objects or protected collections as meant in Section 3.11 are not allowed to leave the territory of the Netherlands without written permit of the Minister of Culture. The objects may leave the territory of the Netherlands for temporary purposes as exhibitions or restoration.

Please contact the Information and Heritage Inspectorate.

  • in case of doubt as to whether or not an object’s origin is lawful,
  • if you suspect that a cultural property from the Netherlands has been illegally imported into a Member State,
  • You can also contact the Inspectorate if you suspect that a cultural property from an EU member state or a States Party to the 1970 or 1954 UNESCO Conventions has been illegally imported into the Netherlands.

Before you do this, please read the information below very carefully. If the answer to all five questions is ‘yes’, then contact the Information and Heritage Inspectorate.

If not, please contact your national law enforcement agency.

  1. Does the cultural property belong to a Member State of the EU?

  2. Was it illegally exported and imported from a Member State into the Netherlands after 1 January 1993?

  3. Does the cultural property belong to a Member State to the 1970 UNESCO Convention?

  4. Was it illegally exported and imported from a Member State into the Netherlands after 1 July 2009?
  5. Does the cultural property belong to one of the categories provided for under article 1 of 1970 UNESCO Convention; is it of essential importance, is it designated by the state

Does the object fall under one of the 11 categories of the 1970 Convention? (1)

Is the object significant to one of the areas:  
Archaeology, Prehistory, History, Literature, Art, Science

(1) The categories are:

  • Rare collections and specimens of fauna, flora, minerals and anatomy, and objects of paleontological interest;
  • Property related to history, including the history of science and technology and military and social history, to the life of national leaders, thinkers, scientists and artists and to events of national significance
  • Products of archaeological excavations (including regular and clandestine) or of archaeological discoveries
  • Elements of artistic or historical monuments or archaeological sites which have been dismembered
  • Antiquities that are more than one hundred years old, such as inscriptions, coins and engraved seals
  • Objects of ethnological interest
  • Property of artistic interest such as pictures, paintings and drawings produced entirely by hand on any support and in any material; original works of statuary art and sculpture in any material; original engravings, prints and lithographs; original artistic assemblages and montages in any material
  • Rare manuscripts and incunabula, old books, documents and publications of special interest, singly or in collections
  • Postage, revenue and similar stamps, singly or in collections
  • Archives, including sound, photographic and cinematographic archives
  • Articles of furniture more than one hundred years old and old musical instruments