Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Provenance HISTART5126

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Culture and Creative Arts
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

This course highlights the importance of verifying provenance prior to trading in art and cultural objects. It explores the links between provenance research (i.e. the tracing the ownership history of collections or individual items that form part of collections), the aspiration of society to guard against the illicit trade and trafficking of culture, and the highest standard of due diligence in the trade.


10 x 2 hour sessions: one lecture, one seminar per week.

Requirements of Entry

Standard entry to masters at College level.

Excluded Courses






One 3500 word Essay (70%)

One 15 minute Oral presentation on a Case Study (30%)

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ Provide the student with an understanding of the ethics associated with the trans-national movement of cultural objects and with societal displacement;

■ Highlight discrepancies between the standards of acquisition set in codes of conduct and actual practices of collecting;

■ Explain the problems associated with gaps in provenance of art and cultural objects;

■ Provide students with the required skillset to determine how provenance can be checked;

■ Equip the student to promote a nuanced understanding of art history.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Critically evaluate the implications of provenance research for cultural history;

■ Explain the consequences of incomplete, inaccurate or false provenance of works of art and archaeological material for the art trade and for museums;

■ Explain how provenance research can help remove impediments arising from lack of information or pollution of information in the art trade;

■ Formulate a coherent argument concerning how curatorial, archaeological and legal contexts affect provenance research;

■ Develop written arguments and make informed judgments about the compliance of the evidence used in order to fill gaps in a published provenance, with legal and ethical standards covered in the course;

■ Conduct provenance research based on evidence sourced in a wide diversity of places, including online sources.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.