Provenance and Restitution HISTART5126

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Culture and Creative Arts
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course explores the links between provenance research (i.e., 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. The course highlights the importance of verifying provenance in accordance with the legal and ethical standards for trading archaeological material, Nazi looted art, and ethnographical material looted, stolen, seized or taken under duress from the colonial era.


7 x 1 hour Lecture

9 x 1 hour Seminar (inc presentations)

2 x 1 hour tutorial

3 x 1 hour presentation sessions

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:

■ equip students to take full account of collection ethics associated with the trans-national movement of cultural objects and with societal displacement; 

■ equip them to highlight discrepancies between societal aspirations, the standards of acquisition set in codes of conduct, and actual practices of collecting; 

■ equip them to explain the problems associated with gaps in provenance of art and cultural objects; 

■ equip them to determine how provenance can be checked; and

■ equip them with 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 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;

■ demonstrate an understanding of how curatorial, archaeological and legal contexts affect provenance research;

■ build, review, consolidate and extend their own knowledge and understanding through the use of primary sources of information on the topics covered; and

■ initiate and carry out provenance research based on evidence sourced in a wide variety of places, including online sources, taking due account of legal and ethical standards covered in the course.

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.