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College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Center for Art Collection Ethics

Ellingen Stash Bowl, Pueblo of Zuni

Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Center for Art Collection Ethics

Nearly every week, a news headline announces the latest lawsuit over a valuable work of art. An heir of Holocaust victims sues a museum over a painting stolen by the Nazis. An antiquities-rich country sues a dealer or gallery over objects plundered by profit-seekers. Indigenous peoples claim sacred objects looted by amateur archaeologists and donated to art museums. Often, the objects have been sold multiple times before reaching the current owner, complicating legal and ethical dimensions of the disputes.

In an effort to increase awareness of these issues and promote art provenance (ownership) research training, the University of Denver has established the Center for Art Collection Ethics (ACE) in the College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences.

Photo Credits:
American soldier inspects German loot stored in a church at Ellingen, Germany, April 24, 1945. Courtesy of National Archives at College Park, MD.
Bowl, Pueblo of Zuni, New Mexico. Courtesy of University of Denver Museum of Anthropology.


Elizabeth Campbell photo

Welcome to the Center for Art Collection Ethics

Welcome! You’ve landed on the news blog of the newly established Center for Art Collection Ethics (ACE) within the Divisions of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences at the University of Denver. Click the above link to learn more about our mission and programs.

Elizabeth Campbell, Director

RSVP HERE for our Spring event. 

Washington Principles
January 6, 2019

The Washington Principles 20 years later: Some progress but not enough

On November 26-28, 2018, the German Lost Art Foundation hosted a conference in Berlin to assess progress made by the international community in the restitution of Nazi-era art over the past two decades. The conference marked the twentieth anniversary of the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, a non-binding agreement adopted by 44 countries in the context of a broader international conference on Holocaust-era assets. The principles promote provenance research on works of art confiscated by the Nazis that were not restituted to rightful owners and have ended up in art collections around the world. These nations agreed that “every effort should be made to publicize art that is found to have been confiscated by the Nazis,” and when victims or heirs can or cannot be identified, “steps should be taken expeditiously to reach a just and fair solution.” Governments backing the agreement also would promote the establishment of “national processes to implement these principles.”


Photo Retrieved from

red owl
January 23, 2019

Field Museum Begins Renovation of Native American Hall

Chicago’s Field Museum is beginning concentrated efforts to reimagine the exhibitions in their Native American Hall. In October 2018 the museum declared its intentions to  renovate  the hall over a three-year period, with a focus on acknowledging the colonial practices that helped shaped the collections and the manner of their display.

In order to support more input from represented tribes, the interim exhibition will focus on the work of Kanza artist Chris Pappan, whose overlays mounted on old displays help refresh the exhibitions through a modern perspective. The museum will continue to work with tribes throughout the renovation and after in order to implement a long overlooked contemporary Native perspective in the museum.   

Photo Credit: Chris Pappan's Red Owl Sacrifice. Retrieved from

Added by Caitlin Philippo. 

Dead Sea Scroll Fragment
February 12, 2019

Carved Stones from Nabatean Temple Returned 

Stone carvings that once adorned an altar devoted to a Nabatean goddess have been returned to Jordan. Art dealer Diego López de Aragón sought out Judith McKenzie, an expert in Nabatean culture from Oxford University who identified the origin of carvings.

The stones had not been listed on any art loss register, and their exact provenance is unknown. McKenzie and López de Aragón then initiated the complicated process of returning the carvings to Jordan, where other pieces of the temple are held by the Jordan Museum in Amman. 

Summary by Caitlin Philippo.

Photo Credit: Stone Carvings. Retrieved from

Thai Repatriation
November 19, 2018

Thailand claims works from U.S. museums

As France, Germany and Britain grapple with repatriation demands from former colonies and other territories they once controlled, the United States is investigating claims from Thailand. In February 2018, after a year-long probe into missing objects, the Thai Minister of Culture, Vira Rojpojchanarat, called for the return of 23 artifacts from major U.S. museums. The claim widened on November 1, when the Thai government announced it would seek a total of 705 looted artifacts from museums in the United States and Australia. Thailand provided photographs and documents to bolster its claim that the disputed objects were looted from temples and archeological sites. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is now studying the documents.

The claimed works include two 11th-century stone lintels held by the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and an 8th-century Buddha statue in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Other institutions impacted by the claim are the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, holding ten items under investigation, and the Honolulu Museum of Art, which holds fourteen disputed objects, including a bronze prehistoric bell and Buddha statues from the Dvaravati and Ayutthaya eras (6th to 11th and 14th to 18th century CE, respectively).


Photo Credit: 11th Century Stone Lintel. Retrieved from

Elgin Marbles at British Museum
Feb 1, 2019

Rebel Forces Accused of Looting Historic Yemeni Library

The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (IESCO) has condemned Houthi forces in the historic Yemini town of Zabid for their alleged involvement in the looting of a library. Zabid is one of the oldest regions in the country, and has been listed as a UNESCO heritage site since 1993.

ISESCO director general Abdulaziz bin Othaman Al Twajairi has reached out to cultural agencies in the hopes of encouraging rebel forces to return looted objects and for future observance of the protection of such landmark sites. 

Summary by Caitlin Philippo.

Photo Credit: Zabid, Yemen. Retrieved by: the