Provenance Research Project

MAAS is a major cultural institution that collects, preserves, documents and displays Australian material culture and its global impact. The collection spans a broad range of media and materials across the applied arts and sciences. The Museum conforms to appropriate policy and guidelines to ensure the objects it brings into the collection or borrows for exhibitions have clear title and history of ownership (provenance) and follows legislation relevant to movable cultural heritage.


MAAS is committed to the responsible acquisition of objects for the collection according to the highest standards of ethical and professional practice as set out in the Australian Best Practice Guide to Collecting Cultural Material. All acquisitions will comply with Australian legislation and the Museum’s approved collection development policy.

The Museum does not support illicit trade of cultural objects, the destruction or defacing of ancient monuments, nor the theft of cultural assets from individuals, museums or other repositories. MAAS will not acquire, borrow or display material reasonably suspected to have been stolen, obtained through improper means, or illegally imported into Australia.


As part of the acquisition and loan research process curatorial staff will allocate a period of time to provenance research. Some acquisitions or loans may require a period of extended research and consultation, for example objects from the period 1933-45, Indigenous material, or objects of religious or cultural significance. If necessary the means, methods and resources will be provided to undertake further research.

Curatorial staff will rigorously research the provenance of an object prior to acquisition or loan. This may include:

  • the ownership history of the object
  • countries in which the object has been located and when
  • the exhibition and publication history of the object
  • whether claims to ownership of the object have been made
  • whether the object appears on relevant databases of stolen or contested works
  • the circumstance under which the object is being offered
  • a visual inspection by a curator or representative/subject specialist
  • consultation with relevant communities or cultural or religious groups
  • consultation with living artists, designers or makers of the object

This research process will be recorded on a due diligence provenance checklist and in the collection information database. The Museum will undertake to obtain accurate written documentation regarding the history of the object, including import, export, purchase or sale documentation. Copies of these documents will be attached to the object record in the collection information database. In cases where provenance issues arise, the Museum will seek assistance and advice from specialists at appropriate organisations.

In addition, curatorial staff are responsible for researching the provenance of objects already acquired as well as those under consideration for acquisition or loan. These include WWII-era objects such as ceramics, metalwork and furniture and objects in the Museum’s Indigenous collection.

Items with incomplete provenance

Consistent with the practice of other institutions, the Museum’s provenance research results are published on our website to ensure accessibility by the public and other researchers including those who may be able to add to the provenance information. This information can assist the Museum complete its documentation and, in the event that it identifies an illicitly traded object, to restitute that object to its rightful owner.

Asian objects with incomplete provenance

Claims inquiries

No claims have been made on the objects listed here. In the event of such a claim being made, the Museum will make every effort to ensure that proper consultation and protocols are followed in relation to the repatriation of Indigenous material and the restitution of objects from the collection in line with international best practice.

For further information contact the MAAS Provenance Research Team: