Glossary beginning with A

The Glossary provides basic legal and technical definitions for the most common terms related to the fight against illicit traffic in cultural goods.


Acceptance / Approval

The instruments of "acceptance" or "approval" of a treaty have the same legal effect as ratification and consequently express the consent of a state to be bound by a treaty. In the practice of certain states acceptance and approval have been used instead of ratification when, at a national level, constitutional law does not require the treaty to be ratified by the head of state.

Source: United Nations Treaty Collection

Accession (convention)

The accession is an act by which a State signifies its agreement to be legally bound by the terms of a particular treaty. It has the same legal effect as ratification, but is not preceded by an act of signature. The formal procedure for accession varies according to the national legislative requirements of the State. To accede to a treaty, the appropriate national organ of a State – Parliament, Senate, the Crown, Head of State or Government, or a combination of these – follows its domestic approval procedures and makes a formal decision to be a party to the treaty. Then, the instrument of accession, a formal sealed letter referring to the decision and signed by the State’s responsible authority, is prepared and deposited with the United Nations Secretary-General in New York.

Source: United Nations

Accession / Deaccession (object)

The inclusion of an object in a museum's collection. The removal of an object from a museum’s collection.

Source: Arthemis, Art-Law Centre, University of Geneva


The act of becoming the owner of certain property; the act by which one acquires or procures the property in anything.

Acquisitions of cultural objects are a key activity through which places of conservation or individuals enlarge their collection. For museums, acquisitions are often made as part of a growth strategy.

Source: International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods / West's Law & Commercial Dictionary

The adoption is the formal act by which the form and content of a proposed treaty text are established. As a general rule, the adoption of the text of a treaty takes place through the expression of the consent of the states participating in the treaty-making process. Treaties that are negotiated within an international organization will usually be adopted by a resolution of a representative organ of the organization whose membership more or less corresponds to the potential participation in the treaty in question. A treaty can also be adopted by an international conference which has specifically been convened for setting up the treaty, by a vote of two thirds of the states present and voting, unless, by the same majority, they have decided to apply a different rule.
Source: United Nations Treaty Collection

In its simplest form, an antiquity can be described as an object belonging to or dating from ancient times, though this description is not necessarily reflected by the contemporary world. For example, auction houses today may include in their departments of antiquities objects from the Middle Ages.

Museological institutions tend to divide their collections not into “Departments of Antiquities” but rather by civilizations (Egypt, Greece and Rome, Asia), prints and drawings, paintings, etc.

Source: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language


The authentication and valuation of an object or specimen. In certain countries the term is used for an independent assessment of a proposed gift for tax benefit purposes.

Source: ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums

Archaeological heritage

Shall be considered to be elements of the archaeological heritage all remains and objects and any other traces of mankind from past epochs:
- the preservation and study of which help to retrace the history of mankind and its relation with the natural environment; and
- for which excavations or discoveries and other methods of research into mankind and the related environment are the main sources of information.

The archaeological heritage shall include structures, constructions, groups of buildings, developed sites, moveable objects, monuments of other kinds as well as their context, whether situated on land or under water.

Source: European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage

Archaeological object

Any place where objects, features, or ecofacts manufactured or modified by human beings are found. A material thing that can be seen and touched. Belonging to, having reference to, or dealing with archæology. Any material remains of the past which offer potential for archaeological investigation and analysis as a means of contributing to the understanding of past human communities.

Source: Glossary, UNESCO Database of National Cultural Heritage Laws

Archaeological site

See "Archaeological object".


A sale open to the general public and conducted by an auctioneer, a person empowered to conduct such a sale, at which property is sold to the highest bidder.

Source: Encyclopedia


Evaluation of the authentic nature of a cultural object. This nature is based on the cultural and spiritual values inherent to the evolution of societies, and is certified by the sources of information regarding the object's origin and signification.

Source: Dictionnaire comparé du droit du patrimoine culturel

Authorisation (of export)

Administrative act concerning the export of cultural goods. It is delovered by State of origin of the object at the request of the individual concerned. It allows for the object to leave the customs territory of the State under its control.

Source: Dictionnaire comparé du droit du patrimoine culturel

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