Glossary beginning with C

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



Collection, in an homogenous ensemble, of standard information regarding identified and protected cultural objects.

Source: Dictionnaire comparé du droit du patrimoine culturel

Certificate of authenticity

Administrative act attesting the authentic nature of a cultural object (see "Authentication"). It can be delivered by a public or private body holding a certain degree of expertise regarding the object's place and date of origin.

Source: International Council of Museums

Choice of law

The domestic rules developed by each State to help domestic judges to choose the applicable law when the administration of justice requires a choice between two or more systems of law, that is, in situations that present a foreign element; this element may relate to the parties, to the facts, or to the object of the litigation.

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

Clandestine excavation

See "Illicit excavation".

Code of ethics

The notion often overlaps with that of "code of conduct".

A code of ethics is a written set of fundamental principles, guidelines or rules, formulated by or for a group of individuals or oganisations with a common purpose: to improve the behaviour and public service functions provided by the group and its stature within the society it serves. It provides guidance in cases where no specific rule is in place or where matters are genuinely unclear.

There are several codes of ethics setting standards for the cultural heritage professional sector: ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, International Code of Ethics for Dealers in Cultural Property, ICA Code of Ethics for Archivists, etc.

A violation of a code of ethics/conduct may or may not constitute a violation of the regulatory and legal framework to which the employees of the company or the organization are subject.

If code of ethics are not legally binding, they are normative instruments which can have direct effects in case of a breach of their rules or can be used by a prosecutor to evaluate the behaviour of an individual concerned by case.

Source: International Council of Museums / International Criminal Police Organization

Collection / Collector

A collection is a set of cultural objects, publically or privately owned, which together represent a historical, artistic or scientific importance distinct from that of the objects considered individually, thus justifying their unification.

A collector is a person who, deliberately or otherwise, puts together a collection.

Source: Dictionnaire comparé du droit du patrimoine culturel

Compensation (financial)

Compensation corresponding to the market value of the property, or of a considerable amount.

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


The process whereby, subject to their prior consent, the parties concerned submit their dispute with respect to restitution or return of cultural property to a constituted organ for investigation and for efforts to effect an amicable settlement of their dispute.

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

Conflict of interest

The existence of a personal or private interest that gives rise to a clash of principle in a work situation, thus restricting, or having the appearance of restricting, the objectivity of decision making.

Source: ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums


The term “conservator-restorer” is used as a compromise between the use of “conservator” in English-speaking countries and that of “restorer” in Romance- and Germanic-speaking countries.

The profession is that of one whose activity consists of technical examination, preservation, and conservation-restoration of cultural property.

While conservation is a preventive measure and action which will allow for the safeguarding of the cultural object, restoration will be the action aimed at rendering the deteriorated object understandable to the viewer. Both lines of action are based on respect for the original material, and minimal sacrifice of aesthetic and historic integrity of the object itself.

The conservator-restorer works in close co-operation with the curator or other relevant scholar.

Source: ICOM International Committee for Conservation (ICOM-CC)


A convention is a formal agreement between States. The generic term "convention" is thus synonymous with the generic term "treaty". Conventions are normally open for participation by the international community as a whole, or by a large number of States. Usually the instruments negotiated under the auspices of an international organization are entitled conventions (e.g. the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on the 14 November 1970) .

Source: United Nations

Copy (authorised)

Drawing, painting, sculpture that legitimately imitates or reproduces an original work of art. It is commonly considered a duplicate.

Copies of other artists may be true reinterpretations, on the other hand contemporary copies of work of the past can not be easily distinguished.

Authorised copy needs to be differentiated from the replication, repetition by the same author, of his own work; the copy must also be distinguished from the fake, for its non-fraudulent intent.

Source: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language / Encyclopedia (Treccani)


To falsify through copying of or imitating an object that is intended to be taken as authentic and genuine in order to deceive, or defraud another.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) defines the terms counterfeit as the “unauthorized representation of a registered trademark carried on goods identical or similar to goods for which the trademark is registered, with a view to deceiving the purchaser into believing that he/she is buying the original goods”.

In the case of art and antiquities, this definition may be interpreted as the unauthorized representation of an unoriginal piece, certified as being original, destined to deceive the purchaser into believing that they are buying and actual original object.

Source: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language / International Criminal Police Organization / World Trade Organization

Criminal offence

An act committed or omitted in violation of a law and for which punishment is imposed upon conviction.

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

Cultural good

See "Cultural object".

Cultural heritage

Any thing or concept considered of aesthetic, historical, scientific or spiritual significance.

Source: ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums

Cultural object

Cultural objects are those which, on religious or secular grounds, are of importance for archaeology, prehistory, history, literature, art or science and belong to one of the categories listed below:

- Rare collections and specimens of fauna, flora, minerals and anatomy, and objects of palaeontological interest;

- property relating to history, including the history of science and technology and military and social history, to the life of national leaders, thinkers, scientists and artists and to events of national importance;

- products of archaeological excavations (including regular and clandestine) or of archaeological discoveries;

- elements of artistic or historical monuments or archaeological sites which have been dismembered;

- antiquities more than one hundred years old, such as inscriptions, coins and engraved seals;

- objects of ethnological interest;

- property of artistic interest, such as: pictures, paintings and drawings produced entirely by hand on any support and in any material (excluding industrial designs and manufactured articles decorated by hand); original works of statuary art and sculpture in any material; original engravings, prints and lithographs; original artistic assemblages and montages in any material;

- rare manuscripts and incunabula, old books, documents and publications of special interest (historical, artistic, scientific, literary, etc.) singly or in collections;

- postage, revenue and similar stamps, singly or in collections;

- archives, including sound, photographic and cinematographic archives;

- articles of furniture more than one hundred years old and old musical instruments.

Source: UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects

Cultural property

Cultural property means property which, on religious or secular grounds, is specifically designated as being of importance for archaeology, prehistory, history, literature, art or science and belongs to the categories used for the definition of a cultural object (see "Cultural object").

Source: UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property

Un conservateur est un bibliothécaire, un archiviste, un historien ou une personne détenant un diplôme de haut niveau. Cette personne est responsable d'une collection ou d'une partie de la collection d'une institution patrimoniale. Elle est compétente sur un sujet concernant la collection et est responsable de sélectionner les objets qui viendront s'ajouter à cette dernière. Le conservateur prépare la documentation, les rapports, et les catalogues relatifs à la collection qui est sous sa responsabilité. Il supervise également l'entretien et la préservation des objets, en collaboration avec le conservateur-restaurateur. Le conservateur peut également publier des articles de recherche sur la collection, prendre rendez-vous avec les chercheurs qui souhaitent utiliser ou étudier la collection ou réaliser d'autres activités.

Source: Texas A&M University


The care and control of a thing for inspection, preservation, or security. In case of shared custody, it entails that rights, privileges and responsibilities are shared, though not necessarily the physical custody.

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

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