Guidance Articles

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  • agreement
  • british council
  • china
  • Colchester
  • David Packer
  • exhibitions
  • Fitzwilliam Museum
  • galleries
  • government indemnity
  • heritage
  • immunity from siezure
  • India
  • international tourism
  • Jim Broughton
  • managing risk
  • Manchester Museum
  • Museum Registrar
  • museums
  • National Museums Liverpool
  • National Security Advisor
  • Natural History Museum
  • NMDC
  • objects
  • partnership
  • Plantastic
  • Punjab
  • Russia
  • Thetford Life
  • touring exhibition
  • William Brown
  • working internationally


Have you been asked for Immunity from Seizure?


With an increase in international lenders asking for Immunity from Seizure, many museums and galleries find out too late that they should have begun the application process several months earlier


Does your museum need to be able to offer immunity from seizure?

Many international lenders are now asking for Immunity from Seizure for their loans. This is a legal guarantee that their objects will be protected from court-ordered seizure, for a limited period of time, while in the UK. The result is that many UK museums are being caught out when suddenly asked for immunity as a condition of loan. Preparations are often far advanced when the lender asks for immunity and there may be no time to go through the process of applying for Approved Status.

You may never have borrowed from abroad but it’s a good idea to consider if you might be doing an international loan in the future. If so, you should consider obtaining Approved Status now.


Why is this happening?

In many countries, the Immunity from Seizure process is straight forward and quick to obtain. For example, simply registering the loans with the Department for Culture gives an automatic guarantee. Because lenders do not realise that the UK process is more rigorous, they tend to ask for proof of immunity at the last minute and just before the loans are due to leave.

More and more UK museums are borrowing from abroad, entering into international partnerships and exchanges and taking part in touring exhibitions. They may suddenly find themselves faced with an unexpected demand for immunity from seizure with no knowledge of how to obtain it.

They often approach the DCMS with only a few weeks before the objects enter the country. By this time it is usually too late. The UK process can…

One of the best ways to approach developing international projects is not to do it alone. Aside from the clichés of “a problem shared” and “two heads are better than one”, it can be a great way of reaching larger audiences, being more ambitious, and being a more compelling proposition for funders. A consortium approach ensures the workload and the pressure on collections are shared, lessons learnt and good practice can be spread across the group, and efficiencies of scale can be realised.

Ironbridge in Telford (c)Jean Frooms

Ironbridge in Telford (c)Jean Frooms

The basis of almost all international partnerships is to find something the institutions have in common – be it collections, people or place – or, alternatively, to identify something special an audience in the UK or abroad would not otherwise see or discover.  So, bearing that short formula in mind, which UK organisations could you form partnerships with and how might it work?

It may be unlikely that museums or the general public in the country you want to work with will be very familiar with your museum. However, they may know the county or city where the museum is, or the artists, people and historical events represented in your collection.


Ask the neighbours

Local partnerships – a consortium of museums, galleries or arts organisations in one city or county – can be an effective basis for developing international partnerships. Taking advantage of the fact that the artists represented in their collections were more internationally recognisable than their individual institutions, the Greater Manchester Museums Group partnership provided the basis for museums in that region to tour their art collections overseas. From an idea that grew from the many West African textiles in Manchester galleries, and historic links…

David Packer, Museum Registrar at The Fitzwilliam Museum provides some useful pointers as well as guiding us through the process of borrowing work from international collections.

  • Try to allow a minimum notice period of one year when submitting loan requests. Allow much longer if your exhibition is marking a major anniversary, as other projects may be looking to display the same objects. When the formal request is submitted, you should be precise, citing object accession numbers, describing how these objects will fit into the exhibition narrative, and giving the exact dates of the display.
  • If the exhibition curator is visiting international collections for research, encourage them to take a tape measure and digital camera so that they can obtain detailed physical descriptions and materials information from the outset.
  • Compile a list of your staff with second language skills and their level. Over time you will become familiar with key phrases, for example in insurance policies.
  • Start the appointment process for a transport agent as soon as you have a workable and stable object list. Although there will be many changes, set out when you need the objects as a basis for the negotiations. This will put you in control of your installation schedule.f the exhibition curator is visiting international collections for research, encourage them to take a tape measure and digital camera so that they can obtain detailed physical descriptions and materials information from the outset.
  • It is expected that the borrower will appoint the shipping agent: it is best to stick with Artim or ICEFAT members in the first instance, but the lender will retain a veto. It…

David Packer, Museum Registrar at The Fitzwilliam Museum provides some useful pointers as well as guiding us through the process of lending objects internationally.

  • When approached by prospective international borrowers, outline a clear process and timetable for securing loans.
  • Ask the borrower to complete the URKG or AAM facilities reports, irrespective of whether they have provided their own report in a different format. This will ensure you have all the information that you need.
  • On receipt of a formal loan request, alert the relevant parts of your organisation as soon as possible, to set the consideration of the loan in motion.
  • If the loan is agreed, the borrower should put measures in place through their nominated transport agent for the customs formalities to be completed. However, as lender, you will need to provide, in good time, information on materials, whether the object falls under CITES regulations, and the provenance for export licences, if required. Also, you should be clear about special handling or packing requirements and specifications, for example, transporting unfixed pastels.
  • Be aware that your object might require an export license, depending on where it is travelling to, how old it is, and the type of object it is, e.g. archaeological material. The transport agent should flag this up and assist with paperwork.
  • Decide as an institution whether you wish to have immunity in all eligible territories. If so, be open about the release of images and provenance information, and assist the borrower in meeting their application deadlines. If you have doubts about the provenance of an object, or reason to believe that it has dubious episodes in its past, then ask yourself whether you should be lending it.
  • Some state indemnity and immunity schemes…

In 2015 the British Council published an International Tourism Toolkit for UK museums.  This toolkit is the result of a project aimed at increasing the sustainability of non-national museums outside central London by raising awareness of the potential for attracting tourists from Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC countries).


The project was funded by the Arts Council England Museum Resilience Fund and managed by the British Council. The information in the toolkit was gathered by the partners in the project: Birmingham Museums Trust, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Culture Coventry, Freud Museum, Horniman Museum, Manchester Museum, People’s History Museum, and SS Great Britain.


Click HERE to download the toolkit.


VisitBritain – Market Selector

Use VisitBritain’s interactive market selector tool to help identify which markets you might consider targeting in your international marketing.

Click HERE to access the Market Selector


William Brown is National Security Adviser at Arts Council England, responsible for assessing security risks to National Collections and loans under the terms of the UK Government Indemnity Scheme. He is a member of the ICMS (International Committee on Museum Security), the Metropolitan Police Arts and Antiques Security Group, the National Museums Security Group, and the International Police Association.

The following are frequently asked questions from potential international lenders in the UK who are unsure of what they should do or can do.

Q. When planning a loan to an international venue, how do I start?

A. Ensure that your Director or Senior Manager is aware of the request as someone at the appropriate level of the organisation will need to agree and authorise the loan. In some instances, the loan might have to be agreed by a committee or by the trustees.

Q. What is a Loan Notification Form and do I have to complete one?

A. A Loan Notification Form is a document that provides key information about any loans going out of the UK. It includes reference numbers, contact details for both the lending and borrowing institutions, information on the object, and specific details about the loan. All national institutions are required to send a completed form to the National Security Advisor who will then make an assessment. It is not mandatory for non-national museums to follow this procedure; however it is advisable for them to do so. The National Security Advisor holds information on the loan history and the security of over 3000 international venues, so there’s a good chance that the borrowing venue’s security and risk levels have already been established. To request a Loan Notification Form email:

Your museum wants you to deliver a project in a country you have never worked with before. You have heard reports of civil unrest there, or perhaps you have never even heard of the country. Either way, you might be asking:

Whether to travel?

Researching the location you plan to travel to is the first and vital stage of establishing, assessing, and mitigating the risk of sending teams to a country. The FCO website is a great starting place to get a general idea of how safe it is to travel. Use your existing network of contacts with experience of this country; this might include transport agents, local curators and venue contacts. Signing up to a crisis management assistance company, such as, will give you access to greater detail on specific risks associated with a city or town. These are updated frequently and you can also sign up for text message alerts about changes in status. The British Council are also an incredibly useful source of information; they have a wide network of contacts and offices across the globe and a wealth of first-hand experience.

How to manage the risk?

Ensure that you share your assessment of the risks widely with those that you report to and your immediate team: more heads are better than one when it comes to assessing risk and identifying mitigation strategies. High level institutional support is helpful when travelling to areas of moderate or high risk. Provide a thorough briefing for your team before travelling. This should include: a detailed itinerary; a full set of local and UK contact details; a communication strategy and action plan in case of emergency; discussion of risks and mitigations; and a briefing of any cultural differences or practices to be…

Jim Broughton, Head of International Engagement at the Natural History Museum, gives some useful advice on how to manage potentially difficult situations or questions that could put yours and your institution’s reputations at risk.

Q. What do I do when local events threaten to overwhelm my partnership programme?

A: Keep things in perspective. You may have worked on a project for months, but bigger issues can emerge that demand your partners’ immediate attention. These might range from the extreme – natural disasters, civil unrest, etc. – to very local matters, such as the unexpected arrival of dignitaries or the disappearance of your key contacts at the behest of their seniors. It is almost impossible to be too sympathetic in these circumstances. Of course, you might reasonably have different expectations from long-established peers, so do balance this with a little assertiveness if you feel that advantage is being taken of your good nature!

Q: I don’t want to be photographed with this person/talk about this issue on camera, etc. How can I get out of this?

A: Be prepared to think on your feet…Should you end up being put in a situation with which you know you shouldn’t be institutionally associated, then you might need to be creative. Feeling faint can give you a moment’s pause, your phone might ring with an urgent call, etc. and this can avoid you making a scene.

Q: I’m not authorised to speak on behalf of my museum, etc. What do I do?

A: Know which hat you’re wearing. Consider carefully who you are representing each time you work internationally – is it yourself, your institution, your sector, or your country? Consider carefully the messages you provide in advance – think about the content of…

In 2008, National Museums Liverpool (NML) embarked on the creation of the international touring exhibition Plantastic. The project was delivered through an international partnership involving the public and private sectors: three museums, one science centre, and an exhibition design and production company. The project was a collaborative venture and the partnership was responsible for delivering the content, design, and build of the exhibition. Each museum partner hosted the exhibition, and afterwards the partnership toured the exhibition commercially. The partners contributed to the costs of the exhibition and to ongoing transport and maintenance costs.

The partnership initially signed a letter of intent as a means of formalising the agreement between all parties, confirming what each party would commit to in terms of time and cost at that stage of the project. The letter of intent outlined the key milestones leading to the Partnership Agreement. It dealt with intellectual rights should the project not proceed. The letter of intent was produced in English and French.

The Partnership Agreement was produced in English by National Museums Liverpool in consultation with the Plantastic Partnership.

Click on the links below to download a copy of NML’s partnership agreement template:

Partnership Agreement in PDF format

Partnership Agreement in Word format

Local lobbyists for Ancient House at the Golden Temple before meeting the SGPC President

Local lobbyists for Ancient House at the Golden Temple before meeting the SGPC President

In February 2015, Karen-Emma White from Ancient House Museum of Thetford Life travelled to the Punjab region, a trip that was made possible by a bursary from the British Council’s ‘Connections through Culture’ programme. The aim of this visit was to explore how the story of Maharajah Duleep Singh and his family is told both in East Anglia and in the Punjab, and to exchange ideas on interpreting Anglo-Sikh/Indian culture within a museum setting to a wider audience. You can read more about this trip in her travel diary.

Karen worked with The Ranjit Singh Museum, The Sikh Museum at the Golden Temple and Khalsa College in Amritsar, and the Government Art Gallery & Museum and The Punjab Digital Library in Chandigarh. Here are some of Karen’s thoughts about how to get the best from a similar trip and establishing a working relationship with an Indian museum.

  • Take time to plan your trip. Communicating with museums and other organisations in India can take time; emails are not always acknowledged the first time round, so posting an official letter of introduction ahead of your visit is advisable. Remember, not everyone has access to email, and some institutions will only respond to official letters.
  • Speak to as many people as possible about your plans and create a network you can utilise. The British Council UK and British Council India may be able to help with introductions.
  • Be very clear about what you want to do and why. If you are visiting as part of a project, include a…