Statement on Acquisitions

The Michael C. Carlos Museum is committed to the highest standards of ethical and professional practice in all of our activities. When considering potential object acquisitions, our curators and scholars carefully undertake research into the historical context and provenance of each object proposed for acquisition. We apply the same scrutiny to loans, gifts, bequests, and purchases. Our aim is to collect responsibly, to discourage the illicit trade in tangible cultural heritage, and to be an advocate for ethical collecting. We also prioritize equity, access, and belonging by working with the constituent communities whose cultural heritage we steward and understanding what they consider are respectful and appropriate contextual treatments of their past. 

We will not acquire any work that may be in violation of the laws of the United States, any work that has been illegally exported from its country of origin, or any work that has been obtained by seizure during times of war, rebellion, or unrest. We respond promptly to all cultural property and repatriation claims received from the United States government, federally recognized Native American Tribes and Nations, and national governments of foreign countries.  

We hold our collections in the public trust for the benefit of all humanity. We conduct research on the provenance and history of objects in our collection as well as new acquisitions. In the event that the museum’s title to any work in its collection is found defective, or that there is compelling evidence to support that a work was obtained illegally or unethically, we will act promptly to return the work to its rightful owner or prevailing authority.  

We follow the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) Guidelines on the Acquisition of Archaeological Materials and Ancient Art, which is inspired by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention on Cultural Property. UNESCO mandates that works must have been exported from their countries of origin prior to November 17, 1970, or be accompanied by a valid export license from their countries of origin.  The guidelines recognize that a complete provenance may not be obtainable for all archaeological material and every work of art. In such cases, the AAMD affirms that its member museums should exercise responsibility when making informed and defensible judgments to acquire works of art that do not fully satisfy the requirements set forth in UNESCO.  We actively participate in the return of objects according to the procedures set forth in the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act

We strive to provide transparency on what we own and the methods by which our objects were acquired.  We post newly-acquired objects in Carlos Collections Online, and we have made it a priority to build a public record of our entire collection online.  We welcome comments on our practices as we strive to address questions related to our collections and achieve the highest standards of museum practice. 

Updated November 2022.