State Department Gives Seizure Immunity to Cultural Objects from Kazakhstan

Friday, February 10, 2012

The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has granted cultural objects from Kazakhstan immunity from judicial seizure.  The protected pieces will be part of a 2012 exhibition called “Nomads and Networks: The Ancient Art and Culture of Kazakhstan.”

The exhibit is to be held at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University from March 6, 2012, to June 3, 2012.  The exhibition catalog describes a presentation of cultural objects from the sixth to the first century BC, including saddles, objects from the Berel valley, and gold mortuary ornaments from Shilikty and Kargali.

Under the federal statute known as Immunity from Seizure Under Judicial Process of Cultural Objects Imported for Temporary Exhibition or Display (22 USC § 2459), foreign lenders are encouraged by Congress to lend cultural objects to museums without risk that those objects will become targets of litigation while on American soil.  The statute protects imported objects determined to be (1) of cultural significance, (2) intended for temporary, nonprofit exhibition, and (3) in the national interest.

Museums importing objects for temporary display must apply for this legal protection.  The notice of immunity is then published in the Federal Register.