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Rights & Resources

A commitment to ethical collection practices

We consider shared authority for research, interpretation, and display a primary objective for our collection held in public trust.

Collecting guidelines

SAM’s Collections Management Policy is guided by all applicable laws and best practice guidelines issued by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD).


The museum regularly acquires new works of art for our collections through gifts, purchases, and bequests. Acquisitions are determined by a number of criteria, including but not limited to: significance of the object, authenticity and provenance (history of ownership), relevance to SAM’s collecting strategy and existing holdings, condition, quality, exhibition and publication history, and storage costs and long-term maintenance.

Upon the recommendation of SAM's Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO and curatorial staff, all acquisitions are rigorously reviewed by the Committee on Collections and recommended to the Board of Trustees for their review and approval. Every two years SAM celebrates new purchases and gifts to the collection and honors the many generous contributions from donors that make the continued growth of SAM's collection possible.


As part of the continuous assessment of the collection, SAM may choose to remove an artwork from its collection. An artwork might be deaccessioned if the work is poor in quality or physical condition, if the museum holds a better example of the artist or genre, if the museum does not have appropriate context to display the work, or if the work is to be repatriated or restored to a previous owner. Funds produced from the sale of deaccessioned artworks are used only to acquire new artworks.

view deaccessioned art

Image rights

Image Rights & Reproductions at the Seattle Art Museum provides images for educational presentations, professional research, print and electronic publications, and media projects. All requests for images must be made in writing. Please submit your image request concerning permissions, or to request digital photography of works in the SAM collection by completing our Rights & Reproductions form​.

request rights
A photographer looking at a camera view screen, focused on a sculpture.

Are you a member of the press?
High-resolution images are available for editorial coverage by contacting our press office.

Available photography

The Seattle Art Museum has high-resolution digital photography available for reproduction. Low-resolution digital slides are available for educational, research, and lecture use only. They are not permitted for publication. Requested photography is subject to availability at time of request.


Following your request, we will send an invoice and Rights and Reproductions Agreement. The invoice must be paid in full and the Rights and Reproductions Agreement signed before photography is released. Photographs are taken by the museum and files are SAM’s property.


Reproduction is for one-time use only. Photographs may not be cropped, bled off the page, or otherwise altered in any way. Text overlay is not permitted. All published images must be identified by the Seattle Art Museum’s accession number, title, and date of the work of art, artist, and credit line. The applicant’s oversight of the conditions for reproduction may result in the assessment of additional fees.

Copyright restrictions

Artists or designated assignors may retain copyright to works of art in the Seattle Art Museum collection, which are protected under US copyright laws and applicable international treaties. The Seattle Art Museum assumes no responsibility for any claim against the reproduction rights applicant or the Seattle Art Museum by an artist, their agent, estate, or any other party in connection with the reproduction of works of art in SAM’s collection.

Unauthorized use of images of works of art in SAM’s collection is prohibited. No image of any Seattle Art Museum collection items may be reproduced, published, stored, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from SAM.

Scholarly use

SAM provides images free of charge for scholarly publication. Scholarly publications are defined as reproducing an image for educational/cultural purposes, directed to a limited educational/professional audience (up to 5000 copies, or 5 years e-pub or web). Fees may apply if new photography or scan is required. We continually adapt our files to the latest quality standards, so please always order the latest version and avoid reusing old files.


SAM recognizes that collecting histories can be inextricable from global histories of imperialism, colonialism, and other inequitable structures. SAM is committed to engaging in legal and ethical collection practices, conducting thorough provenance research in all areas of the collection, and being transparent about the results of this research with the public. SAM pledges to continue to work with communities of origin with regard to the care, presentation, and management of culturally sensitive artworks. We consider shared authority for research, interpretation, and display as a primary objective for our collection held in public trust. Researching and sharing these complex stories is central to SAM’s mission.

Native American Graves Protection and Reparations Act (NAGPRA)

NAGPRA provides a legal mechanism for federally recognized Indian Tribes, including Alaska Native villages (as defined in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act), and Native Hawaiian Organizations to make claims for human remains and certain categories of cultural objects held by museums and other institutions that receive federal funding.

SAM is committed to working with Tribes in the process of bringing the museum in alignment with NAGPRA regulations and reviewing repatriation claims carefully. The museum has been in compliance since NAGPRA was enacted in 1990 and continues to ensure that SAM is in alignment with the new regulations in effect since January 12, 2024.

National NAGPRA
UNESCO Convention

As a member museum of the AAMD, SAM adheres to the 2004 (updated 2008 and 2013) guidelines on the acquisition of archaeological materials and ancient art. These guidelines use 1970—the date of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property—as the “threshold for a more rigorous analysis of provenance information” for acquisitions of ancient art and archaeological material. Before acquiring a work of ancient art or archaeological material, the museum verifies that the work was outside its probable country of modern discovery before 1970 or was legally exported from its probable country of modern discovery after 1970. Interested in works of ancient art or archaeological material that have been acquired by SAM since June 2008 and lack complete provenance after November 1970?

see ancient provenance
Nazi-era provenance

From the years 1933 to 1945, a vast number of art objects were systematically confiscated or displaced through looting and forced sales. Although many works of art were returned to their original owners following World War II, many American museums unknowingly received confiscated works of art. The Seattle Art Museum has a relatively small collection of European art, and research into the histories of these works is an important and ongoing process to enable the rightful owners or their descendants to identify—and reclaim—lost works from their collections. Because many records were lost or destroyed, gaps in provenance information are not unusual. SAM’s artworks that have gaps in their provenance and may have been in Europe during the Nazi era (1933–1945) does not mean that we suspect that the Nazis were involved in their history. These are areas where we are conducting further research to clarify the history of ownership.

see Nazi-era provenance
Colonial-era provenance

SAM aims to research and identify objects in the collection that may have been looted, forcibly sold, or stolen during 19th- and 20th-century periods of colonial occupation or conflict. In 2021, SAM joined an international effort to enable the Benin Kingdom to locate the thousands of artworks taken from the palace during the 1897 British “punitive expedition,” registering four artworks in SAM’s collection with the Digital Benin Project—an archive of Benin holdings. This is an ongoing effort and new information is welcome.

Provenance resources

UNESCO Database of National Cultural Heritage Laws

This database provides access to the national legislation of each state relating to the cultural heritage in general, contact details for the national authorities responsible for the protection of the cultural heritage, and links to official cultural heritage websites.

Provenance Research at the Getty

The Getty website provides access to the Getty Provenance Index Databases. The databases contain almost 1,000,000 records that cover the late 16th to early 20th centuries. Also available is a collection of provenance research resources, with a special focus on Holocaust-era research.

International Foundation for Art Research Provenance Guide

The IFAR provides educational resources and links for conducting provenance research. Also included on the IFAR website are a history of provenance research and its effect on World War II Holocaust-era looted art.


Interpol’s web page on stolen works of art provides information on artwork that has been reported stolen or looted. Interpol also provides details on the most recent stolen works reported and works of art that have been recovered.​

Art Loss Register

Lost or stolen art can be reported to the Art Loss Register. Visitors who create an account have the opportunity to register their artworks in a pre-loss database. In case of a later loss or theft, they can request a search to see if their item has been recovered.

Cultural Property Advice

Reports on provenance research for the period 1933–1945 by United Kingdom museums on the spoliation of works of art during World War II and the Holocaust. The artwork records are accessible through a searchable database.

ERR Project

The Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) Project database provides access to the remaining registration cards and photographs produced by the ERR, covering more than 20,000 art objects taken from Jews in German-occupied France and, to a lesser extent, in Belgium.

International Research Portal for Records Related to Nazi-Era Cultural Property

The International Research Portal is a collaboration of national and other archival institutions with records that pertain to Nazi-era cultural property. The portal links researchers to archival materials consisting of descriptions of records and, in many cases, digital images of the records that relate to cultural property that was stolen, looted, seized, forcibly sold, or otherwise. ​​​​​​

Lost Art Database

The Lost Art Database is run by the Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg, Germany’s central office for the documentation of lost cultural property. It registers cultural objects which, as a result of persecution under the Nazi dictatorship and the Second World War, were relocated, moved, or seized, especially from Jewish owners during World War II.

Art donations

If you are a collector looking to sell, lend, or donate works of art, we’re so glad you thought of SAM. Find out all about the process of sharing information about your art collection with us.

Authentication resources

Museum curators and library staff are not able to appraise, authenticate, or positively identify works of art, but SAM librarians can help you point you in the right direction and these databases can further your research.

Artist identification


This site includes hundreds of artist names, primarily from America and Europe. The list allows you to browse names alphabetically.

Online marketplace where art dealers and buyers can buy, sell, and research fine art. The site includes information on artists and their work. Full access to data is available in library reading rooms; images are not available via the library's version.

Provides biographical and bibliographical information on American artists through a search feature. Full access is available in library reading rooms.

Getty Union List of Artist Names

Part of the Getty vocabulary databases, the list is composed of approximately 127,000 records. Each record contains biographical and bibliographical information.

Value & authentication

The Getty Research Institute's Appraisal Research Guide

This site answers the question: "How do I find information about the value and authenticity of a work of art, book, map, or collectible?" It's a one‐stop ​shop.

Appraisers Association of America

The oldest not-for-profit professional association of personal property appraisers. Its objective is to develop and promote standards of excellence in the profession through education and professional ethics.

Art Dealers Association of America

The ADAA is a nonprofit membership organization of the nation's leading galleries in the fine arts. Founded in 1962, the ADAA seeks to promote the highest standards of connoisseurship, scholarship, and ethical practice within the profession.

Art Experts

Art Experts is a global network of professional researchers and analysts, offering the full gamut of fine art-related services. The organization is accredited by the USPAP Appraisal Association and the Appraisers Association of America.​

Makes information on current and past auctions available to the public. Auction items can be browsed by category. Registration on the site is free and necessary to bid in any of the advertised auctions.


Invaluable (formerly Artfact) is the world’s largest online auction marketplace of fine and decorative arts, antiques, collectibles, and estate sales.

International Society of Appraisers

The ISA is a nonprofit, member-driven association. Its members include many of the country's most respected independent appraisers, consultants, estate liquidators, auctioneers, gallery owners, and dealers.

The National Antique & Art Dealers Association of America

The NAADAA is a nonprofit trade association of America's leading antique and art dealers, pledged to safeguard the interests of those who buy, sell, or collect antiques and works of art.


Sotheby’s is one of the world's preeminent fine art auctioneers, in business since 1744. Auction information, past and present, is available. Visitors to the site can set up their own mySothebys membership account to participate in bidding.


Founded in 1766, the auction house Christie’s conducted auctions and private sales totaling $5.1 billion in 2008. Information is available on past, present, and future auctions. Joining Christie’s allows you to track lots, view condition reports, place bids, and more.


A house of experts in many fields, Bonhams specializes in the appraisal and sale of fine art, antiques, and decorative objects in virtually every auction category. Information is available on past, present, and future auctions. Bonhams hosts "auction appraisal events" throughout the United States. ​​

Stay in touch

Questions about image rights?

Seattle Art Museum
Rights & Reproductions
1300 First Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101-2003 206.654.3163

Do you know of documentation that would assist in SAM’s provenance research?