Teacher Guidelines


  • To learn about the past
  • To bring historical knowledge to a present day problem
  • To understand the concept of "ethics"
  • To research international law
  • To explore a case study of disputed ownership
  • To learn about the value in history of art and artifacts
  • To participate in a "Court of Public Opinion"


  • Divide the class into groups of four.
  • Assign an individual case to each group. Choose the topics that fit into your curriculum and are within the reading ability of your class.
    • KohiNoor Diamond - Punjabi, but now one of the Royal Crown Jewels. Appropriate with a unit on India or British colonization as well as International Law
    • The Elgin Marbles - Appropriate for units on Ancient Greece, the British Empire, and International Law
    • Greek Jewelry - New York art dealer ordered to return jewelry to Greece Appropriate for units on Ancient Greece, the British Empire, and International Law
    • Cypriot Mosaics - From Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus, recently purchased by American art dealer . Appropriate for units on Ancient Greece, the British Empire, and International Law. The Internet materials here consist of an actual court document. It begins with a quote from Byron. Pieces of it are well within the reading ability of any middle school student. But, it is very lengthy and is often full of legalese. For many students it should be edited first by the teacher.
    • Benin Bronzes - Taken from Nigeria during colonial period and now in Glasgow. Excellent for units on Africa, African Art, Nigeria, West Africa, the British Empire, and International Law
    • Degas Painting - Previously owned by a Jewish family, taken by Nazis, now in Germany. Appropriate for units on World War II, and International Law
    • AnkorWat - Taken apart in small pieces and pirated out of the county. Appropriate for units on Ancient Civilizations, Southeast Asia, and International Law, and contemporary issues.
    • Priam's Gold Originally from Troy, then part of European collections, confiscated in WWII, now in a Russian museum. Appropriate for units on Ancient Civilizations, European History, International Law, and contemporary issues.
    • American Indian Art in private collections. Appropriate for units on The Americas, International Law and contemporary issues


Do not confine your research to the Internet. There are valuable resources in books and other media about these works of art and about the history surrounding the case.

  • Define the individual roles in each group.
    • Historian - This person will compile the facts surrounding the case
    • Illustrator This person will create a drawing or model of the item and a map
    • Art Historian - This person will discover the fact about the artwork itself
    • Lawyer - This person will research the law
  • Instruct the class to prepare a final presentation to the "Court of Public Opinion," (the rest of the class) when they have completed their research.
  • Instruct the groups that this presentation is to take a position about the final ownership of the work(s). Will it stay with the present owner, or will it be returned to its country of origin?


Develop a rubric with the class based on the following criteria:

  • Clarity of the introduction and statement of the issue.
  • Scope and depth of the information provided.
  • Use of primary resources (quotations, visuals, documents, etc.)
  • Restatement of the issues.
  • Persuasiveness of position on the issue.
  • Effective oral presentation.
  • Seriousness of the approach to the subject.
  • Positive interaction with others in your group during research and preparation

Have the class decide what a "6" presentation will be, a "5", a"4" etc. Do this before the preparation of the presentation so that each group has a clear idea about what it will be graded on.


Encourage a discussion based on the following:

  • What have you learned about ethics, history, the law and the world of art as you
  • participated in this project?
  • Is there a remedy for the misdeeds of history?


Conclude the lesson with the following thoughts or continue the discussion by asking the following questions.This is a problem that is not going to go away. Your generation will be left to consider the following questions

  • Is there a moral difference between spoils of war and art acquired through corruption,
  • intimidation or simple theft?