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Focus on provenance research

Provenance research is a classical partial discipline of art history, concerning itself with an item’s origins. The central question: what route has a work of art taken from its origin until today (locations, ownership change, etc.)? 

The research of so-called NS persecution-caused confiscated art, purloined from its legitimate owners between 1933 and 1945 within the scope of systematic art looting by the National Socialists, is a major focus of current day provenance research.

The “Washington Principles” agreed on by 44 states, twelve non-state organisations and the Vatican at the “Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets” in December 1998 provides basic guidelines for the academic work. The signee states commit themselves to check the collection inventories from their public establishments for “stolen art” within the scope of these principles and in cases of corresponding suspicion to strive for a “justified and fair solution” with the legitimate owners or their heirs. 

In Germany, this resolution was followed in 1999 with the “Common Declaration” by federal, state and local authorities. For the nationwide German coordination of systematic, project-related provenance research the “Department for Provenance Research” in Berlin was founded in 2008 and was taken over by the “German Centre for the Loss of Cultural Assets in Magdeburg” at the beginning of 2015.
 As the central contact, the centre initially manages the Lost Art Database, where losses and findings can be registered and thus made public. Since April 2013, the Schleswig-Holstein State Museums Foundation Schloss Gottorf operates systematic examination and reappraisal of the collection items in the Museum of Art and Cultural History Schloss Gottorf.

In a start-up project (April 2013 - January 2016), the focus was placed on new acquisitions from 1933 to 1945. In an ensuing follow-up project (February 2016 - January 2018), the museum’s new acquisitions from 1946 were checked. Already the third provenance project, also sponsored by the German Centre for the Loss of Cultural Assets started in February 2018, specifically focussing on the inventory of the graphic collection. 

In addition to the traditional collection focus on arts and crafts and Schleswig-Holstein’s ethnology, the inventory of graphics was also already continuously expanded since the direct post-war years. The graphic works comprise almost one third of the overall quantity of new acquisitions since 1946 up to the present day.

Museum of Art and Cultural History Schloss Gottorf contact person:
Melanie Jacobi, M.A.
Tel: 04621/813 207

Schleswig-Holstein State Museums
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