Provenance research at the State Museum Hanover

Provenance research is a historical subdiscipline dedicated to the study of the origin (provenance) of art, cultural and archival goods and is used in the field of art history, among other things for the authenticity of works of art. In this classical sense provenance searches were also always at the Landesmuseum (formerly Provinzialmuseum), z. B. for the scientific processing and publication of its own collection holdings, carried out.

In recent years, issues of museum ethics have become increasingly important on a national and international level. Nations, populations and individuals, as well as individuals, are increasingly claiming the return of cultural or natural heritage lost through persecution-induced withdrawal, robbery or capture in wars or armed conflicts, colonization or trafficking.

Eleven principles were agreed at the December 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust Assets. The 44 signatory states declared their willingness to continue exploring collections in public collections in order to identify works of art confiscated by the National Socialists and subsequently not reimbursed and, if necessary, to restitute them to prewar owners or their heirs. In December 1999, the federal government, the federal states and municipal associations confirmed this self-commitment in a "joint statement". Since then, all public agencies of museums, archives and libraries have been called upon to open their records, to disclose information and research statuses, to review their holdings and to publish objects of unclear or conspicuous provenance. Since 2000, the Lost Art Internet Database has been the central institution.

Provenance research has thus become an essential part of the museum's work. Since the 2008, the Landesmuseum Hannover follows its declared obligation to participate in the active search for possible unlawful ownership. As part of a project funded by the state of Lower Saxony and the Center for Provenance Research in Berlin, the holdings of the state gallery owned by the province of Hanover and the state of Lower Saxony were systematically examined for their origin. Finally, 2013 has been established on the premises of a department for provenance research, which is responsible for all specialist areas, and is therefore committed to the permanent proactive search for unlawful ownership.

The research covers the old holdings belonging to the province of Hannover or the state of Lower Saxony as well as new acquisitions. The main focus is on the identification of Nazi persecution-related art and cultural assets. Basically, however, are all cultural and historical origins, discovery or acquisition contexts of art, cultural or natural assets and possible change of ownership with special consideration of all critical periods, such. As the colonial era or the SED dictatorship to investigate.

The starting point for the research is the objects themselves as well as the in-house inventories and archives. The majority of the old files of the Provincial and Regional Museums, including the purchase and offer files of the Art Department / Landesgalerie, are kept in the Main State Archives in Hannover and are searchable online there.

The primary goal is to document the origin of objects or collection clusters as completely as possible in order to identify and disclose possible unlawful ownership relationships as well as problematic acquisition or appropriation contexts. In addition, research on the history of origin, collection and property provides a wealth of insights into the objects studied as well as cultural, historical or biographical contexts. In this way, provenance research can help to further illuminate the history of your own home and its holdings.

With effect to the 1. January 2015, the Federal Government, Länder and municipalities have founded the foundation »Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste«. The Magdeburg-based center unites the previous state institutions and bodies in the field of provenance research and, among other things, continues the tasks of the Magdeburg Coordination Office and the Provenance Research Center.

Flanking this, the state of Lower Saxony has set up a network that aims to bundle forces and competencies at provincial level and interlock cultural losses with the initiatives of the German Center. The coordinating office of the network "Provenance Research in Lower Saxony" is located at the Landesmuseum Hannover.

Dr. Claudia Andratschke
provenance research

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