Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

Pilot project on provenance research comes to an end in southern Lower Saxony

Date 2016.11.28

The Land­schaftsver­band Süd­nieder­sach­sen e. V. re­gion­al as­so­ci­a­tion to­day pre­sent­ed the re­sults of the project en­ti­tled “Ini­tial check in five town and re­gion­al mu­se­ums – a pi­lot project on prove­nance re­search in south­ern Low­er Sax­ony”. The project is fund­ed by the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion in Magde­burg.
“Sus­pi­cious ob­jects were doc­u­ment­ed in four of the five mu­se­ums. In the fifth, Clausthal-Zeller­feld, it was pos­si­ble for the mu­se­um to re­fute the sus­pi­cion that a piece of land had been ‘aryanized’,” ex­plained Dr. Chris­tian Riemen­schnei­der in his lec­ture on the re­sults of his prove­nance re­search. He con­tin­ued: “Most of the sus­pi­cious ob­jects were brought to the mu­se­um dur­ing the Nazi pe­ri­od. In ad­di­tion, pos­si­bly smug­gled ethno­graph­i­ca was found in Alfeld and items of church equip­ment from the GDR were iden­ti­fied in Dud­er­stadt. What is com­mon in all con­texts is the predica­ment in which the donor or the mu­se­um may have tak­en pos­ses­sion of the items. In the Nazi pe­ri­od, this main­ly con­cerns items re­ceived from left-wing po­lit­i­cal or cul­tur­al as­so­ci­a­tions, from Jew­ish fam­i­lies or in­sti­tu­tions, the freema­sons, Catholic in­sti­tu­tions and from oth­er sources classed as ‘en­e­mies of the peo­ple or the state’. Ob­jects have al­so been doc­u­ment­ed from in­di­vid­u­al per­sons in the con­texts cit­ed.”

Riemen­schnei­der de­scribed his ap­proach as fol­lows: “Sus­pi­cious ob­jects and those whose prove­nance was not clear, es­pe­cial­ly be­tween 1933 and 1945, but al­so af­ter­wards, were doc­u­ment­ed. In the case of pos­i­tive find­ings, a fol­low-on project is planned with the aim of clar­i­fy­ing the sus­pi­cious cas­es, if pos­si­ble, or en­abling ap­pro­pri­ate fur­ther cours­es of ac­tion (resti­tu­tion, sub­mit­ting a re­port to the Lost Art Database, and so on.) The re­sults will be pub­lished,” said the prove­nance re­searcher.

“The ini­tial-check mod­el for ex­am­in­ing mu­se­um col­lec­tions for sus­pi­cious facts has once again proved its worth. It en­ables even small mu­se­ums that do not have the staff or fi­nan­cial re­sources to car­ry out their own re­search on their hold­ings to ful­fill their obli­ga­tions with re­gard to iden­ti­fy­ing ob­jects that came in­to their pos­ses­sion un­law­ful­ly af­ter 1933,” com­ment­ed Dr. Uwe Hart­mann, head of the Prove­nance Re­search De­part­ment at the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion.

The par­tic­i­pat­ing mu­se­ums were Alfeld town mu­se­um, Dud­er­stadt mu­se­um of lo­cal his­to­ry, Ein­beck town mu­se­um, the civic mu­se­um in Hann. Mün­den and Ober­harz­er Berg­w­erk­mu­se­um (Up­per Harz Min­ing Mu­se­um) in Clausthal-Zeller­feld.
There are al­ready com­pa­ra­ble projects in Bran­den­burg and, for the first time, in Meck­len­burg-Vor­pom­mern and in Sax­ony-An­halt.

Project de­scrip­tion