New edition of periodical "Provenienz & Forschung" (Provenance and research) published
The Washington Conference of 1998 and the hence adopted “Washington Principles” laid the foundation for provenance research regarding Nazi-confiscated cultural property in Germany. On the anniversary of this momentous occasion, the German Lost Art Foundation hosted the international conference “20 Years Washington Principles: Roadmap for the Future” in Berlin in November 2018. This issue illustrates highlights of the program: various stakeholders take stock of what has been achieved over the past twenty years,current developments and future challenges are being discussed and the results of practice-oriented workshops are summarized.
Looking back, the Washington Conference of 1998 and the “Washington Principles” adopted as a result may be called the birth place of provenance research in today’s sense of the word. The suppression and disregard of the Nazi’s expropriation of cultural property that had been practiced for decades was no longer possible thereafter, even though it took a few years for this realization to reach everywhere.
Reminding the world of this momentous event in late 2018 was both a great honor and an enormous challenge for the German Lost Art Foundation. During the many preliminary discussions — for instance with the Minister of State for Culture and the Media, with cooperating partners such as the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States and the Körber Foundation, but also with representatives of the Jewish Claims Conference or the Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung e. V. — it became clear that the conference needed to be much more than a retrospective look at the past. Rather, the status of implementation of the “Washington Principles” was to be a focal point as well as identifying those areas where there remains an urgent need for action. Beyond that, however, the Berlin conference was to look undauntedly forward and discuss how provenance research should be integrated into the educational programming of cultural institutions and into Erinnerungskultur (culture of remembrance) in general. How may cultural property bear witness to the past when there are very few Holocaust survivors left?
The three-day event at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin was a mix of lectures, panel discussions and workshops. The variety of formats and the sheer volume of contributions could not have been adequately illustrated in a customary conference volume. Instead, this issue of our periodical assembles some of the seminal contributions as well as impressions from the workshops. The events held in the run-up to the conference, where young people from all over Europe came together, are also represented.
It thus conveys an authentic impression of this intensive event, its key insights and new impetus for the further development of provenance research, for improved practices in the negotiation of “just and fair solutions” and for future educational efforts.
Many participants parted under the impression that another“ Washington Follow-up Conference” will take place in 2028 — hoping that this one will then focus on the progress made over the previous years and only marginally on possible shortcomings.
We would like to express our thanks to the speakers involved in the Berlin conference who took on the arduous task of putting the topics,propositions and perspectives into writing, as well as the workshop hosts who summarized their results for this publication. We also thank all cooperating partners for the productive collaboration, Haus der Kulturen der Welt for its hospitality, and last but not least the Minister of State for Culture and the Media for her generous support. The same applies, finally, to all employees of the German Lost Art Foundation for their outstanding commitment in planning and organizing the conference.