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Second Day of Provenance Research at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin


8 April 2020 marks the second international Day of Provenance Research, and the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin will once again be taking part. Many of the projects and resources that were going to be presented to the public on the Day of Provenance Research can also be accessed online. On top of this, the provenance research team in Dahlem will be launching its own Twitter account to mark the occasion.  

Why is Provenance Research so Important?

Investigating the biographies of objects is becoming increasingly important ­– both in the context of the crimes committed during the Nazi dictatorship and of the injustices of the GDR regime, and more and more, as part of efforts to come to terms with the colonial oppression of indigenous peoples during the time of the German Empire.

  • Where does an object come from, who did it belong to, and under what circumstances did its owners change?
  • Was violence or injustice involved, and can this be redressed, for example through restitutions?

The institutions of the SPK work together with numerous partners to investigate the provenances of the objects in their collections in a concerted and targeted manner, in an effort to uncover injustice and make it possible to transparently confront these histories.

Blog Series: Object Biographies

Researchers from the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin are presenting their investigations and findings on the museum blog in the series Biografien der Objekte. The topics range from the shifting fates of individuals during the Nazi era through to the relationships that were established between German and East African dignitaries at the beginning of German colonial rule, as well as current collaborations with experts from Namibia and a series of questions related to a peace of featherwork from the Umóⁿhoⁿ Nation in North America.

The Provenance Research Team on Twitter

The provenance research team in Dahlem is marking the 2nd Day of Provenance Research by launching a new Twitter account. From 8 April 2020, they will be providing information on their research, projects and activities at @PPR_Dahlem (Postcolonial Provenance Research Dahlem) – follow them here:

PREP Documentation

The Day of Provenance Research also provides an opportunity to direct your attention to the wealth of documentation of the German-American exchange programme for museum professionals (Provenance Research Exchange Program – PREP). The documentation reveals the differences in the approaches on this side of the Atlantic and the other, and provides a good overview for anybody who wants to get a better understanding of the topic of provenance research.  

German Sales

Last but not least, we would like to mention the pioneering project German Sales, which brings together the Kunstbibliothek of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg and the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles in a quest to comprehensively digitalise German-language auction catalogues from the 20th century. Some 9,000 catalogues published between 1901 and 1945 have been completely catalogued, digitalised and investigated. The catalogues were published by more than 390 auction houses in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. This project, which represents an indispensible resource for provenance research and investigations into the art market, is now available online in an open-access format for the very first time.

Day of Provenance Research

The Day of Provenance Research is an initiative of the Artbeitskreis Provenienzforschung e.V., which connects more than 300 researchers and experts right across the world who work on investigating the origins of cultural artefacts. You can follow all the action on Twitter under the hashtag #TagderProvenienzforschung.