The Bureau for Provenance Research which is affiliated to the Institute for Museum Research of the State Museums in Berlin - Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation has the task of supporting museums, libraries, archives and other publicly run institutions in the Federal Republic of Germany in the process of identifying those cultural artefacts in their collections or in their possession, which were taken from their lawful owners during the period of National Socialist rule.
The establishment of the Bureau for Provenance Research was the direct result of the findings issued on November 13, 2007 by the working group on matters of restitution set up by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, Bernd Neumann. The financial resources for the day to day running of the Bureau for Provenance Research have been provided by the Kulturstiftung der Länder.
From 2008 onwards, funds totalling one million euros will be assigned each year by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media to support the investigation and study of the provenance of cultural artefacts in German public collections. Since 2012 two million euros are provided.
The Bureau for Provenance Research allocates these funds to individual projects. There are two different types of funding available: Institutions which have short term research needs, usually relating to ongoing restitution cases, can apply for grants of up to 15,000 €. Decisions on such applications will be made within one month. Alternatively, institutions wishing to systematically study their collections and institute wider research projects can apply for larger grants. The advisory committee to the Bureau for Provenance Research makes a significant contribution to deciding which applicants are to receive this latter type of funding. The committee consists of representatives from the world of politics and culture as well as experts from the fields of history and art history. The funding bodies of institutions applying for grants are expected to match funding to a certain degree. To date, funding has been allocated to more than 102 different projects. Out of these, 58 were submitted by museums, 18 by libraries, five by archives and four research or university institutes.
The Bureau for Provenance Research is also tasked with linking the findings of the various research projects, evaluating these and following up issues that arise out of the projects either by conducting contextual research of its own or by instigating further research projects. While the starting point of the Bureau’s work is the loss of certain cultural assets by individuals as a result of national socialist persecution, it is hoped that a bigger picture will emerge, shedding light on the history of important private collections, the functioning of the art trade in the National Socialist era, but also on the activity of the government officials involved in the dispossession of, in particular, the Jewish population. As laid out in a cooperation agreement, the Bureau for Provenance Research works closely with the Koordinierungsstelle für Kulturgutverluste (www.lostart.de) in publishing its findings and in the search for the lawful owners of art works. The Bureau will work on facilitating access to the resources necessary for provenance research, for example enhancing the accessibility of relevant documents. It is also the aim of the Bureau to improve networking between individuals and institutions active in the field of provenance research and to encourage the sharing of the resulting information and experience.
Berlin, January 2013
Dr. Uwe H a r t m a n n, Head of Bureau for Provenance Research
Arbeitsstelle für Provenienzforschung
beim Institut für Museumsforschung
der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin - Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz
Tel.: +49 (0)30 26642-6931
Fax: +49 (0)30 2090 6216