ANN: Greater openness and interconnectivity in provenance research: German Lost Art Foundation launches English version of its website Proveana

The German Lost Art Foundation has launched the most comprehensive provenance research database in Germany to date: Proveana, which now offers a user interface in English.

At, it is pos­si­ble to search the re­sults of re­search projects fund­ed to date by the Foun­da­tion and its pre­de­ces­sor, the Bu­reau for Prove­nance Re­search, as well as da­ta and re­ports on prove­nance re­search re­lat­ing to the “Gurlitt art trove”. All in­for­ma­tion con­tained on the web­site Proveana is avail­able in En­glish, prove­nance re­ports are pub­lished in the orig­i­nal (Ger­man) ver­sion.

Moni­ka Grüt­ters, Min­is­ter of State for Cul­ture and the Me­dia, said “The launch of the Proveana database is a mile­stone in prove­nance re­search. The Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion’s new database will im­prove the trans­paren­cy and, in par­tic­u­lar, the in­ter­con­nec­tiv­i­ty of nu­mer­ous re­search find­ings. This is an im­por­tant step for­ward in the pro­cess of deal­ing with the lega­cy of Nazi-loot­ed art. The knowl­edge base en­hanced by Proveana is a ma­jor as­set for sci­ence and re­search in mu­se­ums, col­lec­tions, li­braries and archives, as well as for many prove­nance re­searchers. Proveana is al­so in­tend­ed for in­di­vid­u­als whose cul­tur­al prop­er­ty was seized and their de­scen­dants. It is there­fore a fur­ther use­ful re­source di­rect­ly aimed at all those on whom we must con­tin­ue to fo­cus our full at­ten­tion and all our ef­forts—the vic­tims of Nazi art theft and their fam­i­lies.”

The new­ly launched database is de­signed for con­tin­u­al ex­pan­sion: an ed­i­to­ri­al team will con­stant­ly add new in­for­ma­tion and up­date it. In terms of con­tent, the new database is built on four pil­lars. It brings to­geth­er re­search find­ings from the four ar­eas fund­ed by the Foun­da­tion: Nazi-loot­ed art, items lost dur­ing wartime, cul­tur­al goods con­fis­cat­ed in the So­vi­et Oc­cu­pa­tion Zone and the GDR, and cul­tur­al goods and col­lec­tions from colo­nial con­texts. The main fo­cus is on the con­fis­ca­tion of cul­tur­al goods be­tween 1933 and 1945. Proveana pro­vides in­for­ma­tion about peo­ple, in­sti­tu­tions, events, col­lec­tions and ob­jects. There are al­so ad­di­tion­al sources, archived doc­u­ments, lit­er­a­ture and dig­i­tal re­sources. “Proveana is in­tend­ed to be­come a roadmap for re­searchers and in­ter­est­ed par­ties,” said Gilbert Lupfer, aca­dem­ic di­rec­tor of the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion. “The database will be open to re­searchers and al­so to those di­rect­ly af­fect­ed so they can car­ry out their own re­search.”

The idea be­hind Proveana is for the database to sum­ma­rize and cast light on the find­ings col­lat­ed from prove­nance re­search projects fund­ed since 2008. It pools re­search, makes re­sults eas­i­er to man­age and pro­vides in-depth in­sights. Of course, Proveana does not claim to be com­plete. It is meant to grow and branch out, mak­ing the re­sults of prove­nance re­search trans­par­ent and more eas­i­ly use­able. Proveana, ac­cord­ing to Lupfer, should “es­tab­lish new con­nec­tions, demon­strate op­por­tu­ni­ties and ap­proach­es, and open up new re­sources for in­ter­est­ed par­ties and re­searchers and sup­port them in their work. This is al­ways based on our aim of con­tribut­ing to so­lu­tions that are in the best in­ter­ests of the vic­tims of Nazi art theft and the con­fis­ca­tion of cul­tur­al goods.”

Proveana al­so al­lows ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion held in the Lost Art Database, which the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion op­er­ates as well. The Lost Art Database main­ly doc­u­ments cul­tur­al prop­er­ty that was con­fis­cat­ed un­der the Na­tion­al So­cial­ist dic­ta­tor­ship, par­tic­u­lar­ly from Jew­ish own­ers, as a re­sult of per­se­cu­tion.

The Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion in Magde­burg was es­tab­lished in 2015 by the Ger­man Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment, the fed­er­al states and the na­tion­al as­so­ci­a­tions of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. It is the cen­tral point of con­tact, na­tion­al­ly and in­ter­na­tion­al­ly, for all mat­ters per­tain­ing to cul­tur­al goods which were un­law­ful­ly seized and which are now lo­cat­ed in the col­lec­tions of Ger­man cul­tur­al her­itage in­sti­tu­tions. The Foun­da­tion’s pri­ma­ry fo­cus is on cul­tur­al goods con­fis­cat­ed as a re­sult of per­se­cu­tion dur­ing the Na­tion­al So­cial­ist era, es­pe­cial­ly prop­er­ty owned by Jew­ish cit­i­zens. The Foun­da­tion sees its work as an im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion to­wards com­pen­sat­ing vic­tims for the in­jus­tice they suf­fered.