About the Portal
The Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal provides a searchable registry of
objects in U.S. museum collections that changed
hands in Continental Europe during the Nazi era (1933-1945).
WHO WE SERVE
People Researching Lost Objects
By providing a single point of contact to hundreds of U.S. museum collections, the Portal helps people seeking lost objects to refine their searches.
By providing a searchable online registry of objects, the Portal helps
U.S. museums fulfill their responsibility to make information about objects
in their collections centrally accessible.
From the time it came into power in Germany in 1933 through the end of
World War II in 1945, the Nazi regime orchestrated a program of theft,
confiscation, coercive transfer, looting, pillage, and destruction of
objects of art and other cultural property in Europe on a massive and
unprecedented scale. Some confiscated objects were sold to fund Nazi activities,
while others were retained for the private collections of high-ranking
U.S. museums were closely involved in the recovery and restitution of
looted art after the war. During the post-war occupation of Germany, art
historians and museum curators serving with the U.S. Army's Monuments,
Fine Arts and Archives Commission operated collecting points where discovered
loot was inventoried, catalogued, and returned to countries of origin.
Through these efforts, many thousands of works were repatriated to their
countries of origin and often were returned to their rightful owners.
Over the past decade, U.S. museums have become aware that their responsibilities in relation to Nazi looting did not end in the immediate postwar period. Increasingly, museums have come to recognize that objects unlawfully appropriated during the Nazi era without subsequent restitution—that is, with neither return of the object nor payment of compensation to the object’s original owner or legal successor—may have made their way into U.S. museum collections in the decades since the war.
INCEPTION OF THE PROJECT
As publicly accountable institutions, U.S. museums are working openly
to resolve the status of objects in their custody. Through its professional
associations, the American Alliance of Museums and the Association
of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), the U.S. museum community has adopted
a set of Recommended
Procedures for investigating Nazi-era cultural assets. These procedures
call for research into the provenance, or ownership history, of all art
objects in U.S. museum collections that changed hands in Continental Europe
from 1933 to 1945. They also call on museums to make the resulting
information available to the public.
Stakeholders involved this issue quickly identified the need for a searchable
central registry of Nazi-era cultural property held by U.S. museums, beginning
with European paintings and Judaica. The Alliance accepted the responsibility of
developing this Internet-accessible, searchable registry. The result is
the Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal.