Current Opportunities

Provenance Researcher

Asian Art Provenance Research Position

Start Date: January 2019
Salary: $44,650 per year
Schedule: Part-time, flexible hours
Work location: primarily on premises at the Freer|Sackler

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Freer|Sackler)
Smithsonian Institution
1050 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20013

Supervisory Team:
Danielle Bennett, Head of Collections Management
Jan Stuart, Melvin R. Seiden Curator of Chinese Art
Jeffrey Smith, Assistant Registrar for Collections Information
Najiba Choudhury, Museum Technician

Project Overview
A long-term, comprehensive provenance research project at the Freer and Sackler Galleries is focused on clarifying questions of ownership history for the Galleries’ Asian artworks that were created before 1946 and acquired after 1932; underwent a change of ownership during World War II (1933-1945); and were, or might have been, in continental Europe during that period. Research at the Freer|Sackler during the last six years has resulted in the Asian Art Provenance Connections Project, a web resource launched in 2016 and made possible by the generous support of the David Berg Foundation. This continuing project has produced research on significant Chinese objects, and approximately 50 biographies of collectors and dealers active in Europe during the critical period of 1933 to 1946, with links to objects in the Freer|Sackler collections. The web resources also include inventories, exhibition catalogues, and other published and archival materials that help delineate the histories of Western collections of Asia art and provide insights into the business operation of dealers and auction houses, thereby assisting in tracking the movement of specific works. These resources are accessible at

Position Description
Under the direction and guidance of the Supervisory Team, the candidate will conduct provenance research from among a selected group of 2,350 Chinese objects, focusing on objects that may have changed ownership or possession during the WWII era. The candidate and supervisory team will discuss and mutually agree on sets of priority records from among this group.

As research progresses, the candidate will compile a Word document for each object or related group of objects, in which the chronological ownership history will be drafted according to the Freer|Sackler’s standard. This document will also contain accumulated research notes to be archived. A template for the final version of this document has been created so that information can be easily identified and entered into the museum’s collections database, including:

  • Constituent alternate names
  • Constituent life dates
  • Geography for place of birth, death and activity
  • Significant associated family members or business associates
  • Significant associated events: transfers of ownership via auction, sale, gift, bequest, etc.
  • Significant associated exhibitions
  • URLs of supporting online documentation
  • Supporting or relevant bibliographic information

These Word documents will be saved to shared network folders to facilitate access by the appropriate museum staff. The candidate will share research insights with Curator Jan Stuart, or other project advisors, so they can provide feedback.

Required and Preferred Qualifications

  • M.A. or Ph.D. in the humanities or humanistic social sciences, preferably with an advanced degree in art history, Asian studies, history or provenance, or museum studies
  • Excellent administrative, analytical, research, and communication skills
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Good problem-solving abilities, attention to detail, and a self-starter
  • Experience researching archives and online sources of research information
  • Demonstrated experience with provenance research
  • Experience working at a museum or research experience center
  • Reading knowledge of at least one foreign language (German, French, or Chinese)
  • Prior experience with the collections management system TMS (The Museum System)

Application Process

  • A cover letter (1 page) detailing the candidate’s interest in the position, which must include the candidate’s price quote as an hourly rate of pay.
  • A statement (1-2 pages) that describes 1) the candidate’s relevant research, educational, and work experience.
  • Current curriculum vitae
  • References

Please email cover letter with price quote, statement, and CV as a single PDF to

All applications will be reviewed by the Supervisory Team.

Salary Range: 

About This Job

  • Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Freer|Sackler)
  • Washington, DC
  • Category: Professional
  • Salary Range: $44,650
  • Posted: November 14, 2018