On June 17, 2014 a group of thirty experienced provenance researchers attended a Nazi-Era Provenance Workshop cosponsored by the Association of Art Museum Directors; the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); the Smithsonian Institution and the American Alliance of Museums. The workshop took place at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Participants were selected via a competitive application process, and included designated provenance researchers as well as curatorial staff from a range of art museums across the United States.
"This was, hands-down, the very best workshop on the subject that I have ever attended in 15 years of attending such workshops," reported one participant. “I learned so much, and it's always a terrific way to connect with my like-minded colleagues working on this topic,” said another. 68% of participants said that the workshop exceeded their expectations.
The Archivist of the United States, David S. Ferriero, enthusiastically welcomed the group, commenting on his deep connections to the art museum field. The Archivist has been a strong advocate of increased digital access to the vital records held by the National Archives relating to World War II art looting and restitution. The workshop at NARA was led by Nancy Yeide, Head, Department of Curatorial Records, National Gallery of Art and Chris Naylor, Director, Textual Records, NARA. After reviewing the most important relevant materials at NARA, and getting expert tips on navigating on-line digitized documents, participants worked in groups on several hands-on exercises, culminating in the chance to use the skills and knowledge they’d been taught to flush out the complete WWII provenance history of a specific object. Each participant was provided with a copy of Holocaust-Era Assets: A Finding Aid to Records at the National Archive at College Park, by Greg Bradsher.
The NARA portion was followed by a visit to the Archives of American Art (AAA), where participants were welcomed by Director Kate Hawe. Presentations at the AAA were led by Jane Milosch, Director, Provenance Research Initiative, Smithsonian Institution, Marisa Bourgoin, Chief of Reference Services, AAA and Laurie Stein, Senior Provenance Advisor, Smithsonian Institution.
The Samuel H. Kress Foundation generously provided stipends to cover travel costs for many participants. The Association of Art Museum Directors; the National Archives and Records Administration; the Smithsonian Institution and the American Alliance of Museums gratefully acknowledge the generous support from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation for stipends.
Future workshops are in the works following the positive response to this workshop. Stay tuned for details!
Image: A presentation at the National Archives and Records Administration from the Nazi-Era Provenance Workshop on June 17, 2014.