October 25, 2019

The 6th PREP Exchange on Nazi-Era Art Provenance Research in Museums, Washington, DC, October 20-26, 2019

The German/American Provenance Research Exchange Program (PREP) for Museum Professionals, 2017-2019, will hold its 6th and final PREP Exchange from October 20-26, 2019, in Washington, DC. Organized and hosted by the Smithsonian Institution, this week-long program will bring together more than 60 museum professionals from 25 institutions in Germany and the US who specialize in World War II-era provenance research to better share provenance resources and expertise, and to accelerate and disseminate research results more broadly and with greater transparency. Five previous PREP Exchanges have been held in New York and Berlin (2017), Los Angeles and Munich (2018), and in Dresden (2019).

PREP is co-organized by the Smithsonian Institution and the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (SPK), in partnership with four major museums and research institutes in the US and Germany with important holdings of interest to Holocaust-era art provenance researchers: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles; Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (ZI), Munich; and Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (Dresden State Art Collections); with the Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste (German Lost Art Foundation, DZK), Magdeburg, as consulting partner.

As a facilitator of international collaborative research projects centered around Holocaust-era art looting, PREP is developing a growing network—a “provenance research autobahn”—of experts who can share improved methodologies, newly-digitized provenance resources, and research results with academic and professional colleagues, and with the public. To date, PREP’s network includes some 150 institutions and 400 individuals, with the aim of piecing together a more-complete picture of the movement of artworks and their owners, collectors, and dealers in Europe and the US from 1933 through the present. In service to the field, PREP and the Getty Research Institute are finalizing an online “PREP Resource for Nazi-Era Provenance Research in Germany and the U.S., ” and making it available to researchers and to the public.

During the week of the 6th Exchange, in the city that fostered the adoption of the 1998 Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, PREP participants will meet with archivists, curators, historians, researchers, collection managers, lawyers, and other experts at 12 museums, archives, and libraries in Washington, D.C. to hear presentations on the various institutional holdings and exchanges of information about research resources relevant to Nazi-era art looting. Meetings will take place at the Archives of American Art, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), National Gallery of Art, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Library of Congress, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, The Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, and The Phillips Collection.

The 6th Exchange also includes the colloquium, “PREP Talks: Interdisciplinary ad Comparative Approaches and Case Studies on Provenance Research,” co-chaired by Jane Milosch of the Smithsonian and Christian Fuhrmeister of the Zentralinstitut, Munich. Seventy museum professionals and scholars will discuss joint research projects and exhibitions undertaken under PREP’s aegis, and to hear summations on comparative methodologies and new technologies for recording and sharing this research in Germany and the U.S.

In conjunction with this week-long program for specialists, the Smithsonian has organized two public programs in collaboration with the German Historical Institute Washington DC and the Goethe-Institut, both to be videotaped. Seating is limited, so RSVP is required, and programs will be videotaped and posted online.

Almost a year ago, the Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste hosted an international conference, “20 Years of the Washington Principles: Roadmap to the Future,” in Berlin, and issued a joint declaration that "We note with satisfaction Germany’s funding and support of the German/American Provenance Research Exchange Program for Museum Professionals (PREP) for 2017-2019 to advance World War II-era provenance research in museums, archives, libraries, and research institutions in Germany and the United States, including the largest set of museums in the United States, the Smithsonian Institution."

On Friday evening, October 25, PREP’s Public Program, “Nazi-Era Provenance Research: The Importance of Transnational Exchange,” will reflect on the historical development of Holocaust-era provenance research in Germany and the US over the past 20 years, highlighting hard-won accomplishments and persistent challenges. Speakers include, among others, Stuart Eizenstat, Expert Adviser to the Secretary of State for Holocaust Issues, and Simone Lässig, Director of the German Historical Institute, Washington, DC. A panel, composed of six leaders from PREP’s institutional partners, will discuss PREP’s results, German and American approaches to this work, shared and online research resources, and the civic role museums play, as well as the impact of specific historical, political, and legal contexts on the work of World War II-era provenance research in museums.

On Saturday morning, October 26, in the PREP panel discussion, “Object Lessons: German and American Perspectives on Provenance Research of the Colonial and Nazi Eras,experts from research institutions in the US and Germany, including two museum directors, Raphael Gross, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, and Christine Kreamer, National Museum of African Art, will broaden the discussion of provenance to include the research of art and other cultural objects potentially misappropriated during the colonial era. They will consider how much the methodologies and challenges of museum professionals and researchers dealing with colonial and Nazi-era collections overlap, and the resulting insights that might be applied to advance scholarly discourse, public debates, and solutions regarding restitution of Nazi-era and colonial objects.

For more information about PREP and the PREP Public Programs, including a full list of speakers and their biographies: provenance.si.edu