Working Group for Provenance Research in Saxony

A “Working Group for Provenance Research in Saxony” was established in January 2018. The participating scientists and librarians would like to intensify their mutual professional exchange, as the challenges facing provenance research are not only of a scientific and historical nature, but also of a local one. They also intend to strengthen provenance research and NS loot research in Saxony. Previous projects on provenance research have shown that state-owned and communal libraries and museums have many items in their possession that form part of Nazi loot. These items ended up in these institutions in the course of expropriations carried out by the National Socialists up to 1945, as well as during the so-called Land Reform Program in the Soviet Occupation Zone, and as a result of unjust practices implemented in the GDR after 1945 (expropriations as a result of so-called desertion from the republic, etc.). A collaborative exchange between the people employed in these institutions who are interested in this issue and the freelance and dedicated scholars who have been working in this field for many years is one of the basic prerequisites for achieving successful results.

The short and medium-term goals of the working group therefore include the establishment of research infrastructure that can bring transparency to the results. To achieve this goal, the Integrated Authority File of the German National Library serves as a sustainable instrument for the purposes of cataloguing and documentation. The picture database of the Deutsche Fotothek also remains available to interested institutions for the purpose of demonstrating provenance features.

In the long term, the working group would like to be available as an advisory partner for issues related to provenance research and Nazi loot research. The scientific funding structures in Germany, as well as the financial situations of scientific and cultural institutions are such that, in most cases, scientists and librarians can work on provenance research for only a limited period of time. The historical, institutional and contextualising knowledge and experience gained in the course of such projects are lost when the employment relationship ends. Preserving this knowledge and this experience, and making them available, are the greatest challenges that face provenance research today. The working group would like to counteract this loss by providing a framework and platform for exchange, contact and collaborative work.