The Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin has been conducting systematic provenance research since 2008. In this way, the Stadtmuseum Berlin fulfils its obligation to check its collections for the legality of acquisitions.
In a first step, the collection was examined for “art seized due to Nazi persecution”, i.e. for cultural property that came to the museum as a result of National Socialist persecution. The initial focus was on the collection holdings acquired between 1933 and 1945. Subsequently, the research was expanded to include the holdings acquired between 1945 and 1995, since it was precisely in the post-war period that many “flotsam and jetsam” of history found their way into the collection, whose former owners (independent of Nazi persecution) need to be identified.
“Finds” made during the systematic research were reported to the Lost Art database in order to establish contact with heirs. In the meantime, several objects have already been restituted, i.e. returned or (re)purchased by the heirs. But just as important as the exact origin of the objects are the stories behind them that come to light during the research, such as family fates, company history or adventurous trade routes. They give the collection pieces an additional narrative level beyond their art-historical significance.
The establishment of provenance research at the Stadtmuseum Berlin was supported by the Arbeitsstelle für Provenienzforschung (now Stiftung Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste, Magdeburg) and by the Land Berlin.