Historical inventory maps of the Landesmuseum Oldenburg

Tasks of the German Lost Art Foundation

Here we explain the tasks, areas of activity and goals of the German Lost Art Foundation, including an explanatory video on the question “What is provenance research?” You will also find the Foundation’s statutes on this page.

The German Lost Art Foundation is the central point of contact in Germany for questions concerning unlawfully seized cultural property.

It promotes provenance research in Germany, especially as conducted at cultural heritage institutions, among other things by providing financial grants. The aim is to clarify whether cultural property has been seized from its rightful owners, for example in connection with persecution by the state. As a funding institution, the Foundation is also involved in facilitating, supporting, networking and promoting research projects, but it does not conduct research of its own.

The German Lost Art Foundation cooperates closely with the Board of Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung e. V. and with Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung und Restitution – Bibliotheken.

The Foundation’s initial focus is on cultural property seized as a result of persecution during the National Socialist era, especially from Jewish owners (so-called Nazi-looted cultural property). The basis for its work in this field is provided by the Washington Principles adopted in 1998, which Germany has voluntarily committed to implementing based on a historical and moral self-obligation (Joint Declaration, 1999). Cultural property losses in this category are documented in the form of found-object reports in the publicly accessible database Lost Art.

The Foundation also maintains the Lost Art Database, in which it publishes details of cultural property displaced as a result of war, i.e. items that were illegally seized, transferred or displaced as a result of the Second World War. In addition to Lost Art, the German Lost Art Foundation operates the research database Proveana. Here it primarily presents the results of research projects it has funded.

Another area of activity in which the Foundation is involved is that of cultural property expropriated during the Soviet occupation and in the GDR. Regardless of claims and the legal situation, the aim is to reappraise historical processes, investigate the structures and methods established and pursued by the authorities, institutions and actors involved, and retrace the history of the victims or aggrieved parties of state-organised art and cultural property confiscations.

In addition, the Foundation deals with Cultural Goods and Collections from Colonial Contexts that were brought to Europe as a result of colonial expansion and are to be found not only in ethnological museums but in a very varied range of museums and collection genres.

The German federal government, the federal states and the three national associations of local authorities established the Foundation on 1 January 2015 as an independent entity under civil law, based in Magdeburg.

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The film is available for download free of charge. It may be used and distributed under the licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. © Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste, bildbad