Under the second round of proposals in 2022, the German Lost Art Foundation has approved a total of some 1.37 million euros for seven projects in colonial contexts

Under the second round of funding in 2022, the German Lost Art Foundation is awarding around 1.37 million euros for provenance research projects in colonial contexts.

At the recommendation of its funding advisory board, the Foundation’s Executive Chairman in Magdeburg approved a total of seven research proposals in this second round of proposals.

For the first time, this includes a major research project on archaeology: the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation will be investigating objects of questionable provenance that found their way to Berlin from the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and are now in the Collection of Classical Antiquities, of the Museum of the Ancient Near East and the Museum of Islamic Art. Although there were laws against the illegal excavation and export of antiquities even at that time, many items were still taken from the Ottoman Empire illegally, for example by being exported despite official find-sharing procedures. Based on objects from the excavation sites of Sam’al, Didyma and Samarra (today in Turkey and Iraq), a Turkish-German team is now conducting exemplary research into the circumstances under which antiquities were acquired and brought to the German Reich. From this, a Provenance Research Manual is to be developed that will help other museums with provenance research into archaeological holdings.

The three other newly funded projects deal with the former German colonial territories in Oceania. Research at the Museum Natur und Mensch in Freiburg will be dedicated to a ship: among other things, the SMS Cormoran was used for military operations and “punitive expeditions” against the indigenous population, and its crew members took the opportunity to collect ethnographic objects. The Freiburg museum is taking the example of the SMS Cormoran to investigate collecting activities that were carried out in Oceania during the colonial period. The museum will examine objects that it acquired from the collections of Captain Lieutenant Paul Werber and the navigation officer Walter Brandt, both of whom were involved in so-called “punitive expeditions”.

The latter were not just key factors in the exercise of colonial power, they also frequently resulted in looting and the unlawful taking of objects and human remains. For this reason, the German Lost Art Foundation commissioned two working papers on the “punitive expeditions” carried out by the German colonial power in Africa and Oceania. They are available on www.perspectivia.net at 10.25360/01-2022-00001 and 10.25360/01-2022-00056.

The German Lost Art Foundation in Magdeburg, founded on 1 January 2015 by the Federal Government, the German federal states and the leading municipal associations, is the central point of contact in Germany for questions concerning unlawfully seized cultural property. The Foundation receives institutional funding from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media; this is also the source of funding for its projects. The Foundation’s main focus is on cultural property seized under National Socialism as a result of persecution, especially Jewish property. Since January 2019, when the German Lost Art Foundation was expanded to include a Department for Colonial Contexts, it has also been possible to apply for funding for projects that deal with Cultural Goods and Collections from Colonial Contexts. Since then, a total of around 7.54 million euros has been approved for 59 projects in this area.

Proposals for longer-term projects can be submitted by 1 January and 1 June of each year; proposals for short-term projects can be submitted at any time. All institutions in Germany under public law that collect, preserve or research collections from colonial contexts are eligible to apply. This includes museums, universities and other research institutions. Since 1 January 2021, proposals have also been accepted from institutions that are recognised as non-profit organisations and have their registered office in Germany.