Panel Discussion
Object Lessons: Perspectives on Provenance Research of the Colonial and Nazi Eras

© Provenance Research Exchange Program (PREP)

Provenance Research Exchange Program (PREP)

German Historical Institute Washington, DC

The German/American Provenance Research Exchange Program (PREP) brings together, for the first time, museum professionals from both sides of the Atlantic who specialize in World War II-era provenance projects for a three-year, systematic exchange. The program expands and elaborates on the methods and practices with which both countries have thus far approached the issues pertaining to Holocaust-era art looting.

PREP is also widening the scope of WWII-era provenance research, which to date has given priority to painting, sculpture, and Judaica, by including Asian art, decorative arts, and works on paper.

Provenance researchers face the challenge of uncovering the complicated, often centuries-long history of works of art and other cultural objects. The media have focused public attention on provenance research and restitution debates concerning objects, especially paintings, that were looted during the Nazi era. But provenance research also encompasses the history of objects from archaeological contexts, human remains, and ethnological collections world-wide. There is growing social and political impetus in Germany and France to confront uncomfortable histories of colonial rule, including the acquisition of museum collections during this period. The creation of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin has highlighted the role and responsibilities of museums and the cultural community to acknowledge and find “just solutions” to the wrongs of the past. Provenance research is an important step in a process that might lead to a variety of outcomess, including restitution/repatriation to individuals, countries of origin, or descendant communities.

What can provenance researchers of Nazi-era looted objects learn from those who study collections acquired under colonial rule, and vice versa? How far do the methodologies and challenges of museum professionals and researchers dealing with colonial period- and Nazi-era collections overlap? What new insights can we gain from the study of the provenance of objects of all categories, and how might these be applied to advancing scholarly discourse, public debates, and solutions regarding Nazi-era and colonial objects? 

This panel discussion brings together eminent historians, archaeologists, ethnologists, and museum professionals to share their perspectives on the challenging historical, legal, ethical, philosophical, and practical issues surrounding works of art and objects acquired under colonial and Nazi rule.  

The panel discussion will be followed by a light lunch at the GHI.

Irene Bald Romano, Professor of Art History, School of Art, and Professor of Anthropology, School of Anthropology, University of Arizona, and 2018 PREP participant

Mirjam Brusius, Research Fellow in Colonial and Global History, German Historical Institute London
Raphael Gross, President of the Foundation, Deutsches Historisches Museum (German History Museum), Berlin
Christine Mullen Kreamer, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution
H. Glenn Penny, Professor of Modern European History, University of Iowa, and GHI Advisory Board Member
Hilke Thode-Arora, Head of Department, Oceania, and Provenance Research Liaison Officer, Museum Fünf Kontinente (Five Continents Museum), Munich, and 2018 PREP guest speaker

This program will be videotaped and available on the PREP website. Your attendance will signify your permission to use any resulting images for PREP/GHI purposes.
RSVP This panel discussion has been organized in conjunction with the 6th German/American Provenance Research Exchange Program (PREP), which brings together museum professionals from both sides of the Atlantic specializing in World War II-era provenance projects.

Organized by the Smithsonian Institution, German Historical Institute, and the Goethe-Institut, Washington, D.C.

Irene Bald Romano (Moderator)
Archaeologist Irene Bald Romano holds a joint appointment as Professor of Art History in the School of Art and Professor of Anthropology in the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona. She also has an affiliated appointment in the Department of Religious Studies and Classics and is the Curator of Mediterranean Archaeology in the Arizona State Museum of the University of Arizona. From 2012 to 2015 she held the administrative appointment of Deputy Director of the Arizona State Museum. She teaches courses on plundered art, cultural heritage issues, museum studies, as well as on ancient art and archaeology of the Mediterranean region.

Dr. Romano earned her Ph.D. in Classical Archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania. She has more than 30 years of experience as a teacher and museum professional, holding many positions, including as registrar, curator, researcher, consultant, and coordinator of the collection's division at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia. Dr. Romano moved to the University of Arizona in 2012 from a position she held for six years as Executive Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

She is the author or co-author of seven books as well as numerous articles on ancient Mediterranean collections, Greek and Roman sculpture, pottery, terracotta figurines, Greek cult practice, and marble provenance studies. She has extensive archaeological field experience in Greece, Spain, Italy, and Turkey, and has worked with scholars from many countries on international research and museum projects. Her current research is focused on the fate of antiquities in the Nazi era, in collaboration with German and American scholars and inspired by her participation in the German-American Provenance Research Exchange Program (PREP) in 2018. In addition, Dr. Romano is preparing a monograph on a marble portrait of Alexander the Great from Beth Shean (Israel).

Mirjam Brusius is a historian of material and visual culture with a strong interest in the history of photography, museums, collecting, archaeology and heritage. Looking at the cross-cultural circulation of objects and images between Europe and the Middle East, her current research projects embrace two interrelated themes: First, she examines how artifacts from the Islamicate world were appropriated in museums of the ‘Western world.’ The second project concerns how photography was applied in the Islamicate world. Mirjam participates in relevant meetings and takes part as a panelist, commentator, and keynote speaker in public debates on colonial legacies and collecting. She holds an MA in Art History, Cultural Studies and Musicology (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin 2007) and a doctorate in History and Philosophy of Science (University of Cambridge 2011). She is currently a Research Fellow in Colonial and Global History at the German Historical Institute London (GHIL), which she joined in 2017, having held fellowships at the University of Oxford, Harvard University, the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. Twitter @Misabru

Raphael Gross is currently President of the Foundation Deutsches Historisches Museum. Previously Raphael Gross was the director of the Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture and holder of the chair for Jewish History and Culture at the University of Leipzig since 2015. He was also director of the Jewish Museum Frankfurt am Main (2006-2015), director of the Leo Baeck Institute, London (2001-2015), and served as director of the Fritz Bauer Institute, Frankfurt am Main (2007-2015).

Raphael Gross studied history, philosophy, and literature at the universities of Zurich, Berlin, Bielefeld, and Cambridge (Trinity Hall). Receiving his Ph. D. from the University of Essen in 1997; his Ph. D. thesis, Carl Schmitt und die Juden, was published by Suhrkamp in 2000, and has been published in translation in the United States, France, and Japan. He is working on a research project on the legal theorist Hans Kelsen and on a critical edition of Anne Frank's diaries. In 2013, Raphael Gross was awarded the Wilhelm Leuschner Medal for promotion of democracy by the State of Hesse; that year he also accepted the Ignatz Bubis Prize for Social Reconciliation and the Buber Rosenzweig Medal both on behalf of the Fritz Bauer Institute.

He is a member of the Advisory Commission for the Restitution of Cultural Property of the Federal Republic of Germany seized as a result of Nazi persecution, especially from Jewish possessions. In 2018, he organized a public international symposium at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin to discuss the return of the Cape Cross Column from the collection.

Christine Mullen Kreamer is Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, where she has worked since 2000.  Her exhibitions and publications explore art and ritual, gender, African systems of knowledge, and museum practice, and they bridge the disciplines of art history, anthropology, and museum studies. In addition to research in Togo, she has worked on museum exhibition and training projects in Ghana and Vietnam. She received her Ph.D. from Indiana University.  Her more recent exhibitions and co-authored publications include Conversations: African and African American Artwork in Dialogue (2014); African Cosmos: Stellar Arts (2012); Lines, Marks, and Drawings: Through the Lens of Roger Ballen (2013); Inscribing Meaning: Writing and Graphic Systems in African Art (2007); and African Vision: The Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection (2007).  She co-curated Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa’s Arts (2017, ongoing); she is also a contributing author for an essay on connoisseurship in the 2014 edited volume Visions from the Forest: The Art of Liberia and Sierra Leone and two essays in the 2011 edited volume Representing Africa in American Art Museums (University of Washington Press, 2011).  In recognition of her outstanding achievements in the fields of art history and museum practice, Christine was named the Smithsonian Institution’s 2018 Distinguished Scholar in the Humanities.

H. Glenn Penny is Professor of Modern European History at the University of Iowa. He is the author of In Humboldt’s Shadow: A Tragic History of German Ethnology (C. H. Beck, 2019), Kindred by Choice: Germans and American Indians since 1880 (UNC Press, 2013), and Objects of Culture:  Ethnology and Ethnographic Museums in Imperial Germany (UNC Press, 2002). He is also the editor (together with Matti Bunzl) of Worldly Provincialism:  German Anthropology in the Age of Empire (University of Michigan Press, 2003), and (with Laura Graham) Performing Indigeneity: Global Histories and Contemporary Experiences (Nebraska University Press, 2014). He is currently completing a book manuscript titled: Unbinding German History, 1760s-1960s for Cambridge University Press.

Hilke Thode-Arora, a German social-cultural anthropologist, is the Curator for Oceania and at the same time Provenance Research Liaison Officer at the Museum Fünf Kontinente / Five Continents Museum in Munich, Germany. Her specialization lies with material culture and the history of museum collections, Pacific colonial history, interethnic relations and ethnic identities, images and stereotypes. She was Honorary Fellow at the University of Auckland (2002-2005) and Affiliated Researcher at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand (2011-2013). Having done artefact-related research projects on behalf of most German ethnological museums in the past, her work included long-term fieldwork in Niue, Samoa and New Zealand in close collaboration with Niuean and Samoan communities. She curated the exhibition From Samoa with Love? Samoan Travellers in Germany, 1895-1911. Retracing the Footsteps, which contextualized the history of the Samoan collection in Munich and was based on in-depth communication with Samoan descendants. She is one of the authors of the Guidelines on Dealing with Collections from Colonial Contexts, published by the German Museums Association / Deutscher Museumsbund in 2018 and 2019. Books (selection): Tapa und Tiki. Die Polynesien-Sammlung des Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museums Köln. Köln: Wienand 2001; Weavers of Men and Women. Niuean Weaving and its Social Implications. Berlin: Reimer 2009; From Samoa with Love? Samoan Travellers in Germany, 1895-1911. Retracing the Footsteps. München: Hirmer 2014


German Historical Institute Washington, DC

1607 New Hampshire Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20009

Language: English
Price: Free Admission
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