Provenance Research:

2 November 2022: Indexation and Digital Finding Aid of Nazi Era Art-Related Files in the Dusseldorf City Archives (Stadtarchiv Düsseldorf)


94 municipal files comprising 80,000 pages from the holdings of the Dusseldorf City Archives (Stadtarchiv Düsseldorf) have been indexed and included in the Finding Aid

The Düsseldorf City Archives and the Provenance Research Unit have completed an extensive joint project to index municipal files from the Nazi era (1933-1945). As a result, a digital finding aid is now available that can be used by provenance researchers and other interested parties to conduct online research and retrieve the archive records.

The in-depth indexing of the files, which began in November 2019, was funded by the German Lost Art Foundation. At the same time, the sources were digitised with the support of "WissensWandel. Digital Programme for Libraries and Archives" within the funding line "Neustart Kultur". The project makes these important archival records accessible worldwide and at the same time sustainably secures them. The data can be accessed via the internet portal "Archives in NRW", and in future also via "Archivportal-D" and the "Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek".

In the project, art historian Nadja Brzezina and historian Dr Annett Büttner analysed 94 files with a total of around 80,000 pages, primarily bidding, purchase and expert opinion files of the Düsseldorf art collections from the National Socialist era. Of these, more than 70 files have been indexed and scanned. Correspondence with foreign museums and other archival records important for provenance research, such as acquisition files from the 1920s that are directly adjacent in time, were also processed and made searchable in detail.
Archival records also extend beyond Düsseldorf and the Rhineland

In addition to the records of the art collections, the Düsseldorf City Archive also preserves those of the higher-level Department of Culture and the Lord Mayor. These have also been taken into account, so that researchers have various sources of records at their disposal. This means that individual works of art and persons, but also general information on the art and cultural scene can now be researched. The archival records not only relate to the Düsseldorf area, but also extend beyond the Rhineland. They show, for example, connections to the occupied territories of the Netherlands and France at the beginning of the 1940s.

By digitising the files with the help of "WissensWandel", the associated correspondence, often handwritten original documents, can be read online. More than 67,000 scans were made for this purpose. For national and international provenance research, this type of digital indexing of sources represents an important service tool.

For example, the provenance of the painting "An der Orangerie im Park von Schloss Buch" (At the Orangery in the Park of Buch Castle) by the recently rediscovered artist Johann Erdmann Hummel, which had been researched in the context of an exhibition at the Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin, could be determined.

Building an Infrastructure for Systematic Provisions Research

The project in the City Archive is one of the building blocks with which the state capital of Düsseldorf has been establishing an infrastructure since 2018 to carry out municipal provenance research systematically and sustainably. The head of the Provenance Research Unit, Dr Iris Metje, emphasises the benefits of the new finding aid for this task: "The ability to search the files online and have the digitised files displayed makes our work more efficient. During the systematic review of collection holdings, which is currently taking place, we can now quickly and easily find the relevant sources for the objects we are working on in the file holdings of the City Archives."

For Jasmin Hartmann, head of the Coordination Office for Provenance Research in NRW, or KPF.NRW for short, the in-depth indexing of the files of the City Archive is a beacon project for systematic provenance research: "It is a milestone to now be able to search the Düsseldorf files for people, art market institutions, artworks, places, events such as auctions or even subject-specific keywords, independent of time and place. In many cases, they offer information that one would not necessarily have expected to find in the Düsseldorf files."

In the future, the processing of sources relevant to provenance research will be a key component of the state-wide KPF.NRW in establishing the research field. Jasmin Hartmann: "I am convinced that virtually every museum still has correspondence with collectors, art dealers or, for example, authorities, which can significantly advance art market research and provenance research."

A list of the indexed files with links to the "Archives in NRW" portal is available on the website of the Provenance Research of the State Capital

The overview of the files is accessible here and the keyword search is accessible here.

Source: and and accessed 9 November 2022

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