Museum launches inquiry over Nazi loot allegations

The Sunday Times 9 October 2005
John Burns

ALL of the artefacts in the Hunt Museum will be displayed on the internet this week, allowing Holocaust survivors to start studying their provenance.
An evaluation group overseeing an investigation into the Limerick museum’s 1,950 artworks has found no evidence so far to substantiate claims that Nazi loot is on display there.

The investigation was demanded two years ago by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Paris, which said that John Hunt and his German-born wife Gertrude, whose art collection was donated to the state by their children, had extensive Nazi connections.

“A catalogue of the entire collection will be posted this week on our website,” said Virginia Teehan, director of the museum.

“There will be an image of each object, its dimensions, and a brief description. It will be a searchable resource and will conform to international archival standards.”

Teehan said that nothing had been found so far to substantiate the allegations of Nazi loot being in the collection, and there was also an obligation on those who were making the claims to provide sufficient evidence in support of them.

The centre made its claims in a letter to President Mary McAleese in 2003 but made no specific allegations against objects that were on display in Limerick, and neither has Erin Gibbons, an Irish archeologist who has also raised concerns about the collection.

An evaluation group chaired by Sean Cromien, a former civil servant, is now overseeing the museum’s response to these claims.

“The museum has made excellent progress,” said Michael Ryan, director of the Chester Beatty Library and who is also secretary to the group.

“The results of research into the provenance of the artefacts will also be posted on the website. It will prioritise research into artworks that could have been in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s.”

Ryan said that an interim report from the evaluation group, which began work last May, will be given to the Royal Irish Academy in about a month’s time.

This will be forwarded to the Department of Arts, which is providing about €150,000 to fund the inquiry.
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