Since its inception in the nineteenth century, the Brooklyn Museum has been committed to documenting the objects in its holdings, including information about the provenance, or history of ownership, of these objects. Traditionally, scholars have viewed provenance as a tool to answer questions about the origins, display, and exchange of an artwork. More recently, however, museums have focused on provenance in an effort to clarify an object's whereabouts during the Nazi era (1933–1945), when some artworks were looted or stolen. In accordance with the guidelines issued by the American Association of Museums (AAM) in November 1999 and April 2001, which specifically address the issue of Nazi-era provenance, the Museum has instituted a program to identify artworks in its collection that fit the following conditions:
The Museum is using the above criteria to identify objects that existed prior to 1946 but were not in its collections by 1932, and therefore may have changed hands during this time. Two separate and unrelated collections have been examined using these guidelines: European oil and tempera paintings and Jewish ritual objects. A gap in provenance does not mean that these objects were looted or stolen. It is not always possible to document provenance completely. Some owners prefer to remain anonymous, and records are sometimes accidentally lost or destroyed. However, the Museum does hope to establish the most complete history possible for all of the objects in its collection.
The Brooklyn Museum's list of objects with gaps in provenance is available on the Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal (NEPIP) administered by the AAM. That Web site provides a searchable registry of objects that changed hands in continental Europe during the Nazi era and are now in the collections of U.S. museums.
The Brooklyn Museum's Provenance Research Project is ongoing and will continue until all possible avenues of research have been exhausted.
The Museum invites anyone with questions or information about the works it has posted on the AAM'S NEPIP site to e-mail the Provenance Research Project at firstname.lastname@example.org.