New Research to Uncover Looted Treasures in England's Regional Museums

Wednesday 12 June 2002

Millions of works of art were looted by the Nazis during World War II. Some experts believe that a fifth of the world's entire known artworks were stolen or forcibly sold between 1933 and 1945, and, nearly 60 years on, hundreds of thousands of masterpieces are still missing.

Britain's national museums have already taken steps to investigate and document their collections and are checking the provenance of objects acquired after World War II. So far, up to 600 works have been identified whose whereabouts during the war is unclear, and which may have been looted.

Now this work will be extended to regional museums. Resource is funding a research consultant to help England's regional museums identify items in their collections whose provenance between 1933 and 1945 is unknown, and which may be the subject of potential claims by relatives of victims of the looting. The consultant will advise museums on researching and documenting their works, on how to register items whose provenance is in question, and on how to deal sensitively with claims and inquiries from those who have lost items to Nazi spoliation.

The consultant's work will be managed by The National Museum Directors' Conference (NMDC), who will coordinate regional museums' research, and will publish a list of items that may be the result of Nazi spoliation by December 2002.

Welcoming Resource's grant, Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair of NMDC's Spoliation Working Group, said: "British museums and galleries were the first institutions internationally to agree to research their collections to ensure they do not contain works of art that might have been looted by the Nazis. The Spoliation Working Group has already managed a significant portfolio of research to support museums in investigating the provenance of suspect artworks, and we are delighted to extend the scheme to allow regional museums to complete the process of researching and documenting their collections."

Resource's chairman Matthew Evans said: "We welcome this opportunity to support national and regional museum partnerships by providing this funding. The information provided by the research will greatly enhance regional museums ability to respond to requests from those who may have lost items during the Nazi era and to add to their existing knowledge of their collections. This is an important project and we look forward to the creation of complete and comprehensive documentation."

Notes to Editors:

For further information please contact Emma Wright, Resource's Media and Events Manager, on 020 7273 1459 or email [email protected]

The National Museum Directors' Conference represents the leaders of the UK's national museums and galleries. These comprise the national museums in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the three national libraries, the botanic gardens at Kew and the Public Record Office.

In June 1998 the National Museum Directors' Conference (NMDC) established a working group to examine the issues surrounding the spoliation of art during the Holocaust and World War II period and draw up a Statement of Principles and proposed actions for member institutions. Its recommendations included a proposal that each national museum, gallery or library should draw up an action plan setting out their planned approach to research into the issue of provenance. For further information please visit our pages on spoliation.

Resource provides the strategic leadership, advocacy and advice to enable museums, archives and libraries to touch people's lives and inspire their imagination, learning and creativity. The Resource website can be viewed at