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One of three bronzes in the Hamburg Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe collection, which the museum says were looted from the Kingdom of Benin, now part of Nigeria. Photo Credit: Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg/The Art Newspaper.
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by Archaeology Newsroom

Germany is to fund research for looted artifacts in its museums

Mainly into the provenance of colonial-era items

The provenance of colonial-era artefacts in the collections of German museums will be investigated, as the state is to provide funding for this cause. The announcement was made by German culture minister Monika Grütters who said that the funding will allow a long-term research which will motivate museums to develop new forms of cooperation with the countries of origin.

The procedure will be overseen by the German Lost Art Foundation, an organisation in Magdeburg which was initially created to financially support museums researching the provenance of works believed to have been looted by the Nazis. Last year the organization announced that it will also investigate looting by the Stasi. So far the amount of the money or the number of grants is not clear.

The announcement of the research was made after last year’s debate when art historian Bénédicte Savoy suddenly resigned from the advisory committee of the Humboldt Forum in protest of the new museum’s lack of research into the items in its collection. This led Herman Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which manages Berlin’s state museums, to call for international guidelines to assist museums in the research and restitution of looted artefacts. The announcement said that the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation will host four new positions for the research on colonial-era artworks.

France has also been working to this end, as the country’s president Emmanuel Macron, has declared the return of African objects to Africa as “top priority”. Savoy has now been working in the Macron administration as an adviser, assisting in the creation of a plan that will promote restitution looted colonial-era artefacts.

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