Date of Award

2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Art Business

First Advisor

Elizabeth Pergam

Second Advisor

Judith Prowda

Abstract

Under the Third Reich, Europe experienced one of the most far-reaching examples of plunder of cultural property in modern history. While the Allies succeeded in returning many objects and artworks towards the end of the war and initially following it, many objects remained missing and hidden. The late 1990s led to a resurgence of interest in Holocaust-Era looting, resulting in a rise of cases and litigation over previously plundered objects. As many looted artworks materialized in United States museums, museums began further researching their collections’ provenance and inputting this information online. Today, most major museums have a section of their website dedicated to World War II-Era objects that contain gaps in provenance from any time between 1933 – 1945. This thesis examines the link between Holocaust-Era restitution and the Internet, exploring how museum websites and their online provenance programs can be used to promote discovery of objects that may have been plundered during World War II. Using five museums as case studies, it will analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each institution’s online provenance features, and how these programs could be improved to aid in future discoveries. It will also explore several instances in which a museum website has proved beneficial in the discovery of information about a Holocaust- Era artwork. Through case studies and examining existing lost art databases, this thesis posits that more standardized museum provenance projects and a centralized database would be beneficial in facilitating future resolutions of Holocaust-Era objects.

Distinction

1

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