These recommended procedures have been formulated by the American Association of Museums (AAM) pursuant to an agreement reached in October 2000 between AAM, the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), and the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States (PCHA). The PCHA was created in June 1998 to study and report to the President on issues relating to Holocaust victims’ assets in the United States.
Under this agreement the parties concurred (a) on the desirability of expanded online access to museum collection information that could aid in the discovery of objects unlawfully appropriated during the Nazi era, (b) on the need to identify the categories of objects for which this information should be made available, and (c) toward those ends, that every museum should:
|Artist/Maker||To include artists’ names, alternate names, and previous attributions.|
|Nationality of Artist/Maker||---|
|Life Dates of Artist/Maker||---|
|Place or Culture of Object||Only if artist unknown.|
|Object Title or Name||To include alternate titles.|
|Date of Work||To include approximate date, if specific date is unknown.|
|Date of Acquisition||---|
|Object Type||Painting, sculpture, decorative arts, etc/|
|Subject Type||Landscape, portrait, mythological subject, historical, religious, genre, Judaica, etc.|
|Signature and Marks (obverse)||To include signatures, inscriptions, and marks; for paintings, what appears on the front|
|Labels and Marks (reverse, frame, mount, etc.)||To describe marks and labels (prior to 1960) on the reverse of an object (including frame, mount, etc.). Indicate if images are available.|
|Description||To contain description of object (its content, subject, etc.). Museums should make this a priority.|
|Provenance||To contain, at the minimum, known owners, dates of ownership, places of ownership, method of transfer (sale, gift, descent, etc.). To include, if known, lot numbers, sale prices, buyers, etc. To include information on unlawful appropriation during the Nazi era and subsequent restitution. Museums should ensure that provenance information is understandable and organizaed chronologically.|
|Other Relevant Information||To contain anything about the ojbect that would be useful in identifying it for this purpose. If the object fits the definition of Judaica contained in this document, so state.|
|Image||An image is key to identifying an object. Museums should make every effort to include an image with their records.|
2. Nazi-era Provenance Internet Portal
It is the view of AAM that museums should control the research, presentation, and maintenance of information about covered objects in their collections. This allows museums to organize their information according to their own standards and provide all relevant introductions, explanations, and avenues for inquiry.
In order to expedite searches for information about covered objects in museum collections, AAM will launch a search tool called the Nazi-era Provenance Internet Portal. The Portal initially will allow users to search by the artist/maker and the nationality of the artist/maker (or of the object if the artist is unknown). Additionally, users will be able to learn which museums contain covered Judaica. The Portal will provide the user with basic information contributed by museums about objects that fit the search criteria as well as links to further information controlled by those museums. The Portal ultimately will have the capacity to allow users to search on additional categories of information, such as object type and description of the object.
Museums should submit to AAM a set of descriptive data about covered objects in their collections. This information will constitute the registry. It will be the responsibility of the museum to update this information whenever there are changes, additions, or deletions.
a. Submitting Information to the Portal Registry
The information that the Portal will use to assist searchers will be housed in a database. It will contain, for each museum, basic contact and URL information (if applicable) and an indication as to whether the museum’s collection contains any covered Judaica. An associated searchable object registry will house object descriptive information that will be provided by museums in phases. In the initial phase, this will be artist/maker, nationality of artist/maker, and culture/nationality, if artist is not known. In later phases museums will be asked to add title, object type, and searchable free-text descriptions. In addition, museums without online collection information will be asked to supply one PDF file for each covered object. A link will be created from the object registry to the PDF file. Instructions for converting a document to Adobe PDF will be available from AAM.
Information about museums and their covered objects may be entered directly onto the Portal’s Web site or submitted electronically. Whether a museum’s registry records are linked to its Web site or to a PDF, the museum will receive a password giving access through AAM’s Web site to the data it contributes. Museums will be responsible for updating and adding to these data. Instructions for submitting data to these tables will be available from AAM.
Museums should strive to provide the 20 categories of information listed above either in their online collection information or in their PDF files.
b. Searching the Portal
When a search is conducted, the Portal will return the registry information for all objects that match the search criteria and either: (a) links to the Web site of each museum where more information about these objects can be found or (b) links to each PDF file that contains more information about these objects.
AAM will employ an enhanced search facility developed by the Getty based on the Union List of Artist Names® to increase the precision and recall of searches on the artist name by accommodating various spellings and making the searcher aware of related artists and artists who share the same name.
Because of the urgent need to create a search tool for covered objects, AAM has committed to developing and managing the Portal for three years. However, in recognition that a project of this technological complexity falls outside the range of AAM¹s customary activities and services, after three years AAM will seek to transfer the project to a more appropriate organization.
To address any issues that may arise regarding the Portal, AAM will establish an independent commission to guide this effort. This independent commission will be appointed by the AAM Board of Directors and will include museum professionals and experts from outside the museum field. Significantly for the museum community, claimants, and researchers, it is envisioned that the commission will continue when the portal is transferred to another organization.
For more information contact:
Senior Manager, International Programs
American Association of Museums
1575 Eye St., NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20005