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Nazi Era Provenance Research|Art Museum

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Art Museum
Hours: Mon: 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Tues – Sat: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
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2111 Willet Drive
Laramie, WY 82071

Historical Background


During World War II, Adolf Hitler and his regime were responsible for an aggressive and methodical campaign to confiscate, hoard and destroy cultural assets. Special military art units were designated to confiscate works of art and other cultural artifacts from European museums and the private collections of Jewish citizens, other targeted groups and political opponents.  Hundreds of thousands of works of art were confiscated by the German military. Art that was seen as representing the National Socialist Party’s accepted view of German national heritage was designated for the collections of German museums.  Some art objects were kept as personal possessions by high-ranking military officers, many of whom—including Hitler—were art collectors.


Immediately following the war, a number of governments and major museums undertook extensive investigations in an attempt to return looted works to their owners. Many objects were returned, but a large number (40,000 according to some estimates) remained unaccounted for. Recognizing that these restitution efforts were insufficient and that looted objects may have unknowingly become part of the permanent collections of many American museums, the United States government mandated American museums to undertake additional research that would uncover provenance problems and participate in the worldwide effort to return art stolen during the Nazi era to its owners and their heirs. To this end, the American Association of Museums (AAM) has developed a set of guidelines to help museums maintain the highest ethical and legal standards regarding unlawfully appropriated objects.


Research Efforts


Using AAM guidelines, the Art Museum is working to identify works in its collections that are at high risk of possibly being looted during World War II.  This includes all paintings, sculptures and drawings by European and American artists created before 1946 that may have been traded in continental Europe. The Art Museum is committed to making the results of this research accessible to the public and all works determined to have changed hands in continental Europe during those critical years, or those with a gap in their provenance, will be submitted to AAM’s Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal, a tool designed to provide individuals searching for lost items with a single searchable registry of objects that changed hands in continental Europe from 1933-1945.

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