International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

What’s a Museum to Do: Nazi-Era Provenance
Michael E. Jones

The purpose of this paper is to identify several of the legal consequences that have surfaced at many of the leading museums in the United States that collected art from the Nazi-Era. The paper highlights the provenance review experience of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (MFA) that began in earnest shortly after the 1998 Washington Conference that established non-binding principles to assist museums in resolving claims related to works acquired from this era. The paper relies upon personal interviews with the Curator of Provence at the MFA, internal provenance research on the MFA’s website, and an analysis of legal cases arising from queries about equitable and valid title to the art work in question in reaching its conclusions. The paper concludes that some museums with support from the courts deny the claims’ of heirs regardless of their merit on time-bared reasons as a matter of law. The more equitable and appropriate solution is for museums’ to waive certain legal defenses for art with unmistakable roots in the Holocaust-era.

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