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Germany to Fund Museum Research into Provenance of Colonial-Era Objects

German culture minister Monika Grütters has pledged to secure funding for museums to investigate the provenance of the colonial-era artifacts in their collections, Catherine Hickley of the Art Newspaper reports. Grütters said that the initiative aims to “motivate museums to use these research opportunities and develop new forms of cooperation with the countries of origin.”

The German Lost Art Foundation, the Magdeburg-based organization that was established to provide financial support to museums conducting research into works that they suspect were looted by the Nazis, will oversee the allocation of the federal funding. It is not yet clear how much money is available or how many grants will be awarded.

Grütters announced that six new positions will be created at the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which manages Berlin’s state museums, four of which will be responsible for researching colonial-era artworks. The country’s latest effort to restitute artifacts follows Bénédicte Savoy’s resignation from the advisory committee of the Humboldt Forum last year. The art historian stepped down in protest of the new museum’s lack of research into the items in its collection. The controversy promoted Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation president Herman Parzinger to call for international guidelines—similar to the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art—to aid museums in researching and restituting objects.  

Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, has taken major strides toward repatriating cultural treasures to the countries they were taken from and has renewed calls for other European countries to do the same. After a trip to Burkina Faso last November, Macron declared that the return of African objects to Africa would be a “top priority” during his time in office. Savoy and the Senegalese writer and economist Felwine Sarr have since been appointed as advisors to the Macron administration and will help create a plan for how best to move forward with restituting artifacts by November.