We are a team of historians, archivists, and information managers dedicated to serving cultural institutions by increasing access to historical records. Utilizing archival practices and digital curation techniques, we aim to transform historical documents into accessible digital records and display their content in new, innovative ways.
This project seeks to dramatically enhance digital access originally developed by an international consortium of institutions which identifies and locates looted art and other cultural assets found on The International Research Portal for Records Related to Nazi-Era Cultural Property. The creation of a linked database with federated search and graph database capabilities across the dispersed collections of the 18 participating Portal institutions will assist Holocaust victims, their heirs and claimants, historians, investigators, lawyers, and the interested general public to locate lost cultural property.
Goals and Scope
This study is a follow-up project to the federated search capability developed for the International Research Portal Project (IRP2) for Records Related to Nazi-Era Cultural Property. In this phase a sample of property cards created by the U.S. Army at the end of World War II to inventory and control property seized by the Nazis will be used to explore the feasibility of using graph database/visualization technology to link property card data captured through OCR.
The History Behind IRP2
Known as the greatest robbery in history, Nazis contributed to the theft of over $150 billion assets during World War II. Sometimes the assets were physically stolen or left behind as Jewish families were prosecuted. Property included art, jewelry, and intellectual works.
Holocaust looting started as early as the 1930’s when the Nazis slowly rose to power. To protect their valuables, many European Jews sent funds or items to Swiss banks. Since many depositors did not survive the Holocaust, Swiss banks kept the accounts and now estimate the deposits are worth $1 Billion. Swiss banks were not the only holders of Nazi loot. In 1945, General Patton’s 3rd Army received intelligence reports about gold, jewels, and art stored in salt caves 200 miles southwest of Berlin. Discovered in 1945, Merker’s Mine contained 8,000 gold bars, 55 boxes of gold bullion, and bale of foreign currency. The mine was also used to hoard death camp gold, jewelry, wedding rings, and personal effects.
Without ownership and provenance records, many assets did not return to the original families; either the family was executed or the item could not be attributed to heirs. Accordingly, artwork and jewelry were sold to museums, historical institutions, or the highest bidder. In an effort to restore justice to the victims and their remaining families, institutions have constructed public databases to display information on their collections. Rather than searching through 18 separate databases, we want victims, heirs, and historians to have the ability to search one database for their heirlooms. It will improve the research process as well as ease the effort in searching for long lost and broken history.
Read our blog to keep up with the project status as well as gain archival/research perspectives from our diverse team.