The Federal Law of 4 December 1998 on the Restitution of Art Objects (Federal Law Gazette I, no. 181/1998) was enacted with the aim of returning art objects from Austrian federal museums and collections, which had come into the ownership of the Federation during or as a result of National Socialist tyranny, to the original owners of their legal successors. To this end, the competent ministry (presently the Arts and Culture Division of the Federal Chancellery of Austria) established the Commission for Provenance Research, the academic employees of which examine the inventories, archive holdings and objects of the individual federal museums and collections for indications of their provenance.
On the initiative of the former archive director, HR Dr. Herbert Haupt, internal provenance research had already been carried out in the Kunsthistorisches Museum prior to the enactment of the law. In June 1998, HR Haupt, with the assistance of Dr. Lydia Gröbl, submitted a comprehensive statement of facts on “The Changes in the Inventories of the Kunsthistorisches Museum during the Nazi Era and in the Years leading up to the State Treaty 1955”. This report focuses on the sources existing in the archives for the period from 1938 to 1955 and, together with several subsequent investigations, forms an important basis for further provenance research.
Dr. Susanne Hehenberger and Dr. Monika Löscher have been working as provenance researchers at the Kunsthistorisches Museum by appointment of the Commission for Provenance Research since 1 April 2009. Their task comprises the extension of the period under investigation from 1933 into the recent past and the inclusion of collections of the Museum of Art History which have thus far been neglected or insufficiently investigated in the provenance research.