Explanations of terms from the field of provenance research and Proveana's four research contexts.

An overview page with all terms is also available.


Togo / Togoland

Ever since the →European expansion, the territory comprising the present-day state of Togo, which borders on the Bight of Benin, had been shaped by international trade, especially the transatlantic slave trade. As a result, German trading companies and missionary organizations could be found in the area of present-day Togo even before the formal establishment of colonial rule. When imperial treaties known as “Schutzverträge” were concluded by Gustav Nachtigal in 1884, this laid the formal foundations for the establishment of a colony in the →“protectorate” of "Togoland". The following years were marked by the gradual expansion of German influence in the area. The Germans secured their colonial rule by establishing government posts and carrying out military expeditions. After the First World War, Britain and France received the mandate to govern separate parts of "Togo". The British was merged with the former British colony known as the “Gold Coast” in 1957, thus forming the independent state of Ghana. The mandated territory assigned to the French gained its independence as Togo in 1960. (JH)

  • Cultural goods and collections from colonial contexts

Trading colony

In this form of colonization, which had been prevalent since the beginning of the early modern period, businesses and trading posts were initially established – usually by merchants – to export local products and import European goods. It was only over time that the merchants’ home states assumed sovereignty over their trading colonies, usually on the pretext of safeguarding trade, protecting the merchants and offering military assistance. This is how most of the German colonies came into existence. (SF)

  • Cultural goods and collections from colonial contexts

Traffic light system

When examining the provenance of items as part of a →systematic investigation of collection holdings, all items should be categorized according to the following color scale or traffic light system:

Green = The provenance for the period 1933–1945 can be reconstructed and is not suspicious. It can be proven that the item was not seized as a result of National Socialist persecution and further investigation is not required.

Yellow =The provenance is uncertain for the period 1933–1945. There are gaps in the provenance, or suspicion cannot be invalidated. The provenance should be researched further.

Orange = The provenance for the period 1933–1945 is questionable as there are indications (e. g. »Red Flag« names) that the item was seized due to National Socialist persecution. The provenance
must be researched further; registration in the Lost Art Database is advisable.

Red = The provenance is very likely or clearly suspect for the period
1933–1945. In addition to searching for living heirs who are
entitled to the item, registration in the Lost Art Database is advisable. (SL)

  • Cultural goods confiscated as a result of Nazi persecution

Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers and Germany (Treaty of Versailles) was signed in 1919, marking the end of the First World War under international law. The German delegation was not allowed to participate in the negotiations and could only request amendments in writing. The treaty identified the German Empire and its allies as being solely responsible for the outbreak of the First World War and obliged them to cede their territory, surrender their weapons and pay reparations to the victorious powers. As a result of the Treaty of Versailles, the German Empire had to give up its colonies. They were distributed among the victorious powers, who received a mandate by the League of Nations for their administration.

  • Cultural goods and collections from colonial contexts