Retrospective cataloging of the auction catalogs from the library holdings of the LVR-LandesMuseum Bonn
The library of the LVR-LandesMuseum Bonn has an extensive stock of auction catalogs from Germany and abroad. These 6,040 auction catalogs are important sources of information, particularly for provenance research and for investigating the history of the German art market in the period 1933–1945. The stock is particularly valuable for its volumes with annotations, which also record the names of buyers or notes on the sale in addition to valuation prices or sale prices.
The catalogs from the years prior to 1933 and from 1946 up to the present day are important sources for provenance research because unlawfully acquired cultural items were sold on even after the end of the Second World War. Using the auction catalogs, provenance researchers are able to reconstruct collections, trace the routes taken by masterpieces and, with the aid of sale prices, draw conclusions about the circumstances of the sale.
In the LVR-LandesMuseum library, auction catalogs have been recorded electronically and documented in the library’s OPAC since their acquisition in 1992. By contrast, the old stocks acquired between 1870 and 1992 are only recorded on index cards, where they are sometimes inadequately documented (auction date, poss. auction number)—there was no indexing of the content.
These auction catalogs have now been cataloged in a thorough process as part of the project funded by the Bureau for Provenance Research. This was the only way in which it was possible to log them in line with the rules on alphabetical cataloging, index the content and view the condition of the copy all in one operation. The handwritten comments, the valuation price lists and the results lists for the annotated copies have been scanned. These digitized files are being stored on an LVR server and connected to the catalog data via a link. Long-term archiving and a permanent URL are ensured by InfoKom, the LVR’s IT support.
During the work and in discussions with provenance researchers, it became apparent that detailed indexing of the content would be desirable. This is why the details of art collectors and previous owners were also recorded and tagged with keywords whenever it was possible to retrace them. It was sometimes possible to use the standard data records of the Integrated Authority File (GND), but in other cases new data records with personal master data had to be researched and put into the in-house database. This more intensive focus on the indexing of the content led to a higher workload and thus a delay in the project activities. However, it became clear that the research service could be significantly improved for users at the same time.
In the project period, 4,245 auction catalogs were processed in this way. Previously it had only been possible to search these using the card catalog. They are now available to external library users as well via the online library catalog (http://bibliotheken.lvr.de/vopac/index.asp?DB=ALL). Searches can be carried out by auction house, auction data and individual keywords. It is also possible to conduct specific searches for annotated copies. A total of 1,245 annotated copies have been recorded.
There is already productive scholarly exchange with the project “German Sales 1933–1945” initiated by Heidelberg University Library, the Getty Research Institute and the Kunstbibliothek Berlin. In some cases, we have been able to fill gaps and make auction catalogs from our holdings available for digitization. The “German Sales” project is limited to the period 1933–1945 for the time being, and the auction catalogs being digitized usually do not have any comments or annotations.
We are making use of these extensive digital offerings from Heidelberg University Library and from the project “Germans Sales 1933–1945” by including these digitized copies of auction catalogs in our title recordings. The provenance researchers who use our library database thus have the option, ideally, of being able to view the digitized comments, annotations and price lists for our auction catalog copies online and, in addition, finding the link to the complete Heidelberg auction catalog without comments. This interlinked search is very efficient for the researchers. Up to now, it has been possible to add information to 173 catalog records of our annotated auction copies in this way. The long-term plan is to coordinate all our catalog data from auction catalogs with the digitized documents of the “German Sales 1933–1945” project, i.e. not only link our annotated copies to the fully digitized catalog of the Heidelberg database, but also provide the non-annotated auction catalog data with a link to the digital documents of the “German Sales” project. The research is thus more focused and efficient for the provenance researchers, and the auction catalogs in the LVR-LandesMuseum library can be used by a wider group of researchers.
(c) LVR-LandesMuseum Bonn
Research report and other sources
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