Nazi Art Plundering and Post-War Restitution

Kate Clayborne

Répertoire des Biens Spoliés en France Durant la Guerre 1939-1945 / Repatriation of Art from the Collecting Point in Munich After World War II / The Monuments Men / Verlorene Bilder, Verlorene Leben / Art and Power: Europe Under the Dictators

For the past year, a team of librarians and technicians from Backstage Library Works has been cataloging the extensive holdings of the van Otterloo Collection, currently on deposit here at the Peabody Essex Museum’s Phillips Library. As the project manager, I’ve had many beautiful and fascinating items cross my desk – you can see a post highlighting a few of these items here. In that last post, I briefly mentioned Nazi-era auction catalogs as useful means of determining prior ownership and verifying works of art. Using resources available in the van Otterloo Collection, this post will take a look at the tumultuous status of the art world in Europe at that time. We will explore the regulation and looting of art under the Nazi regime, and the attempts at restitution following the war. Read more

A Library Dinner Party

After cataloging a batch of community cookbooks several weeks ago, I immediately started to come up with ideas on how to feature them on our blog. Instead of just discussing the recipes on the page, or uncovering the histories of the organizations responsible for compiling the works themselves, however, I wanted to approach cookbooks in our collection differently than what’s been done before on the blog. This time, I wanted to use the books the way they were meant to be used. I decided to make the food instead of just reading recipes off the page, to show results instead of discussing recipes as I came across them, and most importantly, include my fellow librarians in my plan. It probably doesn’t come as a shock that I didn’t have to twist anyone’s arm too hard at the mention of a dinner party. The fact that we got to try out recipes from books in our collection was the special bonus once we were finally able to formalize a date for the event.

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Highlights from the van Otterloo Collection

Kate Clayborne

The van Otterloo Collection, currently on deposit at the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum, is an extensive assemblage of books, serials, and articles about the art and history of the Low Countries. The collection was once owned by an art historian whose library was called “one of the most comprehensive personal libraries on Dutch and Flemish art in existence.” In October 2014, a team from Backstage Library Works began cataloging and processing each item.  As of August 15, 2015, over 17,000 items have been processed for the collection, including nearly 2,000 art auction catalogs and 295 books published before 1800. Two months remain on the project. Here are a few gems chosen from the collection’s extensive holdings so far.

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