Museum has clear conscience

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YOUR article “Nazi loot claim over Burrell tapestry” (News, 25 August), called into question Glasgow’s attempts to reunite the heirs of artefacts plundered by the Third Reich under atrocious circumstances. Such an assertion could not be further from the truth.

Since 1998, when the issue of spoliation was first addressed by the National Museum Directors’ Conference, Glasgow Museums has led the way in identifying and publicising objects within our collection which may have dubious provenance. It is a moral imperative for the city, that if any object within our collection reached us as a result of forced sales, or worse, by the Third Reich, that we do everything to ensure that our conscience is clear and restitution is made to heirs in the result of a valid claim.

Glasgow Museums has an exemplary record in researching and publicising any item of unsure provenance and was one of the first UK museum services to submit a complete record, of 200 paintings and drawings, to the database in May 2001, closely followed by entries on tapestries and European paintings in 2004. We currently list 344 objects on the government’s Cultural Property Website.

Regarding the claim relating to the relatives of Emma Budge, we are bound by rules governing confidentiality. However, I can confirm that representatives of the heirs contacted Glasgow Museums, soon after we publicised our research into tapestries in 2004 – and we have been working with them ever since, through the Department of Culture, Media and Sports’ Spoliation Panel, which advises on such sensitive matters. We are more than happy to publicise objects which may be of unsure provenance – and would encourage anyone with a valid claim to come forward with their concerns.

With 1.4 million items in our collections, we will continue to research and publicise objects which may have dubious provenance – and will continue in our moral obligation to make right the wrongs of the past.

Councillor Archie Graham, depute leader, Glasgow City Council, 
chair, Glasgow Life

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