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Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (AHSS)

Photograph of art stash in Ellingen Germany Native American bowl

Center for Art Collection Ethics

Our Vision

While there are organizations that encourage provenance research and training, such as the American Alliance of Museums and the Smithsonian Institution, there is a continued lack of postgraduate training opportunities for art museum and trade professionals.

ACE will serve as a training center and clearinghouse of information on cultural property issues related to Holocaust-era art (in close cooperation with DU's Holocaust Awareness Institute), antiquities, and indigenous objects, particularly those impacted by the United States Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) of 1990. Elizabeth Campbell, Associate Professor of History, will serve as Director with an advisory group of faculty from the School of Art and Art History, the Museum of Anthropology, University Art Collections, and the Center for Judaic Studies.

In the short-term, ACE will host on-campus panel discussions and symposia, and provide provenance research training in annual summer clinics on the University of Denver campus. Longer-term, DU will become the premier academic center for provenance research and cultural property studies in the United States.

The need for this training will likely become more acute in the future, as the generation of collectors who acquired pieces in the postwar years is poised to bequeath assets to museums. Institutions in the U.S. also may face additional pressure to carry out this research as a result of a law signed by President Obama in December 2016, the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act, aimed at facilitating restitution claims.

In alignment with DU IMPACT 2025, our vision for ACE is to provide problem- and issue-based research that builds knowledge bridges and fosters intellectual exchange, while also having a practical, tangible impact on professionals working in art museums and the art trade. Through on-campus lectures and panel discussions, we will welcome the broader Denver community to learn about legal and ethical dimensions of art restitution and stewardship issues. Through potential partnerships with local museums, such as the Denver Art Museum and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, we will help make DU "an anchor institution" in the Rocky Mountain region and the West.