Provenance – tracking the origin, ownership, transfer, and movement of objects – has become somewhat more visible in recent years, spurred on by the restitution of Nazi spoliated artworks and lately human remains and cultural heritage translocated during the colonial era. But rich provenance data is relevant within a wider a range of contexts and for a plurality of audiences where there is a desire to connect with objects, histories, cultures and associated people of all kinds. Through the work of the Smithsonian Provenance Research Initiative Jane Milosch and Nick Pearce have been engaging with provenance from this broad range of perspectives which has resulted in a new book: Collecting and Provenance: A Multidisciplinary Approach, the aim of which is to present provenance as an integral part of collecting history, illuminating the social, economic, and historic contexts in which objects were created and collected. They argue that provenance relates to the history of people as well as objects and its study can reveal an often-intricate network of relationships, patterns of activity, and motivations across a range of disciplinary perspectives.
Nick Pearce holds the Richmond Chair of Fine Art at the University of Glasgow, where he specializes in the arts of China. He joined the University of Glasgow in 1998 where he has held the positions of Head of History of Art and Head of the School of Culture and Creative Arts and is currently a Smithsonian Research Associate. His research interests include photographers and photography in late nineteenth-century China and aspects of the collecting of Chinese art in the West during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. His most recent publications include: “From the Summer Palace 1860: Provenance and Politics,” in L. Tythacott (ed.), Collecting and Displaying China’s “Summer Palace” in the West: The Yuanmingyuan in Britain and France (2018).
Jane C. Milosch, Director of the Provenance Research Exchange Program (PREP) at the Smithsonian Institution, is the founder and former director of the Smithsonian Provenance Research Initiative, where she oversaw WWII–era provenance research projects and advised on international cultural heritage projects, provenance, and training programmes. In 2014, Milosch was appointed the US representative to Germany’s International “Schwabing Art Trove” Task Force Advisory Group. Milosch is currently an honorary professor in the School of Culture and Creative Arts, University of Glasgow.