Friday, 21 November 2014

#UKRGTower : AGM and 'In the News'

Many of us will recall the astonishing reports that appeared in November 2013, concerning an ‘unknown’ art collection that had been ‘found’ during a search of an unremarkable 5th floor apartment in a suburb of Munich.  The apartment was home to a reclusive Cornelius Gurlitt, whose existence had barely registered with the German authorities.  Yet along with his hoard of food and other possessions were some 1400 works by Picasso, Matisse, Chagall and other notable 19th/20thC artists (with an additional 238 works stored in his house in Salzburg).  Alarm bells immediately rang, had these artworks been looted or confiscated during WWII?  Their value was estimated as at least one billion Euros. 

While sensational stories about Gurlitt’s lifestyle and the value of the ‘hoard’ occupied much of the news media at the time, it is now the complex legal and ethical debates which keep this story very much in the news today.  The UKRG welcomed Alexander Herman from the Institute of Art and Law to outline the history of the case (no element of which is without complication) and bring us right up to date, in anticipation of a key decision at the end of this month.
In 2010 Cornelius Gurlitt was stopped, and found to have 9000 (undeclared) Euros in his pocket. This led to a customs police search of his home in February 2012, at which point a ‘hoard’ of artworks was discovered and subsequently seized.  News of the find and behind-the-scenes investigations were kept from the public until stories began to creep into the press during late 2013.  Cornelius Gurlitt himself died in May 2014, having reached an agreement to cooperate with the authorities in the return of any Nazi war-looted works from the ‘hoard’. However there was a final twist to the tale in that Cornelius had willed his entire collection to the Kunstmuseum Bern, an institution with which he had no previous known connection.

Following the seizure of his collection in 2012, a taskforce had been established to investigate the provenance of the works Cornelius had inherited from his father, Hildebrand Gurlitt. Prior to the war Hildebrand (who had Jewish ancestry), had been dismissed from the directorship of the Zwickau Museum and had taken up as an art dealer, becoming involved in the purchase of artworks from their Jewish owners, often before they fled Germany.  He also became one of four ‘approved’ dealers for the planned F├╝hrermuseum in Linz, who could purchase and sell-on so-called ‘degenerate art’ seized by the Nazi state.  It seems that Hildebrand did not always sell on the works, as much of the ‘hoard’ was made up of listed ‘degenerate art’ works. 

Alex concluded by outlining the key considerations in this case:

·        Why the hoard wasn’t ‘discovered’ before 2012 as works from it had been lent within Germany and also to the USA during the 1950s?

·        Had the German authorities acted correctly given that Gurlitt was originally only suspected of a customs violation? Did the authorities have the right to seize his property and to hold it for nearly 2 years?

·        Can or should the son be held guilty for any alleged crimes of his father? Could it actually be proven that his father had committed any crime?

·        Under German law, even if an object is stolen, the limitation period of 30 years starts to run, thus favouring the possessor rather than any claimant. The Bavarian Government tried to amend the law so that ‘lost’ property would not be covered, so long as the property had not been acquired in good faith. However would heirs to the original owners be able to demonstrate that Cornelius Gurlitt did not own the works in good faith? Was Gurlitt aware of his father’s past associations as he was only 12 when the war ended? It is almost impossible to prove the lack of good faith or, given Hildebrand’s actions, how the works came to be taken.

·        Gurlitt had said he would give works back to any rightful heirs, so why change the law? But this also gives rise to issues around the burden of proof, how would heirs demonstrate a rightful claim? Were the works ‘stolen’ or rather were they sold under duress? It may be helpful to enact a presumption that any sales were involuntary unless Gurlitt was able to prove the sale was completed under free will (almost equally impossible to prove).

·        Will works be returned to rightful heirs by the taskforce (following the agreement with Gurlitt) and the remainder given as the Gurlitt Bequest to the Kunstmuseum Bern?

·        Is this a dream gift or a nightmare for the museum? The museum will need to account for the provenance of 1600 works of art and they have only 6 months to decide whether to accept the gift or not. A gift cannot, it seems, be varied under German law – so they cannot pick and choose – it is a case of accepting all or nothing.
The Kunstmuseum has to decide whether to accept or decline the Gurlitt bequest by November 26th

Written by Ann Chumbley

Please see the event reports section of the UKRG website for an actual copy of the presentation provided by the speaker for this event. 


#UKRGTower : AGM and 'In the News'

Naomi Korn (IP Consultant and Chair, Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance)

Naomi Korn gave an extremely interesting and useful talk on some of the latest copyright developments that will no doubt have a direct impact at various points for all of us working in the heritage and arts sectors.

Firstly Naomi discussed what to look out for when thinking of publishing something within your collection. To illustrate her point she used the example of a diary written during WWI by Ethel M. Bilbrough, recently published by the Imperial War Museum.
Although the Imperial War Museum owns the diary, they do not own copyright. In this case it passed to Ethel’s husband to whom she had bequeathed her belongings, despite it not being explicitly mentioned in the will. When he passed away the rights passed to someone else, and so on, until they eventually managed to trace the person with whom the copyright currently sits and were able to gain permission to publish.

The diary also includes many newspaper clippings, images etc, also needing separate copyright permissions.  This highlighted the need to be vigilant when dealing with something that contains multiple sources and to always treat them as individual works within their own right.

Naomi also looked at the new government licensing scheme which allows you to apply for a seven year licence from the Intellectual Property Office for a fee, which includes an admin and licence charge. She also alerted us to the fact that it would be necessary to ensure that due diligence was carried out.

In addition, the talk gave an overview of some of the recent changes in copyright law which offer exceptions to copyright for non-commercial use. These appear to be particularly useful to the heritage sector as they will enable us to allow further access to collections and to be able to enrich education materials.

To name a few, the exceptions included; the right to make one digital copy available to anyone, from a dedicated terminal; the right to use unacknowledged quotes to illustrate points, e.g. in a presentation; the right to use copies for educational use; the right to make preservation copies, for example, transferring film from VHS to DVD.

For further information regarding copyright law and news on changes to the law, Naomi recommended the following associations.

CILIP– Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals

LACA – the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance

Georgia Grant
Royal Armouries

Please see the event reports section of the UKRG website for an actual copy of the presentation provided by the speaker for this event. 

#UKRGTower : AGM and 'In the News'

UKRG AGM and 'In the News'
The Banqueting Suite, The New Armouries, Tower of London, London
Thursday 6 November 2014

On 6 November, members of the UKRG met in the impressive surroundings of the Tower of London for the 2014 AGM.  Jane Knowles, Chair of the UKRG Committee, started off proceedings with a summary of the Committee's activities and objectives for the year 2013/2014. In the last twelve months, the Committee has raised the profile of the UKRG on an international scale by representing the group at the Australasian Registrars Conference in Brisbane in March 2014 and the European Registrars Conference held in Helsinki in June 2014. The Committee has also strengthened links to organisations closer to home, including the Collections Trust and Arts Council England. A new student membership package has also been introduced to encourage the next generation of Registrars to engage with current hot topics of interest at our events and gain access to our network of contacts and resources. One such hot topic of interest included the UKRG Constitution – reviewed and revised by the Committee over the last two years. Alice Rymill did a great job of providing a brief summary of the main changes to the Constitution; namely the important amendment to the Definition of an individual member according to the Constitution – clarifying the position of our colleagues in the commercial sector – and a more in-depth look at the different membership opportunities. A vote to adopt these revisions to the Constitution was carried by the Membership. The new and improved Constitution will be up on the website very soon.

Reports from the rest of the Committee revealed a new series of Corporate packages, the addition of 2 new Corporate members (bringing the total to 24), more regular meetings with the Corporates, 64 new individual members (bringing the total to 344), improvements to the UKRG website and an increased social media presence to encourage existing and prospective members to share opinions and ideas and engage in debate. The Treasurer's report reflected a healthy current balance of funds and the Events Officers reminded us of the excellent events Members have attended in the last twelve months.

As a previous Committee member, I appreciate the time and energy that goes in to managing the Membership, maintaining the website, balancing the books and keeping the events stimulating, engaging and interesting. So, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the Committee for twelve months' hard work!

The Tower of London: A Joint Venture in Collections Management
Rebecca Wallace, Registrar at Historic Royal Palaces and Laura Walsh, Registrar at the Royal Armouries

Taking on the newly created post of Registrar for Historic Royal Palaces with gusto, Rebecca Wallace informed members of plans to centralise the collection (currently spread across 90 stores) and develop the collections management systems. All with just three permanent Collections Care staff to assist her! (Go Rebecca!)

As a major Lender to many of Historic Royal Palaces' buildings, including the venue for the day, Laura Walsh from the Royal Armouries joined Rebecca to outline the successes and challenges of Partnership working. Laura emphasised the importance of a carefully drafted Memorandum Of Understanding and bi-monthly planning meetings to share the responsibilities associated with these loans – such as joint salvage plans, care and maintenance and exhibitions – between the two organisations. Rebecca and Laura reflected that good communion and strong working relationships are, of course, also key; as well as a careful management of key stakeholders from both organisations, namely press, marketing and interpretation.

The Gurlitt Affair: Some Thoughts on the Legal Issues
Alexander Herman, Institute of Art and Law

Expert talks from the Institute of Art and Law never fail to absorb and engage UKRG members – and this session from Alexander Herman on Cornelius Gurlitt and the Munich Art Trove didn't disappoint!

Members were captivated by Alexander's account of the 1700+ artworks stashed in Gurlitt's apartments in Schwabing and Salzburg, the subsequent seizure of works by the German authorities, the questions raised by this discovery and the inevitable 'What happens next?' following the owner's recent death and the ticking time bomb that is Gurlitt's bequest to the Kunstmuseum. Alexander considered, Why did it take so long for the trove to be discovered? Why did it take so long for the authorities to investigate? Is the son guilty for the father's sins? Is it possible to demonstrate an absence of good faith in Cornelius Gurlitt? Faced with the prospect of being offered these works as a bequest, how would the Kunstmuseum deal with the task of completing due diligence for over 1700 'lost' works, whether they've been looted, confiscated or purchased through a forced sale during the Second World War?

We'll just have to wait until 26 November to find out the Kunstmuseum's position on this tricky ethical and legal issue.

Latest copyright developments: new exceptions and orphan works
Naomi Korn, IP Consultant and Chair of the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance

The third and final instalment of the afternoon came from Naomi Corn, IP Consultant and Chair of the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance and delved into the complex and intricate subject of copyright.

Naomi described a current project she's been working on as a consultant working with the Imperial War Museum on an unpublished text in their collection – Ethel Bilborough's (?) diary, written during the Second World War. Through their efforts to publish the diary, Naomi followed a copyright trail leading from the author's widow to the niece of the author's widow's second wife(!); demonstrating that obtaining the copyright of unpublished texts is no easy task! As the text also included illustrations by third parties, Naomi was also faced with tackling the difficult issue of unpublished 'orphan works' – where copyright owners are unknown or untraceable. Issues concerning orphan works are considered under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, which came into force in 1989; meaning that these works will be in copyright until 2039 at the earliest, regardless of how old the work is. This is particularly pertinent to Museums, Libraries and Archives, where much of the collection is unpublished. Where permission from the copyright holder cannot be obtained, licencing and reproduction rights can be requested from the Intellectual Property Office. Naomi encouraged Members to sign the petition organised by The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP)'s Free Our History campaign ' calling on the UK Government to reduce the term of copyright protection in certain unpublished works from 31 December 2039 to the author's lifetime plus 70 years, as per provisions laid out in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act (ERRA) 2013.
Naomi's talk was followed by an opportunity to attend the roll of honour and hear The Last Post in the moat of the Tower. Surrounded by the beautiful  888,241 ceramic poppies making up Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red by Paul Cummins, this proved to be a poignant and moving experience to round off a thought-provoking and engaging afternoon.

Lucy Clarke

Loans Officer, National Museums Scotland

Please see the event reports section of the UKRG website for an actual copy of the presentation provided by the speaker for this event.