Provenance Research

Provenance research is integral to the responsible stewardship of objects in our care.  The history of ownership tells the life story of an object, helping to establish certain facts such as authenticity, context of use, and cultural significance. It is also an important tool in addressing unethical historical collecting practices. Researching an object’s provenance can reveal if the museum has the legal and ethical right to hold that object in its collection, while also identifying relevant cultural and community groups with whom the museum can collaborate. 

While the aim of provenance research is to fully trace the history of ownership from the moment of creation to the present, gaps in provenance are normal and expected. The longer an object’s life, the harder it is to trace its full history. However, new facts and sources are continually coming to light that add to and sometimes contradicts our existing knowledge about the provenance of objects in our collection. Provenance research is an ongoing process that is never truly “finished”. 

The Carlos is proactive in our approach to ownership resolution. Through the course of our research, if we find reason to believe that an object was looted from its original context or changed hands illegally or unethically, the Carlos takes immediate steps to rectify the situation and determine rightful ownership. We respond promptly to claims brought forward by the United States government, federally recognized Native American Tribes, and national governments of foreign countries. In both circumstances, we work with governmental agencies and potential claimants to resolve ownership claims in an appropriate, equitable, and fair manner that is satisfactory to all parties involved.


Provenance Research:

Recent Repatriations

Den of Antiquity

A monthly blog by Carlos Museum Provenance Researcher, Annie Shanley. Each month, she will share insight into the meticulous process of provenance research, the complexities of repatriation, and the fascinating stories behind the objects in the Carlos Museum's permanent collections.