Provenance Research

Museums are repositories of cultural stories and the history of creativity. The Denver Art Museum is committed to ethical collecting practices, and adheres to the collecting and acquisitions guidelines from the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). Provenance research is part of the museum’s overall mission to collect, preserve and present artworks and exemplary educational programming to communities across metro Denver and the Rocky Mountain West. 

Provenance at the Denver Art Museum

"Provenance" is information about an artwork’s history of ownership. We can learn a lot about an artwork and the context in which it was created, as well as changes of taste in collecting, by researching and studying its provenance. This is an important aspect of curatorial practice - learning more about the origin of artworks and the artists who created them.

Denver Art Museum curatorial staff conducts provenance research on proposed acquisitions, as well as artworks in the permanent collection. This work into its collections happens on an ongoing basis, and this process is methodical and fact based. The Denver Art Museum is committed to ethical collecting practices, and to the ongoing process of provenance research by incorporating this work into its strategic plans.

Provenance Queries

The process of provenance research requires time and may include: archival research, online/library research, posting information, and queries in online forums such as the AAMD Object Database or Digital Benin, as well as review for next steps with the museum’s cross-departmental Provenance Committee. DAM is committed to and has a track record of returning artworks found to have been sold or gifted to the museum by individuals who were not the rightful owners. In these cases, the works are returned to the rightful owners (individuals, nations or peoples).

As expected with objects dating back several generations, artworks in our collections may have gaps in their provenance. To contribute to the knowledge around the history of ownership of an artwork/s in the museum’s collection, or to submit a query, the museum invites community members, colleagues or members of the public to send an email to provenance@denverartmuseum.org.