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Database of Art Claims Filed with the United States by 1956


The Records:


In 1956, Ardelia Hall, the Arts Advisor of the United States Department of State, undertook the enormous task of consolidating claims for identifiable art and cultural property that had been presented to the U.S. military governments for Germany and Austria. 


There are two groups of claims, one from 1951 and the other from 1956.  The 1951 report was Hall’s attempt to create a master-file of claims; the 1956 report was an update of the earlier effort.  Claims that were dropped, closed, or settled between 1951 and 1956 do not appear in the 1956 list. 


Hall organized and microfilmed the 1956 series of claims files and sent the film to the Federal Republic of Germany as well as to several other nations.  The State Department’s Arts Advisor’s office was shutdown shortly after the 1956 report was compiled.


The Presidential Commission set out to complete the historical record on Hall’s work and U.S. government efforts to effect restitution of looted art and cultural property.  The Commission’s goal is to make these rarely consulted records compiled nearly half a century ago by Ardelia Hall available in a computer searchable format to the widest possible audience.


The staff of the Presidential Commission reviewed the microfilm and entered information from all legible claims for paintings, drawings, sculptures and tapestries into a database.  The level of detail varies from claim to claim, but each entry has most of the following information: artist name, name of object/artwork, description of the object, nature and dimensions of object, owner (and any other provenance information), claimant nation, claim number, names of any dealers involved, publishing references, as well as comments from Ardelia Hall about the claim.  The database does not include information on non-unique objects like furniture, jewelry, porcelain figures, books or other cultural property for which information is not specific enough to facilitate identification.  It also does not contain generic claim information (i.e. for “a painting,” “a drawing,” etc.). 


The National Archives and Records Administration facility in College Park, Maryland has the entire body of claims on 35 reels of microfilm representing more than 8,000 pages and 2,600 claims.  The 1956 claims come from Argentina, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Palestine, Poland, Roumania, Switzerland, the United States, the U.S.S.R., and Yugoslavia.   


At NARA, the microfilm is stored in two parts:


For further reference, contact the National Archives at


An index for the claims on microfilm is on file in the Textual Records room at NARA2 (See Record Group 59, Entry 3104A, Lot 62D-4, Box 21).


The Database of Claims for Unique Art Objects:


Uses of the Database: The database is searchable by category including, but not limited to, artist name, title of work, and name or country of origin of the claimant.  After selecting one of the viewing options below, the database can be searched using the Find function.