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History of the collection

Even before the museum’s formal inauguration on 17 October 1891, a civil servant had been appointed in 1889 who was to relieve the collections—soon to be united in a single building—of administrative tasks. The records of this newly established administrative unit, which was an external bureau of the office of the grand master of the imperial court (Oberstkämmereramt), have remained in the museum and continue today to form the nucleus of its archives. The largest part of other documents relating to the museum from the grand master’s office, which oversaw Kunsthistorisches Museum until the fall of the Habsburg monarchy, was subsequently deposited in the Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv. Other holdings were transferred to the education ministry, under the authority of which the museum was placed in 1919.

The files of the administrative office were separated out by Erwin M. Auer, who from 1949 was director of the library and later director of the museum in the years 1968–72, and in 1968 placed in premises of their own. Here too were deposited building plans, photographs, bequests and other documents relating to the museum that Auer had gathered together. Auer was supported in his work from 1959 by Georg J. Kugler, who assumed direction of the library in 1973. Those portions of the archive that had been assigned to the library were supervised by Herbert Haupt and supplemented by documents relating to the evacuation of artworks during World War II and personnel records.

In 1983 the Museum of Austrian Culture was separated from the Kunsthistorisches Museum Group. A part of the premises that became vacant thereby in the Neue Burg was set aside to house the archive, which Herbert Haupt was appointed to direct. The archive was established as an independent department by unanimous resolution of the directors of the museum collections and the decision of the Federal Minister for Science and Research of 4 June 1986. Finally, the archive was given the status of a museum collection, KHM’s twelfth, by the Museum Statute of Kunsthistorisches Museum (Federal Gazette II 463/1998), which entered force on 1 January 1999. The museum archive was included in the Federal Archive Act (Federal Gazette I 162/1999) that became law on 1 January 2000.

Herbert Haupt headed the archive from 1989 through 2009. During his tenure as director Haupt continued research initiated by Alphons Lhotsky into the history of Kunsthistorisches Museum and resumed the series of editions of source materials and document summaries in the Jahrbuch des Kunsthistorischen Museums. Haupt introduced and promoted in-house provenance research. This extensive scholarly activity was reflected in numerous publications and the study of new holdings that were regularly added to the collections. Haupt also succeeded in enlarging the archives’ premises.

Since mid-2009 Franz Pichorner, deputy director general and secretary general of Kunsthistorisches Museum, has acted as director of the museum archives and is responsible for matters related to provenance.

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