Prof. Dr. Meike Hopp is professor for Digital Provenance Research at the Technische Universität Berlin. Since December 2019 she is an Associate Member of the Einstein Center Digital Future (ECDF). The researcher strengthens Prof. Dr. Bénédicte Savoy's Department of Modern Art History.
"In art history, and especially in provenance research, we are dealing with ever larger and more diverse volumes of data – data from the institutions holding cultural assets themselves, but also from the art trade or context research. Nevertheless, there are hardly any generally accepted standards for how the provenance of objects is documented and archived. Museums and researchers often choose their own paths, depending on the available infrastructure. Although there are standards, for example for the registration of paintings, there are no convincing, supra-regional and sustainable concepts for the recording of provenance or metadata that can be relevant to the origin of an object," says the art historian.
Although technical norms do exist, for instance to prove the authenticity of a work, but where the work comes from, who acquired it in the course of its existence, when and under what circumstances – there is hardly any documentation on this. "On the contrary: the sensitivity for the fact that this data could be relevant in the long term has only grown in recent years," says Meike Hopp. While such data is still relatively easy to assign to works of art such as paintings or sculptures, the situation is quite different for drawings, prints, or even arts and crafts. There, the provenance can often no longer be determined at all. Research therefore needs more data on the relocation of works of art or data from the inventory books of museums. The researcher sees one of her most important tasks in developing as generally valid standards as possible for the collection of object data. "In addition, however, I am also concerned with the prioritization and classification of data. Only from a scientific point of view can we classify how context or provenance research must be documented so that these data can subsequently be widely used. It is also a matter of professionalising the transfer of knowledge and data exchange between researchers, museums and dealers.
For Meike Hopp, the current political debates on the restitution of works of art in particular prove the importance of establishing universally valid documentation standards: "I assume that in the foreseeable future public institutions will increasingly be obliged to make access data and inventory books public. This transparency makes sense and facilitates efficient research. To achieve this, we need standards for digitisation so that science can use these data in a targeted manner," says the 37-year-old.
With her research topic, the researcher, who has so far been based in Munich, feels she is in good hands at the TU Berlin: "In terms of content, for example, my topics are closely linked to Bénédicte Savoy's translocations project or the Forum Art and Market, which is also anchored at the institute. Cultural assets are still being relocated again and again today for a wide variety of reasons, whether legal or illegal. In order to visualize this relocation and make it tangible, comparable digital data is needed. My expertise serves, among other things, to define which data is needed." As far as the technological side of her work is concerned, the scientist is particularly looking forward to the many opportunities for cooperation with the many digitization experts at the TU Berlin and the Einstein Center Digital Future.
Meike Hopp studied art history, theatre studies and classical archaeology at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, where she received her doctorate in 2012 on the subject of "Art Trade under National Socialism". Since 2009, she has led various projects in the field of provenance research, including the project "Rudolf von Alt (1812-1905). Watercolours and Drawings" from 2011 to 2013, and has worked on various exhibition and catalogue projects, such as "The Year 1938: Art Life under National Socialism" at the Jewish Museum, Frankfurt am Main (2013), or "Inventory Gurlitt" at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn and the Kunstmuseum Bern (2017). In the winter semester 2013/14 she was a lecturer for provenance research at the Department of Art Studies at the University of Munich. Hopp is a research assistant at the Central Institute for Art History, Munich. Since 2018 she has been chairperson of the Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung e.V. (kj)