Hunt Museum Press Release: Hunt Museum takes action to examine Centre Simon Wiesenthal allegations about the Hunt Collection

The Board of the Hunt Museum is to take steps to make its archive accessible and to examine allegations made by Centre Simon Wiesenthal about the origins of some items in the Hunt Collection. The process is being launched immediately. It is the Museum's objective to resolve the issues raised by the Centre Simon Wiesenthal as efficiently as possible in a spirit of co-operation and professionalism. In taking these actions we have acknowledge the full support of John and Trudy Hunt.

A letter from Centre Simon Wiesenthal initially sent to President McAleese dated January 26th 2004 contained allegations about business activities and associates of John and Gertrude Hunt and about the provenance of the Hunt Collection.

Specifically, the letter requests that the 'entire holdings of the Hunt Collection be placed on the internet' and 'that an independent investigation be held into the role of John and Gertrude Hunt, in relation to looted Nazi art, during the Second World War'. The letter was initially referred by the President to the Department of the Taoiseach and subsequently referred to Mr John O'Donoghue TD, Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, who has requested that the Museum takes 'action to satisfy itself in regard to the allegations made in the letter in so far as they relate to the collections'.

To facilitate increased access to information about the Collection the Board of the Museum decided at a special meeting on February 13th 2004:

- That existing catalogue information on individual objects on display in the Hunt Museum be placed on the on the Museum's website;

- That a professionally qualified archivist, who is a member of a recognised professional archival association, compile a detailed list of the archive contained in the Museum. This person will be nominated by a professional archival association;

- That the Museum establishes an independent review group to address the issues outlined by the Centre Wiesenthal in their letter to President McAleese in so far as they relate to the collection housed in the Hunt Museum. The review group would co-operate with ICOM [International Council of Museums] to decide on the most appropriate person or body to carry out the detailed investigative work that will be required to satisfy the Minister's request to the Museum.

It is planned that the group will present a completed report to the Hunt Museums Trust and Hunt Museums Ltd. as quickly as possible after its establishment. The completed report will be referred to Mr. John O'Donoghue, TD, Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism.

The members of the Review Group will comprise:

- A senior judge
- A senior member of the academic community
- A museum professional from outside Ireland

The Museum hopes to be in a position to announce the names of all those associated with the preparation of the detailed archive and the investigation of the provenance of the Collection within the next week.

Commenting on the Board's decisions the Chairman, George Stacpoole said, "This obviously a very difficult time for the Hunt Museum and the Hunt family. It is causing great distress to the Hunt family, the management and staff of the Museum and to the large number of voluntary workers who are so essential to its success. On the other hand, the Centre Simon Wiesenthal is a respected international organisation whose concerns must be given serious consideration by the Museum. The Board, therefore, considered it appropriate to set in train a comprehensive and independent process for dealing with the allegations made by the Centre."

The Hunt Collection is a collection of international standing. It reflects the tastes and interests of the two people who formed it, John and Gertrude Hunt. The collection of over 2,000 objects was assembled over their lifetime with each object being chosen according to the quality of design, craftsmanship and artistic merit. The Hunts recognised the educational, artistic and historical value of their collection and wished it would remain intact and be exhibited for public viewing and study as a collection. The generosity of John and Gertrude Hunt and their children John and Trudy Hunt to the people of Ireland is very significant and is fully acknowledged here. Their gifts have ensured that audiences in Ireland and abroad have access to an internationally acclaimed collection of antiquities and fine and decorative art.

Virginia Teehan

Issue date: 13th February 2004

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