The National Museum in Gdansk has been conducting investigations into its wartime losses for many years. The first attempts at the estimation of their volume were undertaken soon after the discontinuation of wartime operations. The inventory of the surviving historical objects drawn up together with the last director of the museum, Willi Drost, in June 1945, in combination with the partially surviving inventory documentation and lists of works of art evacuated outside of Gdansk during the last years of the war, allowed the preparation of a list of wartime losses. In view of considerable gaps in prewar documentation, only an estimation of the volume of the losses was possible – from just 40 to 60% of the collections gathered before 1945 have managed to survive in the particular departments of the museum. Owing to the examination of the losses of the Gdansk facility conducted in the first postwar years, the revindication actions were considerably successful. In 1956, as a part of the revindication of historical works of Polish art from the USRR (from the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg and the Pushkin Museum in Moscow), about 4,700 objects returned to the then-Pomeranian Museum in Gdansk, including 141 paintings, 50 sculptures and more than 4500 drawings and prints. In October 1961, a collection of historical textiles from the prewar collection of the Gdansk museum was passed on from East Germany. Almost 50 years later, in 2010, a further seven works were revindicated from Berlin: five paintings (Anton Möller’s Alegoria pięciu zmysłów (Scena w gospodzie) [Allegory of Five Senses (A Scene at the Inn)], Daniel Schultz’s Lis przy winogronach [A Fox by the Grapes], Johann Carl Schultz’s Portret zbiorowy rodziny malarza [Collective Portrait of the Artist’s Family], Otto Brausewetter’s Wieczorne spotkanie malarzy w domu Stoddarta [An Evening Meeting of Painters at Stoddart’s], and Friedrich Hildebrandt’s Rybacy na brzegu [Fishermen on the Shore]), as well as an intarsia depicting Herakles zabijający centaura Nessosa [Heracles Killing Centaur Nessos] by an unknown artist from the 18th century, and Ernesto de Fiori’s sculpture Stojący młodzieniec [Standing Young Man].
The exhibition Europejskie Dziedzictwo Rozproszone [European Dispersed Heritage], organised in 1992 at the Museum of the History of the City of Gdansk, aimed at picturing the scale of wartime destruction to the cultural heritage of Gdansk, was an opportunity to present selected lost works from the collection of Stadt- und Kunstgewerbemuseum. It was accompanied by a catalogue including photographs of the lost works of various art genres: painting, sculpture, goldsmithery, ceramics and textiles.
Long-term investigations into the wartime losses bore fruit in the form of a series of publications. Kalina Zabuska’s three-volume study concerning losses to Jacob Kabrun’s collection of prints, which was a part of the museum’s prewar collections, was published in 2000 as the first of these. The lost drawings from this collection were published in the subsequent fourth volume edited by Grażyna Zinówko, in 2006. 2005 witnessed the commencement of the publication of a series of works presenting the results of research conducted by employees of the National Museum in Gdansk into the losses incurred by the other collections of the City Museum and Decorative Arts Museum. At the time, two volumes were published: volume I concerning the collections of paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture, edited by Krystyna Górecka Petrajtis, Zbigniew Massowa, Kalina Zabuska and Grażyna Zinówko, and volume II covering furniture, amber and metal objects, edited by Czesława Betlejewska and Barbara Tuchołka-Włodarska. In 2007, volume three of the series, written by Elżbieta Kilarska and devoted to the prewar collection of ceramics, was published.
As of 2015, the National Museum in Gdansk has been continuing investigations into the wartime losses as a part of projects co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. This has enabled taking into account in research the precious iconographic source – the photographic material surviving in the museum: glass negatives, prints and films. The digitalisation of the collection of glass negatives allowed, inter alia, the verification and supplementation of information about the prewar collection of paintings in Stadtmuseum and the identification of further lost paintings. The results of research conducted by Helena Kowalska were published in 2017 as a part of the ministerial programme “Investigation of Polish Wartime Losses”, initiating a sequence of museum publications from the Seria Nowa series devoted to the lost works of art from the collections of the City Museum and the Decorative Arts Museum in Gdansk.
Europejskie Dziedzictwo Rozproszone, Gdańsk 1992; Europejskie Dziedzictwo Rozproszone, 2nd issue – supplemented and corrected, Gdańsk 1993;
Straty wojenne. Kolekcja Jacoba Kabruna, vol. 1. Ryciny. Historia i dokumentacja, vol. 2. Ryciny. Katalog, vol. 3. Ryciny. Ilustracje, scientific edition Jolanta Talbierska, ed. Kalina Zabuska, Polskie Dziedzictwo Kulturalne. Seria A: Straty Kultury Polskiej, Poznań: Ministerstwo Kultury i Sztuki, Biuro Pełnomocnika Rządu do spraw Polskiego Dziedzictwa Kulturalnego za Granicą 2000
Straty wojenne. Kolekcja Jacoba Kabruna, vol. 4. Rysunki, scientific ed. Jolanta Talbierska, ed. Grażyna Zinówko, Polskie Dziedzictwo Kulturalne. Seria A: Straty Kultury Polskiej, Poznań: Ministerstwo Kultury i Dziedzictwa Narodowego, Departament do spraw Polskiego Dziedzictwa Kulturalnego za Granicą 2006
Straty wojenne Muzeum Miejskiego i Muzeum Rzemiosł Artystycznych w Gdańsku, vol. I: Straty w dziedzinie sztuki: malarstwa, rysunku, grafiki, rzeźby, eds. Krystyna Górecka-Petrajtis, Grażyna Zinówko, Kalina Zabuska, Zbigniew Massowa, Gdańsk 2005;
Straty wojenne Muzeum Miejskiego i Muzeum Rzemiosł Artystycznych w Gdańsku, vol. II: Straty w dziedzinie rzemiosła artystycznego: meble, bursztyny, metale, eds. Barbara Tuchołka-Włodarska, Czesława Betlejewska, Gdańsk 2005;
Straty wojenne Muzeum Miejskiego i Muzeum Rzemiosł Artystycznych w Gdańsku, vol. III: Straty w dziedzinie ceramiki, ed. Elżbieta Kilarska, Gdańsk 2007;
“Straty odzyskane”, Helena Kowalska, Lech Łopuski, Magdalena Mielnik, in: Cenne. Bezcenne. Utracone, 2012.
Helena Kowalska, Straty wojenne Muzeum Miejskiego (Stadtmuseum) w Gdańsku. Seria Nowa, vol.1. Malarstwo, Gdańsk 2017.