Results of investigations into wartime losses, conducted by employees of the National Museum in Gdansk, have been published consistently since 2000. The first to be issued was Kalina Zabuska’s three-volume work devoted to prints from Kabrun’s collection. Published in 2006, volume four, edited by Grażyna Zinówko, focused on wartime losses in the area of drawings from Kabrun’s collection, and was a continuation of the series. Another separate series of publications was issued in 2005 – volume one was devoted to the collections of paintings, prints and sculpture, and was prepared by Krystyna Górecka-Petrajtis, Zbigniew Massowa, Kalina Zabuska and Grażyna Zinówko, while volume two covered furniture, amber and metals, and was edited by Czesława Betlejewska and Barbara Tuchołka-Włodarska. In 2007, Elżbieta Kilarska published the results of her research into the losses in the field of ceramics. These were preliminary results calling for further elaboration and supplementation; also, they did not take into account the inventory of glass negatives as a source.
Owing to projects financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the National Museum in Gdansk considerably extended its scope of investigations into wartime losses. “The project of digitalisation of the collections of the National Museum in Gdansk – glass negatives” ran in 2015 as a part of the programme “Kultura +”, enabled the digitalisation of 1,000 glass negatives dating to different periods of the City Museum’s history. The process of digitalisation was preceded by conservation – the plates were professionally cleaned, and once all scans were made and the positives acquired, all the photographs were catalogued in detail from the point of view of their substance. The thus obtained photographic material was a very important archival source for the research and identification of the lost paintings from the collections of the City Museum in Gdansk (Stadtmuseum Danzig) carried out by curator Helena Kowalska. The results of her research were published in 2017 in the book Straty wojenne Muzeum Miejskiego (Stadtmuseum) w Gdańsku, Seria Nowa, vol. 1: Malarstwo as a part of the ministerial programme “Investigation of Polish wartime losses”. In 2017, as a part of the same programme of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, further digitalisation was performed – this time it concerned 700 glass negatives made before 1939. In the subsequent edition of the programme in 2018, the National Museum in Gdansk carried out two projects. The first one – “Wartime losses of the National Museum in Gdansk– digitalisation of negatives” – was a continuation of the measures carried out in 2015 and 2017 and encompassed the digitalisation of 1,400 prewar negatives on photographic films originating from the City Museum (Stadtmuseum) in Gdansk. The second – “Investigation of wartime losses of the National Museum in Gdansk. Stage I – search queries and cataloguing” – enabled the deepening of research through the exploration of resources held in German archives: the archives of the Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe and Deutsches Dokumentationszentrum für Kunstgeschichte Philipps-Universität in Marburg, as well as Berlin-based facilities: the Secret State Archives Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Zentralarchiv Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and the archives of the Fine Arts Academy and Kunstgewerbemuseum. The archival searches made it possible to collect information on the dispersed documentation necessary for research into the history of the collections and a reliable determination of the scale and scope of wartime losses of the Gdansk museum.
The above endeavours were continued as a part of the projects carried out in 2019. The first one – “Investigation of wartime losses of the National Museum in Gdansk – local search queries and cataloguing” – encompassed a search query at the State Archives in Gdansk aimed at the detailed cataloguing of its inventory containing information on 10,000 prewar glass negatives made by the staff of the City Museum (Stadtmuseum) in Gdansk between 1915 and 1944. The second project concerned the digitalisation and acquisition of digital copies of the material collected in 2018 from German archives, as well as national search queries. At the time, copies of archival materials were acquired, including primarily scans of prints kept at the photographic archives of the Herder Institute in Marburg in Willi Drost’s collection, which were developed from glass negatives before 1945. This precious collection complements the scant prewar iconographic materials surviving at the National Museum in Gdansk.
2020 marked yet another stage of the National Museum of Gdansk’s investigations into its wartime losses and provenance of its holdings. As a part of the popularisation of this topic and owing to the continuation of cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, a website was launched, on which the results of the museum’s investigations in this scope are published – both in the form of popular science texts, and specialist studies, along with texts familiarising the readers with the history of the museum, its former collections and the figures who developed them. The website contains, inter alia, a comprehensive and detailed catalogue of the inventory of the prewar glass negatives constituting the photographic documentation of the former Stadtmuseum Danzig. Available to the public is also information on their provenance (with division into the objects originating from two Gdansk institutions: the City Museum and the Decorative Arts Museum – of which the National Museum of Gdansk is a successor), in keeping with the current knowledge. The provision of various types of sources including the dispersed iconographic material in a single place, will surely allow new conclusions and the extension of research into the wartime losses of prewar Gdansk institutions.