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Definition

Principle of respect des fonds (Provenance)

This principle, described in relation to archival collections, is also applicable to architectural fragment collections, and the assessment of original context and construction.

The Getty Research Institute defines the respect des fonds or provenance, noting:

"… It is the formal expression of the principle that an archivist must respect, and reflects the origins of the assembled materials as an integral and organic corpus of documentation.…

"…Respect des fonds/Provenance provides the cultural context in which the records become intelligible.  It also serves as the basis for authenticating and assuring the reliability of the contents of the records…

Principle of respect des fonds/Provenance in Introduction to Archival Organization and Description:Access to Cultural Heritage, Getty Research Institute

"Contents, fixtures and objects which contribute to the cultural significance of a place should be retained at that place. Their removal is unacceptable unless it is: the sole means of ensuring their security and preservation; on a temporary basis for treatment or exhibition; for cultural reasons; for health and safety; or to protect the place. Such contents, fixtures and objects should be returned where circumstances permit and it is culturally appropriate."

Article 10, Australia ICOMOS Burra Charter, 1999, Australia ICOMOS

"While having an artifact in the collection is a good start, there is so much more that needs to be done to ensure that museums are not collecting for merely a collection’s sake.

"All too often there have been occasions when a curator kept information in his head instead of putting it in writing, and that information was forever lost when the curator left his position. Having never created a record that addresses the ownership or lineage of an artifact results in irreparable loss of information, if anything should ever happen to the curator. It also creates work for future curators and researchers, and may render the worth of an artifact nil if there is no history."

Bailey, Michael. Artifact information important to help preserve true history. Brazoria County Historical Museum, Angleton, Texas, Newsletter, April 2002.

Resources

Provenance Index Database, Getty Research Institute

The Provenance Index Databases contain information related to the history of collecting and the provenance of individual works of art, primarily Western European paintings. Indexed transcriptions of sales catalogs, archival documents, and museum files are contained within, and serve as primary source material for establishing history of ownership.

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