Research

The châteaux-museums during the Second World War (2022)

from the private archives of the Count Franz Wolff Metternich

This project, to consult, photograph and write up the research on the private archives of the Count Franz Wolff Metternich, is a collaboration between the château de Versailles and the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles. It is funded by the service des musées de France of the Ministère de la Culture.

Argumentation

Inaccessible for several decades, the Private Archives of the Count Franz Wolff Metternich (1893-1978), historian and curator of the heritage of the Rhineland, have gradually become available for consultation since 2013. Deposited in the Archives of the Rhineland Nobility (Vereinigte Adelsarchive des Rheinlands e.V.), but kept at least until March 2022 at Pulheim-Brauweiler (near to Cologne) within the LVR-Archivberatungs- und Fortbildungszentrum, they comprise private documents about the life and work of its protagonist, who was also a university professor.

But they also contain the largest collection of official sources from the Second World War, coming, on the one hand, from the “Commission for the Protection of Heritage” (Kunstschutz) and the Supreme Command of the Army (OKH) including Wolff Metternich, which was responsible for them until 1943, and, on the other hand, from the group Kunstschutz within the services of Militarbefehlshaber in occupied France. As part of their activities, regional delegates - all experienced art historians and heritage curators – visited a large number of sites, in particular the châteaux-museums and national palaces of the present-day Île-de-France. During these missions, they not only produced reports and photographs, but also wrote a large number of letters to the German and French authorities (Direction des musées nationaux, Commission des monuments historiques, etc.).

This collection “Metternich” is now kept at Pulheim-Brauweiler. According to the thematic inventory of a survey and research project, many boxes contain files arranged in alphabetical order mentioning châteaux in the Paris region. However, this document does not currently shed light either on the details of the content or the exact quantity of files. In view of this, an on-site consultation is therefore necessary. The same is true for two files relating to the château de Fontainebleau which are among the private papers of the art historian and member of the Kunstschutz Carlheinz Pfitzner (1908-1944). These documents are kept at Bonn, not far from Brauweiler, at the Rheinisches Archiv für Künstlernachlässe (private archives of artists of the Rhineland).

As part of the preparations for the proceedings of the symposium “Les châteaux-musées franciliens et la guerre : une protection stratégique 1939-1945” held online on 3 and 4 June 2021, it therefore seemed very important to consult the archives related to the châteaux-museums that were studied from this perspective, and to retransmit to the various contributors selected photographs/scans of these, along with a research report. This work will be carried out by Christina Kott, a senior lecturer at the université Panthéon-Assas Paris 2.

Objectives

>  To produce documentation of primary importance for the history of French châteaux and museums during the Occupation using the private archives of the Count Wolff Metternich. These archives are still little known in France, and deserve a more in-depth study by our institutions, some of which have meagre information in relation to this period;
>  To enrich our knowledge of the history of French heritage, especially that of the châteaux-museums of the Île-de-France region and their deposits, during the Second World War;
>  To consider a partnership with the LVR-Archivberatungs- und Fortbildungszentrum and the Archives of the Rhineland Nobility (Vereinigte Adelsarchive des Rheinlands e.V.) in order to allow these documents to be put online in the future for the international research community;
>  The role of Christina Kott will be to consult the boxes and files previously identified in the thematic inventory, to identify the most relevant documents, and to photograph them. The second part of her work will be to share the photographed documents with the various contributors to the symposium, accompanied by a research report which would include translations of the most interesting sections. It will not be a question of systematically translating all the archival material into German, but of giving guidance and advice with a view to the publication of the proceedings of the symposium scheduled for 2022.

Team

  • Claire Bonnotte Khelil, doctor in art history, scientific associate to the musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, scientific director of the symposium “Les châteaux-musées franciliens et la guerre : une protection stratégique 1939-1945”, scientific leader of the project;
  • Alexandre Maral, general curator of heritage, director of the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles, administrative project support;
  • Christina Kott, senior lecturer at the université Panthéon-Assas Paris 2 and international specialist of the Kunstschutz, in charge of the collection and development mission for the benefit of our institutions.

Actions performed

  • mission from 17 to 21 January 2022 in Brauweiler at the Archives of the Rhineland Nobility to consult the boxes and files of the archives of the Count Wolff Metternich concerning the German Department for the Protection of Works of Art (Kunstschutz);
  • identifying the most relevant documents and photographing them (1300 shots taken);
  • writing of 16 contextualisation reports, explanation and translation of the documents photographed;
  • provision of photographs and reports to the authors of the symposium proceedings “Les châteaux-musées franciliens et la guerre : une protection stratégique 1939-1945”.
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