This research group is interested in the “origins” and paths of autographs, books and collections, and the insights these provide into the relationships between trade, collections and research. At the historical level, our research focuses on provenance discourse in philology. How and to what extent does provenance research serve as a core value of philological practice? Where and how has this knowledge been explicitly discussed, possibly forgotten or even suppressed? The aim is to study the concept of provenance in relation to both perspectives with the aid of digital structures and innovative research approaches. Though their perspectives vary, the participating researchers are working together to establish and jointly use shared resources and infrastructures. The participants bring research to the table which examines the biographies of the objects and sheds light on the history of changing tastes, canonisation processes, discussions on authenticity and interconnected relationships between the collecting institutions and the antique and autograph trade, and on private collectors, edition projects, research and research funding. Understanding “provenance” in this way evokes questions concerning the links between the “material, sensual and intellectual appropriation” (Savoy 2017) of texts and images – and that in an empirically and concretely transparent manner.

What is the goal of the project?

The research group wishes to establish provenance as a scientific category of literary studies and to strengthen the transparency of the collections at the participating institutions. The aim is to rethink or redefine literature in terms of the tension between material history and the aesthetic autonomy of the text. In this respect, the research group hopes to develop new ideas for dealing with existing collections and artefacts and with the “temporality” of historic objects. This approach can ultimately open new terrain to literary topics of inquiry.

How will the findings be communicated?

The research findings will be successively or cumulatively presented in the → Virtual Research Room, where joint events will also be documented. All the findings will be compiled and presented in a joint printed publication (not a conference transcript) at the end of the funding period.

How much time does participation require?

The participants can invest as much time as they wish into the activities of the research group. They should, however, be willing to attend three to four group meetings per year, as well as actively contribute to one workshop and conference per year. Beyond these events, potential joint projects (e.g. digitalisation of auction catalogues, joint teaching assignments etc.) may demand significantly more time from individual members.

What makes participation attractive?

The “Provenance” research group offers MWW researchers and staff of the three partner institutions, along with interested external researchers an opportunity to collaborate on joint research. The project is based on fundamental, cross-collection investigation, the creation of digital research infrastructures and lively discussion. Perhaps most importantly, what is especially attractive is that the project allows participants to share their individual perspectives on and expertise in the subject of provenance. This in turn provides an opportunity to engage in mutual dialogue, become acquainted with other perspectives, rethink one’s own standpoint, and promote knowledge transfer, e.g. between library sciences and literary studies, or between aesthetics and literary studies etc.