Joanna M. Gohmann photo of Joanna M. Gohmann was hired as the first-ever full-time provenance researcher and object historian for the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art. This position is one of the few in a U.S. institution dedicated exclusively to provenance work.

Since the early 2000s the Freer and Sackler has taken a broad approach to provenance research, exploring the legal history of a work of art’s ownership and how objects change over time both in function and condition. The museum expanded its efforts to document provenance histories by cultivating an internal program and researching Asian art works that are believed to have been in continental Europe in the years before, during and after World War II. The museum’s program focuses its research on the lives of collectors and dealers of Asian art, aiding in the analysis of global exchange networks and shedding light on the history of collecting and the ever-changing art market. The museum’s provenance program is committed to scholarship and transparency of collection information, standardized research methodologies and information exchange between the international museum community and the public.

Gohmann received her PhD in the history of art from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a specialization in 18th-century French art. Before assuming her new position, Gohmann worked as a contractor for the Freer and Sackler researching Chinese antiquities within the museum collections that passed through continental Europe during World War II. Before coming to the Freer and Sackler, Gohmann was the Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Post Doctoral Fellow in 18th and 19th-century art at the Walters Art Museum, where she conducted provenance research on the permanent collection and catalogued hundreds of European porcelain objects.

Gohmann will continue to research and document objects in the collection and their World War II histories. Working with the Head of Collections Management, she will also develop provenance related procedures and best practices for the museum. In her role, Gohmann will also organize provenance webinars and symposia.

This position is supported by the David Berg Foundation of New York, an organization that has helped fund the provenance program of the Freer and Sackler since 2014.

About the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art

The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery are located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and together form the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art. Committed to preserving, exhibiting and interpreting exemplary works of art, the Freer and Sackler house exceptional collections of Asian art, with more than 44,000 objects dating from the Neolithic period to today. Renowned and iconic objects originate from China, Japan, Korea, South and Southeast Asia, the ancient Near East and the Islamic world. The Freer Gallery also holds a significant group of American works of art largely dating to the late 19th century. It boasts the world’s largest collection of diverse works by James McNeill Whistler, including the famed Peacock Room.

The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery are dedicated to increasing understanding of the arts of Asia through a broad portfolio of exhibitions, publications, conservation, research and education.