Digital images with metadata contain unique potential for research into the history of the art market. The embedding of digital images in a database allows for the possibility of an association with their historical context due to the presence of metadata, which includes economic data, such as the provenance chain, as well as information about collecting practices. The database becomes a historical reconstruction of context accompanying the reproductions of the works. In this paper, a case study of a museum photo archive of forgeries illustrates the ways in which digital methods can be helpful in analyzing these contexts. The archive was run by the secret “Verband von Museums-Beamten zur Abwehr von Fälschungen und unlauterem Geschäftsgebahren” (Association of Museum Officials for Defense against Fakes and Improper Business Practices). This archive allows the engagement of early 20th century museums in the art market to be traced within specific genres. The goal of the case study and methodology presented here is to learn more about the economic practices of museums. Specifically, this paper reconsiders a study by Timothy Wilson on fake maiolica, with a new focus on the involvement of museums in the art market.
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