In 1998 the museum began to examine its collections as part of a national programme of restitution passed by the Austrian government in the same year. The origins of objects acquired after 1933 are to be examined and catalogued, some 63000 objects in all. Dossiers to all the objects are to be put together.
The dossiers will be passed on to the governmental department responsible for restitution. The archives of other museums will also be examined for any controversial material and this may even include the archives of museums abroad. The city and provincial archives of Vienna and the state archives are also contributing to this project.
Up to 2009 some 15 dossiers had been put together and further material related to problematic objects was made available to the commission responsible.
The following collections have been the focus of interest of the commission:
- Dr. Hans und Else Abels
- Ing. Otto und Gisela Braun
- Stefanie Demeter
- Dr. Hanns und Gertrude Fischl
- Julius Kien
- Gertrude Marlé
- Ing. Dr. Georg Popper (inventarisiert als „NSV-Erwerbung“)
- Dir. Michael Ottokar und Maria Popper
- Flora Wilhelm
Some eight cases of restitution have been recommended. Two have been completed and the remaining four are in progress. For the other two it has been difficult to find the descendants of the original owners. Here the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde has been of help tracing the rightful owners. Dossiers have also been put together of objects which are not exactly part of the restitution agreement. They are mostly objects which were brought to Vienna from various places within areas in the German Third Reich during World War II.
Some of the items being dealt with are in fact objects which were brought to Vienna from museums within the Third Reich during World War II.
In the case of a textile collection taken by members of the German army in the Crimea during World War II restitution was agreed on and the collection of textiles by the Crimea Tartars and the Karaite were handed over to the Ukrainian Ambassador in 2009.
In 2006 a website was set up under www.kunstrestitution.at in an attempt to reach all those persons who were the rightful heirs to works of art stolen from their ancestors during World War II. The museum provided pictures of objects whose origin was unclear.
This work is still in progress.