Monuments Men: On the Frontline to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946, Exhibition, Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Washington DC, 7 February - 20 April 2014

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During World War II, an unlikely team of soldiers was charged with identifying and protecting European cultural sites, monuments, and buildings from Allied bombing. Officially named the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) Section, this U.S. Army unit included art curators, scholars, architects, librarians, and archivists from the U.S. and Britain. They quickly became known as The Monuments Men.

Towards the end of the war, their mission changed to one of locating and recovering works of art that had been looted by the Nazis. The Monuments Men uncovered troves of stolen art hidden across Germany and Austria—some in castles, others in salt mines. They rescued some of history’s greatest works of art.

Among the holdings of the Archives of American Art are the papers of Monuments Men George Leslie Stout, James J. Rorimer, Walker Hancock, Thomas Carr Howe, S. Lane Faison, Walter Horn, and Otto Wittman. These personal archives tell a fascinating story.

Related blog posts:

“Monuments Men in Japan: Discoveries in the George Leslie Stout papers”

“Artful Collaborators: James J. Rorimer and Rose Valland”

Voices of the Monuments Men

Audio excerpts from the Archives’ oral history interviews.
See more: oral history interview podcasts

Stanton Catlin on Rose Valland (4:24 )

S. Lane Faison on the O.S.S. (8:36 )

Walker Hancock on locating looted art (24:01 )

Thomas Carr Howe on restitution efforts (34:54 )

Charles Parkhurst on the Weisbaden Manifesto (14:03)

Andrew Carnduff Ritchie on the MFAA (13:00 )

George Stout on conditions in the salt mines (44:40 )

Otto Wittmann on the Art Looting Investigation Unit and postwar restitution work:

View Items from This Exhibition

 George L. Stout letter to W. G. Constable
 George L. Stout letter to W. G. Constable
 Sculpture covered in camouflage netting
 George Stout letter to his wife Margaret Stout
 George Leslie Stout letter to Margaret Hayes Stout
 James Rorimers early draft of his memoir Survival: the salvage and protection of art in war
 Aerial view of Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany
 Soldiers loading art onto a train at Buxheim monastery
 Photograph laboratory at Buxheim Monastery in Bavaria, Germany
 Aristide Maillol sculpture recovery
 St. Foillan Church after bombing, Aachen, Germany
 Maps of France on a bulletin board
 Gardens of Versailles during World War II
 Paul Sachs list of potential Monuments Men
 George Stout letter to W. G. Constable
 W. G. Constable letter to George Stout
 George Stout draft of Protection of Monuments
 George L. Stout in conservation lab looking through a microscope
 Aerial view of Altaussee salt mines
 George Stout at entrance to the Altaussee salt mine
 Herr Sicher, George Stout and Thomas Carr Howe inspecting paintings
 Lt. Daniel J. Kern and Karl Sieber examining the Ghent Altarpiece in the Altaussee mine
 Stephen Kovalyak, George Stout and Thomas Carr Howe transporting Michelangelos sculpture Madonna and child
 Michelangelos Madonna and child packed and loaded onto a truck
 Unidentified G.I. holding a painting of the Madonna and child, at Altaussee, Austria
 View of Neuschwanstein castle
 Neuschwanstein Castle storage room filled with looted art
 MFAA soldiers loading boxed artworks onto a truck at Neuschwanstein Castle


 Soldiers evacuating looted art from Neuschwanstein Castle
 Harry V. Anderson inventory and receipt for Hermann Göring art collection submitted to Commanding General, 101st Airborne Division
 Inventory list of looted art from the Göring Collection found at Berchtesgaden
 Nuremberg City Hall before and after bombing


 Pellerhaus courtyard before and after bombing
 Exterior of La Gleize Church in Belgium after the Battle of the Bulge
 Interior of La Gleize Church in Belgium after the Battle of the Bulge
 Interior of La Gleize Church in Belgium after the Battle of the Bulge


 Statue of the Virgin Mary inside La Gleize Church in Belgium, after the Battle of the Bulge
 George Leslie Stout
 George Leslie Stouts Bronze Star medal and case
 George Leslie Stout letter to Margaret Hayes Stout


 George Leslie Stout letter to Margaret Hayes Stout
 Military Government Weekly Information Bulletin, no. 15
 Exterior of the Museum Wiesbaden
 Storage rooms inside Museum Wiesbaden filled with wooden crates


 Interior of Museum Wiesbaden with paintings on storage racks
 Edith Standen and Rose Valland with art to be restituted to France
 Edith Standen conducting a tour for U.S. guards
 Soldiers preparing a Rubens painting for shipment


 Men packing art for shipment
 Officers standing by an army plane loaded with the Ghent Altarpiece
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