Saving Italy's Heritage and That of the World

by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

On Thursday, October 15, 2015, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem, Oregon, offered a lecture by Robert Edsel, the director of The Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art.  The message of his lecture and all of his work is two-fold: to honor the men and women who saved so much the artistic heritage of the West during World War II and to speak to the need for the preservation of art and architecture in today's zones of war and conflict.

Edsel is well-known for his book The Monuments Men (public library), which was made into a major motion picture.  He explained in his lecture that a widely-distributed film was the best way to enable his message to reach the most people:

The events in Edsel's book and the film were often drawn from the letters that the Monuments Men wrote to their families back home.  Through the work of the Foundation, people today can continue their mission by contributing to the recovery and restoration of lost and stolen art:

Toward the end of his lecture, Edsel shared that on October 22, 2015, the six remaining Monuments Men will receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor given by the Congress of the United States.  Speaking about this honor brought Edsel to tears.

In addition to The Monuments Men, Edsel is the author of Rescuing Da Vinci (public library) and most recently Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis (public library). 

More about the preservation and recovery of art during and after World War II may be found in The Rape of Europa (public library) by Lynn Nicholas and The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O'Connor.