NEW ORLEANS (October 4, 2018) – The Monuments Men Foundation today announced that its collection will have a new home at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans. The collection transfer is made possible thanks to Robert Edsel, former Museum Trustee and Founder of the Monuments Men Foundation, as well as a generous donation from the Foundation and financial support from Mr. and Mrs. Robert Tucker Hayes and Mr. and Mrs. C. Paul Hilliard, among others.
The mission of the Monuments Men Foundation is to raise public awareness of nearly 350 men and women who protected monuments and other cultural treasures from the destruction of World War II. By 1945, these heroes of civilization tracked, located and later returned more than 5 million artistic and cultural items stolen by Hitler and the Nazis. Known collectively as “The Monuments Men,” the group of museum curators, educators and art experts from 14 nations were also the subject of a 2014 major motion picture produced and directed by Academy Award recipient George Clooney, which was inspired by Edsel’s New York Times #1 bestselling book, “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.”
Edsel’s tireless work of more than 15 years has focused on preserving the rich legacy of the Monuments Men and Women so it can serve as a beacon for the preservation of such treasures in future armed conflicts and other threats. In 2015, the United States Congress officially awarded the Monuments Men and Women with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States.
“In 2009, Dr. Nick Mueller, founding president of the Museum, asked me to serve as a Board Trustee,” says Edsel. “Since then, I have witnessed firsthand the passion and dedication of the Museum’s leadership and its employees to the men and women who fought and won this epic war. It is only fitting that the Foundation’s unparalleled collection of material on the Monuments Men and Women should now become a part of our nation’s official WWII Museum, where it will join other great collections including that of Museum founder and renowned historian, Dr. Stephen Ambrose. We are grateful to Museum President and CEO Stephen Watson and his team, and the many donors of our respective organizations, whose longtime support made this transaction possible.”
Today, the Foundation’s extensive collection features 230 artifacts and 6,850 archival documents, including letters, diaries and nearly 115,000 digital assets. Also included is a database with 345 individual biographies of the Monuments Men and Women, highlighting detailed information including full names, birth/death dates, education, military service, careers, awards and photographs. The heart of this collection is more than 220 hours of video and audio assets including interviews with 16 Monuments Men and Women, their family members, foreign civilians, museum directors and curators, and the Chief Interpreter and Interrogator for the US Prosecution Team at the Nuremberg Trials. The massive collection also includes over 1,600 books, transcripts, and rare publications, many out of print. All of this material will soon be available to historians and researchers.
“We’re grateful to Robert and the entire Foundation for trusting us to responsibly care for this collection and help provide even more accessibility to it,” says Stephen J. Watson, President and CEO of The National WWII Museum. “Our daily work here at the Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the heroic stories of World War II, and with this collection, we’re helping preserve a very unique wartime story – one that sheds light on the beauty and significance of our civilization’s cultural treasures. We’re thankful for our partnership with Robert and the Foundation throughout the years, and the generosity of the donors who helped make this acquisition possible.”
In addition to gifts from former and current Board Trustees, Robert and Anna Edsel, The Decherd Foundation and Lyda Hill have also supported the endowment for the long-term care of the collection.
The Museum will also help preserve the legacy of the Monuments Men and Women through a permanent gallery that will be located inside the institution’s upcoming Liberation Pavilion, scheduled for completion in 2021. The gallery will feature three rooms that tell the epic story of those who secured stolen art from the Nazis during the war, and worked tirelessly to repatriate it – an effort that continues today.
The Monuments Men Foundation continues its work preserving the legacy of the Monuments Men by locating cultural and artistic works missing since the end of the war and returning them to their rightful owner, and by raising public awareness about the importance of respecting and preserving the world’s shared cultural heritage for future generations.
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today – so that future generations will know the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, it celebrates the American spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. The 2018 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice™ awards ranks the Museum No.3 in the nation and No.8 in the world. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit nationalww2museum.org.