Monuments Men

I started reading the World War Two history-of-war-curation book, “Monuments Men” for my end of semester choice. I wasn’t sure at first how interested I would be in the book, as World War Two is of great interest to me, but art curation hasn’t ever been. I’ve been so far pleasantly surprised by two aspects of the book, one, that the narrative style is very readable and has very well maintained my interest, even though details that are more on the dry side. The other aspect that has pleasantly surprised me is the connection that the book makes to the themes and topics that we have discussed in class, especially cultural studies and curation. The book centers around the group of men who were very quickly and abruptly given the task of trying to preserve the works of arts, important monuments, and other items of cultural importance throughout Europe and North Africa during the gradual push into Germany starting in 1942. The book gives a good deal of background to begin with, highlighting the need for preserving these items and places to begin with because of Adolf Hitler’s desire to procure an art collection for himself that would rival any other in the world. This was one reason for the creation of the “Monuments Men”, to keep many works of art from falling into Hitler’s hands. Another reason was because the Allied high command was faced with the problem of often having to choose between sacrificing their own men and sacrificing great Western monuments, especially in Italy where countless abbeys and Roman ruins existed. The book very well presents the dilemmas, trials, and struggles that the “Monuments Men” went through in their attempts at preservation.

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