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Learning the Lessons of The Monuments Men

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This past Thursday, the Museum hosted a webinar with The Monuments Men author Robert Edsel. 3,700 students tuning in from 39 states and five countries had the opportunity to ask Robert about the discoveries of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives officers, also known as The Monuments Men, and their treasure hunt to recover looted artworks and to protect important structures from wartime destruction.  Students viewed photographs and primary source newsreel footage of the massive amount of stolen art and material culture tucked away in remote salt mines and castles throughout the European countryside. To close out the program, Robert showed the students an exclusive featurette for the upcoming film about the Monuments Men, which releases February 7th.

Some of the most critical messages Robert stressed to the students were the enduring lessons, continuing mission, and lasting legacy of the Monuments Men. Despite being a small group of men and women, they tackled a tremendous task through their passion, ingenuity, and teamwork. They were committed to ensure that cultural objects were preserved for the appreciation of future generations.

Robert also called on today’s students to become involved in the pursuit of thousands of objects, still unaccounted for from their WWII disappearance. Through public support and attention on this issue, hopefully more of these missing works will be uncovered in the coming years. The need for the Monuments Men did not end in WWII. Material culture is under siege in current conflicts and new forms of technology are being used to track damage and looting in war-torn countries.

At the beginning of the program, students debated and voted whether or not they believed art was worth risking one’s life. By the end, some were eager to join the ranks of the MFAA officers, as one home-school teacher recounted, “My two younger students are already talking about becoming ‘Monuments Women!’”

Missed the webinar? The program will be available to view until the end of February. Be sure to tune in for our next FREE student webinar examining High School Yearbooks from WWII on March 27th at 12:00PM CST. During the program, we will launch our latest digital learning project, See You Next Year:  High School Yearbooks from WWII, where students will be able to explore 1940s yearbooks from almost every state. Be the first to learn about this project by signing up for the Calling All Teachers eNewsletter!

Post by Chrissy Gregg, Virtual Classroom Coordinator

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