21 episodes

The Smithsonian's Archives of American Art enlivens the extraordinary human stories behind America's most significant art and artists. It is the preeminent and most widely used resource dedicated to collecting, preserving, and making available for study the papers and other primary records of the visual arts in America.

Oral History Collection from the Archives of American Art Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

    • Visual Arts

The Smithsonian's Archives of American Art enlivens the extraordinary human stories behind America's most significant art and artists. It is the preeminent and most widely used resource dedicated to collecting, preserving, and making available for study the papers and other primary records of the visual arts in America.

    George Leslie Stout interview excerpt

    George Leslie Stout interview excerpt

    George Leslie Stout (1897-1978) was a museum director and prominent art conservator in Massachusetts. Stout was one of the first U.S. soldiers to be assigned to the MFAA Section and played a prominent role in the recovery of art work stolen by the Nazis. He was appointed Lieutenant Commander of the MFAA unit and supervised the inventorying and removal of looted artwork hidden in the salt mines of Merkers and Ransbach in Thuringia, Germany and in other repositories in France and the Netherlands. In this audio clip Stout speaks of his experience as a MFAA officer, especially the poor storage conditions in the salt mines.

    • 44 min
    Otto Wittmann 1976 interview excerpt

    Otto Wittmann 1976 interview excerpt

    Otto Wittmann (1911-2001) was a curator and director of the Toledo Museum of Art from 1959-1976. During World War II, Wittmann served as a Major with the Air Force but was later transferred to the Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU) in Washington, D.C. under the Office of Strategic Services. As an ALIU official, Wittmann assisted with looted art recovery in Paris and Munich, investigated transactions in Sweden and Switzerland, and worked with the collection centers in France. In this excerpt, Wittmann talks about his work restituting art looted by the Nazis.

    • 25 min
    Otto Wittmann 1981 interview excerpt

    Otto Wittmann 1981 interview excerpt

    Otto Wittmann (1911-2001) was a curator and director of the Toledo Museum of Art from 1959-1976. During World War II, Wittmann served as a Major with the Air Force but was later transferred to the Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU) in Washington, D.C. under the Office of Strategic Services. As an ALIU official, Wittmann assisted with looted art recovery in Paris and Munich, investigated transactions in Sweden and Switzerland, and worked with the collection centers in France. In this excerpt, Wittmann talks about his work restituting art looted by the Nazis.

    • 4 min
    Andrew Carnduff Ritchie interview excerpt

    Andrew Carnduff Ritchie interview excerpt

    Andrew Carnduff Ritchie (1907-1978) was an art administrator and art historian. He was a research assistant and lecturer at the Frick Collection, then the director of the Albright Art Gallery in New York from 1942. After World War II, Ritchie served as a MFAA advisor at the Munich Central Collecting Point where he supervised the restitution of artwork, notably Vermeer's The Art of Painting, which was owned by the Czernin family up until the war. In this audio clip, Ritchie talks about the highlights of his MFAA experiences, especially the fate of the "Czernin Vermeer" and his experience transporting the Imperial Regalia of the Holy Roman Empire from Nuremberg to Vienna.

    • 13 min
    Charles Parkhurst interview excerpt

    Charles Parkhurst interview excerpt

    Charles Parkhurst (1913-2008) was an art administrator and curator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. During World War II, Parkhurst was a U.S. Naval Lieutenant and was later appointed Deputy Chief of the MFAA section in Germany. He helped organize the repatriation efforts in postwar Germany at the Munich Central Collecting Point, where the art was collected for restitution to their countries of origin. In this audio clip, Parkhurst talks about art looting by the Nazis and the Wiesbaden Manifesto, signed by Parkhurst and many other Monuments Men, protesting the removal of German-owned artworks to the United States for safekeeping after the war.

    • 14 min
    Thomas Carr Howe interview excerpt

    Thomas Carr Howe interview excerpt

    Thomas Carr Howe (1904-1994) was the director of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco for nearly four decades. During World War II, Howe enlisted and was a U.S. Naval Lieutenant before being assigned to the MFAA Section, serving from 1945 to 1946 in Germany and Austria. In this audio clip, Howe talks about locating large caches of art work that had been looted by the Nazis in the salt mines and the postwar restitution efforts and returning the artwork to their countries of origin.

    • 34 min

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Insight into the legacy of World War Two

Some amazing stories of the “monuments men”—artists and art historians who followed the troops at the end of ww2 to preserve and recover the paintings and historical treasures plundered by the nazis. Vivid details and gritty, authentic sound.

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