Harvard Group Research
Prior to American involvement in World War II, art professionals and organizations such as the American Defense Harvard Group and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) were working to identify and protect European art and monuments in harm’s way or in danger of Nazi plundering. Together these groups began lobbying for a national organization affiliated with the military which would have the same goal. Francis Henry Taylor, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, took their concerns to Washington, D.C. Their efforts ultimately led to the establishment by President Roosevelt of the “American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas” on June 23, 1943.
Commonly referred to as the Roberts Commission after its chairman, Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts, this commission was charged with promoting the preservation of cultural properties in war areas, including the European, Mediterranean, and Far Eastern Theaters of Operations, providing that this mission did not interfere with military operations. The Roberts Commission provided lists and reports on European cultural treasures to military units on the ground, in hopes that these monuments would be protected whenever possible.
A vital contribution of the Roberts Commission was the establishment of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) branch within the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Allied armies, whose goal was to protect and salvage cultural property in war areas. After the war, the Roberts Commission assisted the MFAA and Allied Forces in restituting Nazi-confiscated artworks to rightful owners. It also promoted public awareness of looted cultural works. The Roberts Commission was headquartered at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. The group was officially dissolved in June 1946, when the State Department took over their duties and functions.
This is my ongoing research on these individuals - if you have any additional information to share - please contact me , Nancy Cunningham firstname.lastname@example.org
Also see my research on members of The Committee on the Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas of the ACLS ( American Committee of Learned Society)
and the Monuments Men .
More can be found on these lists on the Rescuing DaVinci web page.