Our Interns have weekly reading assignment to learn about different aspects of the archival field. This week we covered the Monument’s Men of recent movie fame. The archival component to the Museum, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) program in World War II is not as flashy as the work done to save famous works of art but still had an important impact in saving cultural history in the World War II era. Today’s quote comes from one of the most famous Monuments Men, conservator and museum director George Stout. The quote comes from an oral interview with Stout in March of 1978 that was part of the Archives Oral History Program. He mentions museums and art specifically, but we feel much the same about the document collection we hold within our Archives.
I hope it will be pursued without neglect what I consider to be the basic function of a museum in a community, and that is to present to the people of that community, works of art in as good condition that is possible to bring them, to report all that’s known historically that relates to those works of art… as a means of engaging people to further study… and it should serve the public with just as much zeal and sincerity whether it calls itself educational or not. ~George Stout
Oral history interview with George Leslie Stout, 1978 March 10-21, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.