During World War II, the Frick Art Reference Library played a pivotal role in the international effort to identify and protect monuments and works of art in Europe from damage and destruction by armed forces. Helen Clay Frick, the founder and Director of the Library, invited the Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas to take up residence at the Library from 1943 to 1945. Working alongside art historians and other experts on the Committee, Frick librarians and photographers prepared maps detailing the location of many art treasures and landmarks throughout Europe.
Encouraged by the work of the Committee and other private groups, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established The American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in Europe (known as the Roberts Commission), on June 23, 1943. The Roberts Commission created the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives military section, a group of men and women with art expertise, later known as the Monuments Men. The maps and lists of cultural treasures prepared by the Committee were distributed by the Roberts Commission to the Allied forces, including the Monuments Men.
After the war, the Library used its extensive resources to assist in the effort to restore looted art to the rightful owners. Researchers continue to use the Library’s rich collection of photographs, catalogues and monographs for World War II provenance research. A bibliography of these resources is maintained in our online catalog, FRESCO.