Maps for Monuments Men

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.

  • Letter from Francis Henry Taylor, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to Helen Clay Frick, founder and Director of the Frick Art Reference Library, announcing that the Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas has accepted Miss Frick’s offer to put the facilities of the Library at the disposal of the Committee.

    Francis Henry Taylor letter to Helen Clay Frick, June 29, 1943, Helen Clay Frick Correspondence - Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

  • One of the maps created by the Committee at the Library, marking the locations of art treasures and monuments in Pisa, accompanied by an index. 

    Map of Pisa, The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Photographs. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

  • Aerial photograph of Pisa after bombing, showing damage and bomb craters at railroad yards in the foreground and undamaged historic monuments to the north, which had been identified on the map prepared by the Committee.

    Aerial photograph of Pisa. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Photographs.The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

  • Letter from Waldo Leland, Director of the American Council of Learned Societies, to Helen Clay Frick expressing his approval of the implementation of the project after a visit to the Library.

    Waldo Leland letter to Helen Clay Frick, August 28, 1943, Frick Art Reference Library Central Correspondence - American Council of Learned Societies. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

  • State Department press release announcing President Roosevelt's establishment of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in Europe (also known as the Roberts Commission).

    State Department Press Release, August 30, 1943, Frick Art Reference Library Central Correspondence - American Council of Learned Societies. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

  • State Department press release announcing President Roosevelt's establishment of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in Europe (also known as the Roberts Commission). Page 2. 

    State Department Press Release, August 30, 1943, Frick Art Reference Library Central Correspondence - American Council of Learned Societies. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

  • Letter from Sumner Crosby, Executive Secretary of the American Council of Learned Societies, updating Miss Frick on the activities of the Committee. Discusses the production of handbooks for military officers that will include the maps the Library helped create.

    Sumner McKnight Crosby letter to Helen Clay Frick, September 13, 1943, Helen Clay Frick Correspondence - Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

  • Letter from Theodore Sizer, Monuments Man, reporting from the field, describing the usefulness of the maps.

    Copy of V-mail letter from Theodore Sizer to William Dinsmoor, October 12, 1943, Frick Art Reference Library Scrapbook, 1940-1959.

  • Report discussing the production of maps at the Frick Art Reference Library.

    Report on the activities of the Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas, December 31, 1943, Helen Clay Frick Correspondence - Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

  • Report discussing the production of maps at the Frick Art Reference Library. Page 2.

    Report on Activities of the Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas, December 31, 1943, Helen Clay Frick Correspondence - Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

  • Report discussing the production of maps at the Frick Art Reference Library. Page 3.

    Report on Activities of the Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas, December 31, 1943, Helen Clay Frick Correspondence - Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

  • Newspaper article describing “treasure maps” prepared by the Frick Art Reference Library and used by Allied bomber crews.

    Transcription of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Help Avoid Shrines,” March 17, 1944, Frick Art Reference Library Scrapbook, 1940-1959.  The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

  • William Dinsmoor, chairman of the ACLS, comparing a U.S. Air Force photograph taken during a bombing attack to a keyed city map of Pisa and lists of the principal cultural monuments of the city.

    Photograph of William Bell Dinsmoor consulting maps at the Frick Art Reference Library, ca. 1943-1944, The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Photographs. Courtesy of the National Archives.

  • Bill Burke and Jane Mull, members of the Committee on the Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas at the ACLS, working at the Frick Art Reference Library with Gladys Hamlin, draftswoman, on a map of Paris.

    Photograph of Bill Burke, Jane Mull, and Gladys Hamlin preparing a map at the Frick Art Reference Library, ca. 1943-1944. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Photographs. Courtesy of the National Archives.

  • Excerpt of letter from Dinsmoor to Miss Frick discussing the reliance of the ground and air forces on the "Frick maps" and expressing thanks for the "invaluable help and generous hospitality" offered to the Committee.

    William Bell Dinsmoor letter to Helen Clay Frick, January 19, 1945, Frick Art Reference Library Central Correspondence - American Council of Learned Societies. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

  • Letter from Vice Chairman of the Roberts Commission expressing gratitude to the Library for their efforts with the ACLS.

    David E. Finley letter to Helen Clay Frick, April 15, 1946, Frick Art Reference Library Central Correspondence, American Council of Learned Societies. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

  • U.S. State Department letter requesting the Library's assistance with post-war efforts to identify and restore looted art objects to the rightful owners.

    John Birch letter to Ethelwyn Manning, January 7, 1946, Frick Art Reference Library Central Correspondence – U.S. Government, Department of State. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

  • U.S. State Department letter requesting the Library's assistance with post-war efforts to identify and restore looted art objects to the rightful owners. Page 2.

    John Birch letter to Ethelwyn Manning, January 7, 1946, Frick Art Reference Library Central Correspondence – U.S. Government, Department of State. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.