During World War II, nearly 350 men and women, known as the Monuments Men, worked to protect and restore millions of cultural artifacts. This group of art curators and historians recovered sculptures and paintings looted by the Nazis, from artists such as Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Leonardo da Vinci.
In December, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt sponsored legislation to award them the Congressional Gold Medal. Blunt's touring Missouri, visiting sites with ties to the Monuments Men, including the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
In the Bloch Building, Sen. Blunt stands near a glass case with newspaper clippings, photographs, and letters from the archives. The display highlights the six Monuments Men affiliated with the museum, including two directors.
Blunt says it’s an important history and legacy. "Their effort became a different effort than anybody had anticipated," he says. "It went beyond from saving the art and architecture in place, to trying to find the art and architecture and sculpture that had been taken away."
The legislation is co-sponsored by six U.S. senators, including Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas.
Only five Monuments Men are still living. If Blunt's bill passes, the Congressional Gold Medals awarded will be housed at the Smithsonian.