Cultural property protection and military necessity at a crossroads? The ‘Monuments Men’ and the allied bombing of Pompeii in 1943
- Houston (Rice University): 27th October
Dr Nigel Pollard is by training a historian and archaeologist of the Roman world, and his past research and fieldwork have focused on Roman Syria, Egypt and Italy. His particular current research interests include cultural property protection in conflict zones.
At present Dr. Pollard is primarily working on a study of protection, damage and reception of archaeological sites and monuments in the Second World War, including the work of the Allied Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Sub-Commission (the ‘Monuments Men’), and as a board member of the UK National Committee of the Blue Shield, engages with governments, NGOs and military personnel to promote the protection of cultural sites in conflicts and natural disasters.
Before joining Swansea University in 2002, Dr Pollard taught at Oxford University, Bowdoin College (Maine, USA) and the University of Michigan, and has been Professor-in-Charge of Duke University’s Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome and 2013 Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professor of Classics at Carleton College (Minnesota, USA).
The Monuments Men, the 2014 film starring and directed by George Clooney is a chance to “relearn lessons” about works of art and cultural property in war zones, says Swansea expert, Dr Nigel Pollard, writing in BBC History magazine.
The Monuments Men were a group of men and women from different countries, most of whom volunteered for service in the newly created Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section in the Allied Forces during World War Two. Most were museum directors, curators, art scholars and educators, artists, architects, and archivists. Their job was to save as much of the culture of Europe as they could.
The film is based on a book by Robert Edsel who himself has strong links to Texas.
Writing in BBC History magazine, Dr Pollard tells the story of the real-life Monuments Men, who had to strive to protect what they could, amidst the chaos of war. “When the war in Europe ended, many of the monuments officers returned to their peacetime occupations.
Before they did so, however, they produced a series of detailed reports on their experiences, preserving invaluable knowledge about the protection of cultural property in wartime. Sadly this wealth of experience was soon forgotten. The UK, for instance – largely due to historical accident and lack of parliamentary time – remains one of the few major powers not to have ratified the 1954 Hague Convention requiring the protection of cultural property in wartime.
With the release of The Monuments Men, we have a unique opportunity to relearn the lessons of its real-life counterparts.”