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In the midst of the war, a group of 350 men and women from 13 countries worked to preserve and restore artwork, sculptures and cultural artifacts. They were known as Monuments Men, and their work is the subject of a movie out now by the same name.
U.S. Senator Roy Blunt has co-sponsored legislation to acknowledge their work by awarding them the Congressional Gold Medal. He made a stop at the Springfield Art Museum today to talk about it and the work they did.
"Maybe artists and art historians and museum directors are not the most likely heroes of a war story, but in this case they were, and like so many people who came back from World War II, for whatever reason this was a story that was largely untold," he said.
The Monuments Men served in the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section of the Western Allied military efforts. Their responsibilities included recovering art and artifacts stolen by Nazis across Europe.
Springfield Art Museum director Nick Nelson says the work they did preserved precious artwork for generations to come.
"There are so many wonderful pieces of art that were really saved by these individuals. These works are significant pieces that, while they're European and many are in European collections, they are our collective heritage," he said.
Fourteen of the Monuments Men had ties to Missouri. Four were Missouri natives and ten were later employed in the state.