Scrapbooks Showcase the Impact of World War II at WCMA
The release of the film Monuments Men has drawn attention to the importance of preserving national art treasures during times of war. Although not featured in the film, S. Lane Faison, Director of Williams College Museum of Art (then Lawrence Art Museum) from 1948 — 1976, was a Navy Reservist during World War II and in 1945 was posted to the Office of Strategic Services’ Art Looting Investigation Unit. In addition to writing the official report on Adolf Hitler’s collection of stolen art, he also supervised the return of looted artworks under the direction of the Department of State.
Between 1937 and 1949 Lane Faison’s predecessor Karl Weston created detailed scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, magazine articles, programs, catalogs, and reports. These scrapbooks, which were digitized by Pivot Media this past year, feature several articles and reports related to WCMA’s involvement in preserving and showcasing art during World War II, as well as the impact that the war had on the museum and art department’s operations.
As exemplified in Karl Weston’s 1942-1943 Director’s Report, all of the staff of the fine arts department had entered the service and received commissions in the Navy, thus making it necessary for Weston to resume his teaching career. Weston not only returned to teaching after having retired only two years earlier, but he also stayed on as museum director until 1948, when Lane Faison officially returned from his duties.
While Faison served overseas in order to retrieve looted art, WCMA helped to preserve art from potential Nazi attacks on the home front. Between 1942 and 1944 The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston sent its most valuable artworks to WCMA for storage during the war. You can read more about the storage of MFA Boston’s valuable collection here.
WCMA’s dedication to preserving art works during war time was further exemplified by its 1941 traveling exhibit sponsored by The Museum of Modern Art of paintings expelled from German museums, and its 1946-1948 exhibition of paintings looted from Holland.
If you would like to request digital images of the scrapbooks or to view a scrapbook in person, please contact either Eric Shannon or Rachel Tassone.
Hear stories of the Williams Monuments Men from those who knew them well at the WCMA program, Monuments Men at Williams: An Evening of Storytelling Friday, March 7 at 6 pm. Director Christina Olsen will host an intimate storytelling session about S. Lane Faison and Charles Parkhurst with special guests Carol Clark (wife of Charles Parkhurst) and Gordon Faison (son of Lane Faison). Together they will explore the impact these men had on the development of future arts leaders and the evolution of the museum. After the conversation at WCMA, catch the 9:15 showing of Monuments Men on its opening night. The film runs at Images Cinema from March 7-13.