U of I Art History professor was among "Monuments Men"

Feb 14, 2014

A new movie on the efforts to preserve artwork stolen during World War 2 is helping to highlight the work of a former University of Illinois art history professor.

The papers of Edwin Carter Rae, including his diary and photo album, are now in the care of the university archives.  He was one of the ‘Monuments Men’, more than 300 men and women, who devoted their time in the mid-40’s rescuing artifacts stolen by the Nazis.

Rae taught at the U of I before and after his time in the military, and retired in 1979.  His papers were left to the university after his death in 2002 when his daughter, Sarah Rae, reached out to archivist, William Maher:

“So I contacted them, and they willingly took all of his papers, lesson plans and so forth.  I was hesitant at first to donate them, but then Mr. Maher said they could put them on line, and other people could have access to them.  And I think that that’s where the push is now, and I’m really glad some of this appears on line, just so more people can learn about this and appreciate it.”

Sarah and her brother Tom say they’ve come to better appreciate what their father did in more recent years but say he was modest. Among the artifacts he helped save, Rae went to Budapest to help rescue the Crown of St. Steven, or the Holy Crown of Hungary, which was eventually brought Fort Knox, Kentucky for safekeeping until President Jimmy Carter had it returned to Hungary in 1977.

Based on stories her father told, Sarah Rae says the new George Clooney film ‘The Monuments Men’ does a ‘pretty good’ job of profiling their efforts.  There’s also a Foundation that seeks to honor their legacy and further education efforts.