Preserving heroic histories for future generations
Elizabeth Ivy Hudson '05 remembers studying for exams at Fondren Library Center – "on the first floor, at a square table, with three of my girlfriends and lots of Starbucks" – and spending hours at Hamon Arts Library, doing research for papers in her major, art history.
She still spends time in SMU's libraries. As the Director of Historical Research for the Monuments Men Foundation, she frequently depends on Central University Libraries' vast and reliable resources to document and preserve the history of the "Monuments Men."
The story of the heroic group of men and women who protected monuments and other cultural treasures from destruction during World War II will soon be playing in theaters around the world. "The Monuments Men," a big-budget epic directed by and starring actor George Clooney and a host of A-list actors will open in 2014. Clooney and his writing partner based the screenplay on Robert Edsel's second book, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History (2009).
Hudson started working for Edsel, founder and president of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, as a research assistant shortly after graduating from SMU. She helped Edsel, a 1979 graduate of SMU, with his first book, Rescuing Da Vinci (2006), and assisted with Saving Italy (2013), his third Monuments Men book. When Edsel established the foundation in 2007, she was named lead researcher.
Her recent research has focused on documents in the National Archives relating to Hildebrand Gurlitt, an art dealer with strong Nazi ties. Earlier this month, German authorities revealed that 1,500 artworks missing since WWII had been found in the Munich residence of his son, Cornelius Gurlitt. Some archival materials have been posted on the Foundation's website – www.mounumentsmenfoundation.org/news/– with more to come as new information is discovered, says Hudson.
"My duties are broad and varied," says Hudson. "One of the Foundation's objectives is to facilitate the recovery and restitution of important artistic, cultural and historic treasures and documents stolen during World War II."
While the Internet provides immediate access to some information, "it is still hard to find materials dating back more than 50 years online," she says, and libraries' paper holdings can be invaluable resources.
"Having a specialized arts library like the Hamon is incredibly helpful. The library is easily accessible, easy to navigate, and the staff is knowledgeable," Hudson says. "The library's access to databases such as JSTOR is also essential when a hard copy of a particular journal is not available."
She also takes advantage of Fondren Library Center's holdings, finding out-of-print books and articles about the broader subject of World War II, she says. "Fondren's collections of National Geographic and TIME magazine back issues, for example, have been very helpful."