The Monuments Men and Women: Past, Present, and Future - Atlas Obscura Experiences

The Monuments Men and Women: Past, Present, and Future

4 sessions
$80 per person
See Dates
$80 per person
$80 per person
See Dates
What We’ll Do

This course has already started! However, you can still join if you’d like to (and we hope you will!). Students enrolling after the course start date and time will have access to a recording of the first session (which will be emailed to participants within 72 hours) as well as the option to attend remaining sessions live. Please select the “Join Late” ticket type to enroll after the course has begun.

In this 4-part lecture series, trace the international search for Europe’s stolen art from the Monuments Men and Women’s recovery efforts during WWII through to today.

Course Description

Please note that there may be limited overlap between material covered in this course and previous courses offered by the Monuments Men and Women Foundation.

How did the millions of cultural objects stolen by the Nazis during WWII return to their rightful owners once the conflict was over, and who’s continuing the search for lost art today? Join Anna Bottinelli, president of the Monuments Men and Women Foundation, to learn about the Monuments Men and Women of WWII, a group of scholars-turned-soldiers who volunteered during the most destructive war in history to preserve our shared cultural heritage. With the help of some special guests, this course will provide insights into two key Monuments Men and the continued search for missing works of art today. It will conclude with a special presentation from the #1 NYT bestselling author Robert Edsel, who will share personal stories from his 20 years dedicated to honoring those who have led the search for missing cultural objects and their returning to their rightful owners. 

Syllabus at a Glance

This course includes four total sessions, each lasting for 1.5 hours on four consecutive Wednesdays beginning April 12.

Session 1 (Wednesday, 4/12, 8:00–9:30 ET) | Protecting the Cultural Heritage of Europe: The Monuments Men and Women of WWII

With special guests: Mr. Louis Rorimer, son of Monuments Man Capt. James J. Rorimer, and Ms. Betsy Ford, daughter of Monuments Man Lt. Dale V. Ford

This class will be an overview of the years 1938-1951, from the Nazis’ premeditated theftoperation through the creation of the Monuments Men and Women. We’ll look at their wartime efforts to protect cultural heritage from the destruction of warfare and theft by the Nazis, as well as their postwar success at returning 4 million stolen objects to their rightful owners. Although we’ll cover a lot of content in a short period of time, students will take a deep dive into the life and legacy of two key Monuments Men, Capt. James J. Rorimer and Lt. Dale V. Ford, hearing directly from their respective children.

Session 2 (Wednesday, 4/19, 8:00–9:30 ET) | The Search Today: Efforts to Track Down Cultural Objects Missing Since WWII

We’ll look at how the Foundation and monuments officers have continued the search for missing cultural objects today. To date, the Foundation has returned more than 35 paintings, tapestries, sculptures, ancient books, historical documents, and coins to institutions and individuals. This class will focus on several cases of identified and returned cultural objects to provide an overview of how the Foundation carries on the mission of the Monuments Men and Women today.

Session 3 (Wednesday, 4/26, 8:00–9:30 ET) | The New Monuments Officers of the US Army

With special guest: Col. Scott DeJesse, program director for the 38G / 6V Heritage andPreservation branch, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne)

71 years since the last Monuments Officer left Europe in the aftermath of WWII, the world once again has Monuments Men and Women. In August 2022, the first class of Monuments Officers completed the US Army Monuments Officers Training (AMOT). This class will provide students the incredible opportunity to hear directly from Col. Scott DeJesse, whose efforts we owe the creation of this unit. We will also address contemporary issues pertaining cultural heritage damage and destruction in countries currently engaged in armed conflict along with what can be done today to provide support and assistance.

Session 4 (Wednesday, 5/3, 8:00–9:30 ET) | A Behind-the-Scenes look at Robert Edsel’s Lifetime of Honoring These Wartime Heroes 

With special guest: Robert M. Edsel, founder of the Monuments Men and Women Foundation and #1 NYT bestselling author of The Monuments Men.

Over the course of twenty-one years studying these heroes of civilization, Robert M. Edsel has met and befriended many monuments men and women as well as members of their families. He’s spent countless hours listening to their wartime stories and sharing their tears and laughter—all part of his journey to document their history. This class will take students behind the scenes of a journey to learn who the men and women were who saved and protected so much of Europe’s cultural heritage, and how that curiosity led to more than two decades of service to a cause.

Between Sessions

After each class, students will have access to readings and videos. Additionally, a short bibliography with discretionary reading for anybody interested in delving deeper into course material will be provided at the end of the course.

Course Materials

While there are no required materials for this course, students are encouraged to read one of the following: Robert Edsel’s The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History (written for young adults but enjoyable for all ages!), Rescuing da Vinci, The Monuments Men, or Saving Italy; as well as Lynn Nicholas’ Rape of Europa and Michael Kurtz's America and the Return of Nazi Contraband: The Recovery of Europe’s Cultural Treasures.

Pricing Options

This course is available at three ticket prices. This tiered pricing model is designed to increase access for a wider range of students as well as to support our instructors. In addition to tiered tickets, we offer a limited number of no-pay spots for students who would not otherwise be able to take this course. No-pay spots are selected via a randomized drawing two weeks before each section begins. For more information and to apply for a no-pay spot, please click here. To learn more about our pricing model and randomized selection process for no-pay spots, please visit our FAQ page.

Community Guidelines for Students

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Where We’ll Be

Once registered, you’ll receive a confirmation email from Eventbrite that will provide access to each class meeting. Please save the confirmation email as you’ll use it to access all sessions of your course via Zoom.

About Your Instructor
Anna Bottinelli
Anna Bottinelli

Born and raised in Florence, Italy, Anna Bottinelli earned her B.A. in History of Art from John Cabot University (JCU) in Rome, graduating Magna Cum Laude. There, she was also the recipient of numerous accolades including the 2010 JCU Excellence in Art History Award and JCU Leadership Award. In 2011, she received her M.A. in Art History at The Courtauld Institute of Art in London. At the same time, Ms. Bottinelli began work as the lead Italian research assistant to #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Robert Edsel on his project to write about the Monuments Men and their preservation work in Italy during World War II. In 2014, Ms. Bottinelli accepted a full-time research position with the Monuments Men and Women Foundation. By 2017, she had advanced to senior leadership positions and in December 2019, she was appointed as the Foundation’s new President, succeeding its founder, Mr. Edsel. During her tenure at the Foundation, Ms. Bottinelli has overseen numerous restitutions of cultural objects to individuals and museums in Europe. She has also served as a consultant for “Hunting Nazi Treasure,” an eight-part investigative documentary that continues to air on Discovery’s American Heroes Channel, History Channel-Canada, and BBC Channel 4, among others. Today Ms. Bottinelli is considered an expert on the subject of art looting and recovery during World War II. She is regularly a point of contact for provenance attorneys seeking expert opinions on art restitution cases involving Italy. Ms. Bottinelli has close ties with the Cultural Heritage Protection Unit of the Italian Carabinieri, who have been steadfast supporters of the Monuments Men and Women Foundation and its mission.

What Else You Should Know

This lecture series is designed so students can participate live or watch a recording of each session, after it airs, at a time that is convenient for them. Sessions will take place live over Zoom, with dedicated Q&A segments for students to ask questions via video or chat. Within 72 hours after each session meets, students will receive access to a recording of the live session, which they can watch for up to two weeks after the course concludes.

Instructors may use Google Classroom to communicate with students outside of class. While students aren’t required to use Google Classroom, instructors may use this platform to post resources, discussion questions, or assignments. This platform also offers a space for students to connect with one another about course material between sessions.

We provide closed captioning for all of our courses and can share transcripts upon request. Please reach out to us at if you have any questions, requests, or accessibility needs.

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