For the Bookshelf: Defending National Treasures

Book cover of "Defending National Treasures" by Elizabeth KarlsgodtDefending National Treasures: French Art and Heritage Under Vichy
By Elizabeth Campbell Karlsgodt
Stanford University Press, 2011


In Defending National Treasures, Karlsgodt examines lasting preservation policies created during the Nazi occupation, as well as the effort by French curators to acquire works of art from Jewish collections for the Louvre and other museums. “The French museum administration still promotes the idea that their predecessors during World War II protected art from seized collections in the interest of the Jewish owners,” says Karlsgodt. “But wartime correspondence in French archives tells a very different story. Prominent cultural figures who supported the Resistance also sought to acquire some of the art for the Louvre. I aim to provide a more complete picture of museum officials’ actions during the Occupation.” Karlsgodt coins the term “patrimania,” in which cultural and political figures succumb to opportunism to pursue cultural acquisitions — not for themselves, but for the institutions they serve. She sheds light on current cultural property disputes in various countries over antiquities and Nazi-era assets, examining the ethics of museum acquisitions. Karlsgodt is an assistant professor of history at the University of Denver. Her analysis stems from two years of archival research in France.

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