General MFAA Final Report

Text by Professor Nigel Pollard, Swansea University

In the immediate aftermath of the war in Europe, the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Sub-Commission produced a series of reports that summarised and analysed their activities in Italy. Some of them, notably the two volumes of Works of Art in Italy: Losses and Survivals in the War (1945, 1946), were published in printed form. This document is the first, general, volume of the Sub-Commission’s Final Report, which includes fourteen other volumes, organised mostly by Italian regions. The Final Report is a typescript that was never published. This Final Report: General includes an overview of the organisation’s development, discussions of key themes relating to its activities (including damage by Allied bombing and by the Germans; the importance of good relationships with Italian heritage authorities), a summary of the unit’s personnel throughout the war, and, in appendices, some key documents relating to wartime practice. The final reports reflect, often quite frankly, on the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation and Allied cultural property protection, and convey many lessons of value for the protection of cultural heritage in conflict zones more generally. Unfortunately many of those lessons were forgotten in the postwar decades, to be re-learned by harsh experience in more recent times. However, the revival of interest in those wartime lessons has great potential to enhance future policies and practice in the protection of cultural property in conflict – an activity that ultimately contributes to the identities and well-being of nations, communities and individuals.