'Monuments Men' worked, studied at NU

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‘Monuments Men’ worked, studied at NU

The University of Nebraska was home to a dean and student who went on to participate in the “Monuments Men” project.

Both Gilbert Doane and Jesse Boell were part of the World War II, Allied forces project tasked with saving pieces of art and culturally important items before they could be destroyed by German forces. The project is the subject of “The Monuments Men,” a movie opening Feb. 7.

Doane and Boell are not featured characters in the movie.

Doane served as the dean of libraries at NU from Sept. 1, 1925 to Dec. 9, 1936. During Doane’s NU tenure, the library grew from a total of 190,000 volumes to 306,000 volumes. When he started at Nebraska, the library took up about a third of what is now Architecture Hall. When he accepted a similar post at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1935, the library had expanded to use the entire building.

Doane took a leave of absence from the University of Wisconsin in 1943 to serve overseas with the U.S. Army’s Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives program. While there are few records of the individual contributions of the Monuments Men, Doane did assist in conservation and restitution efforts.

He served until 1945, retiring from the Army with the rank of major.

Boell was a graduate student at the University of Nebraska. His thesis, available at UNL’s Archives and Special Collections, is titled, “William Jennings Bryan Before 1896.”

Boell spent most of the war at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., accepting a post in the MFAA in Germany after the war. He returned to the United States in 1947 and served as state archivist at the Wisconsin Historical Society before becoming an associate professor and director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s archives in 1959.

The “Monuments Men” film is based on the Robert M. Edsel’s book, “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.”

For more information on Doane and Boell, go to http://go.unl.edu/x6nm.

UNL's Architecture Hall served as the university's first library. Gilbert Doane, who was part of the World War II "Monuments Men" project, was NU's dean of libraries from September 1925 to December 1936.

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