WINTERSET, Iowa — A ceremony was held at 709 East Jefferson, the birthplace of George Stout. While that name might not pop out of history books, some here think it should.
Stout headed a WWII group of soldiers, called the Monuments Men, who located artwork in Europe that had been stolen by Nazi troops. He later founded the first lab in the United States for the conservation of art work. His influence has gone far beyond the WWII military to present day museums.
“What’s really unique is that much of their work led to policies of the Smithsonian and with the army,” said Chris Kramer, Director of the Department of Cultural Affairs. “Now those policies have become the gold standard so that we can preserve all those amazing artifacts and the artwork that may be turned over at the time of war.
A representative of the Smithsonian Institution was on hand to praise the work of the Winterset native.
“There’s a treaty called the 1954 Hague convention for the protection of cultural property in armed conflict,” said Cory Wegener, of the Smithsonian Institute. “In a large part, the successes of the Monuments Men and Women in WWII contributed to the creation of that treaty.”
They also unveiled a plaque marking that home as the George Stout Birthplace. It is still a private residence. One of the residents living at the house found out about the man who was born there, and decided to make it a school research project. She collected a number of photos of the Monuments Men at work.
“The process was getting all the art back, and donating it back to museums, and preserving art the way it is today,” said Nina Carney, who is now a student at DMACC.
Lt. Governor Adam Gregg brought a proclamation from Governor Reynolds marking it George Stout Day.
“Whereas Oct 5th marks the 125th birthday of Winterset native George Stout, who founded the country’s first art conservation lab, and helped lead the so-called Monuments Men to rescue priceless art work and antiquities during WWII,” read Gregg.
The town has also erected a monument to Stout in the form of a giant book. There is also a bronze photo of Stout as a part of the monument, located at first and Washington in Winterset.