The Adventures of Miriam Davenport, 1940-1946, Part II

Today’s post is by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, MD.

In 1944, Miriam Davenport Treo was employed by the Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies for the Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas to prepare maps and lists of cultural treasures for the Armed Forces to prevent unnecessary bombing or, after occupation, looting. At the Frick Art Reference Library in New York, where the committee conducted its research, she became acquainted with the key members of the committee, many of whom were working at the Frick. These included Chairman William Bell Dinsmoor (Columbia University professor of art and archaeology); Vice-Chairman Charles Rufus Morey; Executive Secretary Sumner McK. Crosby; and later Executive Secretary Rensselaer W. Lee (professor of art history at Smith College and editor-in-chief of the College Art Association’s Art Bulletin); Secretary Kathryn M. Springer; and Research Assistants William L. M. Burke, Jane A. Mull, and, Gladys Hamlin. [1]     

At a meeting in January 1945 at the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C., home to The American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas (frequently referred to as the Roberts Commission, after the name of its chairman, Supreme Court Justice Roberts, and sometimes referred to as the American Commission), there were discussions about Burke and some other members of the New York staff of the ACLS Committee coming to Washington within a short time and there to undertake the processing of the AMG [Allied Military Government] reports (prepared by the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives officers, “The Monuments Men”), in custody of the Commission, with the view of bringing them to a current basis by June 30, 1945.[2]In part, to carry out that plan, early in 1945 the ACLS Committee began wrapping up operations in New York City and relocating its records to the National Gallery of Art. The Committee Chair Dinsmoor, who was also a member of the Commission, arranged to have the Commission employ some of the committee personnel, including Davenport.

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. as seen from the National Archives. (64-NA-552, NAID 18520013).

On March 19, Davenport was appointed Research Assistant (P-1) in the office of the Secretary-Treasurer of the Commission at a basic salary rate of $2,000 per annum. As Research Assistant her duties were to read and analyze reports of damage, looting, and displacement of works of art, historical monuments, libraries, etc. and to prepare index-digest cards of information derived from such reports; to perform research in the fine arts and the history of art on subjects connected with war loot, damage, and displacement of cultural and artistic works. She was also to assist the Research Assistant (P-2) in the performance of his duties when requested by the officers of the Commission. Her duty station was fixed at Washington D.C. and her employment was for temporary duty not to exceed 180 days.[3] On March 19 Burke, formerly professor of ancient and medieval history and director of the Index of Christian Art at Princeton University, was appointed Research Assistant (P-2, $2,600) in the office of the Secretary-Treasurer. His duties were to appraise reports to damage, looting, and displacement of works of art, books, manuscripts, historical monuments, etc.; to maintain a card index of information on war loot and damage derived from official and unofficial reports made available to the Commission; to prepare memoranda and studies for the use of the Commission based on information in the files of the Commission; to search for and present information on the history of works of art, museums, collections, libraries, etc. He was also assigned to assist the Special Assistant to the Secretary-Treasurer in the performance of his duties when requested. His appointment was temporary, not to exceed 180 days.[4]  

Joining Mrs. Treo (Miriam Davenport) and Burke, who began work in March, were Miss Springer and Miss Hamlin, who arrived on April 2.[5] On May 10, Burke wrote to Dinsmoor that the project to process the AMG reports so as to bring them up to a current basis by June 30 could not be accomplished for a number of reasons. Burke wrote that Hamlin and Springer only arrived on April 2, a full complement of office equipment was not at hand, and because since starting the processing of the AMG reports on the ACLS system, they had continually been called upon to do other urgent tasks. These tasks needed to be done and were among the functions of the Commission, but performance of them had impeded the progress of the primary function of the “New York staff,” the processing of the AMG reports. He wrote that Huntington Cairns, Secretary-Treasurer, The American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, had him working on a booklet for the Office of War Information (OWI) and that he and others were also involved in various activities such as monthly visits to Signal Corps and Air Force for photographs, monthly digests or reports on AMG and other pertinent material to go to all the Commissioners, “which would be valuable services, but the staff is too small to do these things in addition to its principal function, if the originally proposed deadline for getting AMG reports on a current basis by June 30 is maintained.” “June 30,” he wrote, “is not too far away, appropriations for the year 1945-1946, have been voted, yet I do not know if the Commission has any specific plans for the activity of the New York Staff beyond June 30, or if it has plans which were made so long ago that they should be reviewed and perhaps modified. In fact it is not known to me if the processing of the AMG reports on the ACLS system will continue after June 30. At higher levels in the Commission detailed and specific plans may have been determined, but no specific mention has been made that the processing of the reports will be continued after June 30, 1945.” Burke proceeded to complain that the various duties he was asked to undertake were numerous and responsible and warranted a considerably higher rating than P-2, and a basic salary rate of $2,600 per annum. Burke added:

“In view of my lack of knowledge of any specific plans which the Commission may have for the coming year, and the revision, which I consider merited, of my own status on its office staff, I am taking the liberty of asking you, the only Commissioner well known to me, to inform me of these plans, operational insofar as they concern the whole, budgetary insofar as they concern me, if the plans are not fixed, I shall be grateful if you will initiate inquiries in the Commission in order to have the plans of operations for ‘The New York Staff’ during 1945-1946 determined at the earliest possible date. For myself, in the event that I do not receive word of a satisfactory nature very soon, I shall proceed with plans for work outside the Commission.” [6]

Due to budget constraints, there was not sufficient funds for the former ACLS Committee personnel then employed by the Roberts Commission. Rensselaer W. Lee came to Washington in late June or early July and Charles H. Sawyer, Assistant Secretary of the Commission, refused to tell him whether Davenport was to be retained much longer. He had dinner with her and told her as much he felt he could about her employment. He wrote Burke that he hoped things might be worked out for her but he did not have great hope. He informed Burke about the dinner with her and his desire to talk with her more frankly at some later time.[7] As things turned out, the employment of Davenport and Springer terminated on July 31. Burke and Gladys E. Hamlin were still on payroll as of August 11.[8]

On August 7 Dinsmoor, from New York, wrote Burke that he was hoping to see Sawyer the following day for discussion of a photographic project. [9] Lee wrote Burke on August 9 that he was very sorry to hear that Kathryn and Miriam had left the office. “I had a telephone conversation the other day with Charlie Sawyer in which he remarked that Miriam had done a good job in July and that he was having lunch with Dinsmoor at the Century Club to talk things over. He certainly said nothing about reconsidering Miriam but I had hopes that something might be brewing.”[10] Something was brewing, a photo archives project, that the ACLS Committee wanted to launch in cooperation with the Commission.

On August 15, Dinsmoor, in his capacity as Chairman, Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas, wrote Mrs. Treo that the best way of working out the situation with regard to the photograph archive project seemed to be a semi-independent administration which would place the responsibility upon him, and through him the ACLS, rather than the Commission, with the understanding, however, that the Commission would cooperate with this project and would concede the necessary access to AMG reports (as afforded to its own staff and to allied operatives of the Foreign Economic Administration, Office of Strategic Services, OWI, etc.) and would, in addition, use its good offices in such a way as to sponsor access to the photograph files of the Signal Corps and the Air Force Library, to aid in securing prints therefrom and in urging the AMG officers abroad to furnish photos or negatives for the project, and in other ways that would benefit the common objective.

He informed her that the Rockefeller Foundation, through the ACLS, would contribute funds to the extent of $3,000 with the understanding that this was a research project supplementing its previous cooperation in the effort to conserve cultural material in war areas, by enabling the illustrative material to be collected and coordinated for future research before it could be scattered or in part discarded.

The Commission, on its side, he added, would gain by having the illustrative material collected and available for consultation, for reports, and for exhibitions, while it is still in existence. He wrote her that the details of classifying and annotating the photographs and of coordinating with them the AMG reports would have to be worked out at the moment of undertaking the project.

The ultimate disposition of the photographic archive, being constituted in part, at least, from government property, would presumably be a national repository as might subsequently be agreed upon.

Dinsmoor wrote that the project would best be established in a government building in the immediate vicinity of the National Gallery of Art, for convenience and economy, as, for instance, in the National Archives, if that could be arranged. He noted that the typewriter belonging to the Archaeological Institute, then lent to the Commission, would be lent for the project, and the available funds would take care of materials, supplies, expenses for photographs, and other incidentals. He informed her he had “discussed the foregoing matters with Mr. Sawyer and I believe that from his point of view these arrangements would be satisfactory.” 

“If the undertaking of this project appeals to you,” Dinsmoor wrote, “I should be glad to appoint you to the position of research assistant to the ACLS Committee for a period of ten months beginning September 1, at a salary of $250 monthly to be paid by the ACLS.” He informed her if she wanted the position she needed to inform him of her acceptance at the earliest opportunity and also she needed to consult Sawyer so that any preliminary arrangements regarding quarters, etc. could be made before setting up the project on September 1.[11]

On the same day he wrote Mrs. Treo, Dinsmoor sent Sawyer a copy of the letter he had sent her and wrote that if she informed him that she accepted the position, he would ask him to discuss the matter with Huntington Cairns, “and also, assuming that the situation is as it seemed when you talked with me, to broach the subject with Oliver Wendell Holmes [Program Adviser] of the National Archives. I can ask [Waldo] Leland [Director of the ACLS] to approach [Solon J.] Buck [Archivist of the United States] also, but I think that your idea of approaching Holmes first would be better.” [12]

A week later Sawyer wrote Dinsmoor that he had discussed his August 15 letter to Mrs. Treo with Cairns and the arrangement for the Photographic Archives Project as outlined was satisfactory to them. Sawyer informed him that the Commission would cooperate with the ACLS in the organization and execution of the project in providing access to AMG reports, and in using its good offices to secure access to the photographic files of the War Department and other Government agencies. The Commission would also use its good offices to help in securing prints showing war damage to monuments from AMG officers abroad and from other sources. Sawyer added that the Commission would make photographic material, at present in its own files, available to the Photographic project of ACLS subject to conditions that, 1) that this material and other photographic material assembled by the ACLS Photographic Project shall be made available for the current use of museums and those Government agencies interested in the assembling of Exhibitions illustrating war damage to monuments, and 2) that the Photographic Archives would be kept together as a collection and would be deposited eventually along with the field reports supplied to the Commission by the War Department in the National Archives or such other Government depository as may be finally determined by the Commission. It was their understanding, he wrote, that the expense of processing these Photographic Archives would be borne entirely by the ACLS. Sawyer concluded his letter by writing “It is our opinion that the Photographic Archives project, under your direction, will be a most valuable supplement to the processing of the Field Reports now being undertaken by the American Commission.” [13]

The following day Sawyer wrote Dinsmoor that he supposed a formal approval of the Photographic Project should be incorporated in the business for the next Commission meeting for final action. He noted that he had a most satisfactory talk with Holmes and he would take up the problem of housing the Project in the National Archives with Dr. Buck. Sawyer indicated that Holmes suggested Dinsmoor or Dr. Leland write to Buck along the lines of his letter to Mrs. Treo stating the purpose of the Project and its sponsorship. He suggested that Buck might be most favorably inclined if a definite commitment is made to house these reports in the National Archives, but he did not insist on this point. “I think,” Sawyer wrote,” a clear acknowledgement that these Photographs are Government property and will be housed in a Government depository would satisfy them at present.” Sawyer added that Mrs. Treo and Bill Burke were working out a skeleton plan for operation which they would submit for his approval. Concluding, Sawyer wrote that time was somewhat short to get the project housed and under way by September 1st, and he thought that if Dinsmoor had an opportunity to write Dr. Buck as soon as possible, the limited space required in the National Archives could be made available immediately. [14]

Letter from ACLS Chairman William Dinsmoor to Archivist Solon Buck, June 1, 1945.

On August 25, Burke wrote Dinsmoor that he was delighted to hear from Sawyer that the Photo Project of the ACLS Committee was going through. “I think that Mrs. Treo will be able to get good results and that the Project will be a very useful and satisfactory one. It should be possible, the authorities of the War Department being cooperative, to have quite a large assembly of photographs for exhibitions within a few months, and quite a few thousands for the record by the end of the program.” [15]

On September 1, the project got under way at the National Gallery of Art. Waldo Leland wrote Buck on September 4 asking about the possibility of National Archives involvement. While awaiting an answer, Mrs. Treo began working with about 1,300 miscellaneous photographs on hand at the American Commission. These had been accumulated, during two years, by the Commission and the ACLS Committee. In September she sorted, identified in many cases, and edited the photographs. [16]

Meanwhile, on September 9, a memo was sent to members of the Commission explaining the special Photographic Archives Project to be administered by the ACLS under the direction of Dinsmoor. They were informed Mrs. Miriam Treo would collect and catalogue photographs of war damage to monuments in the files of the Commission, the Army Signal Corps, the OWI, and from private sources and these photographs would eventually be coordinated with the Commission’s files on war damage and placed in a Government depository where they would be available to scholars. In the meanwhile, they were further informed, the photographs would be available for the preparation of exhibitions, illustrating war damage for which there was already a considerable demand from museums and Government Agencies. [17] At a Commission meeting on September 25, Dinsmoor explained the purpose of a photographic archive project. He stressed the urgency of the situation, while the material was readily available, and its usefulness in assessing the damage to monuments in the preparation of the Commission’s reports, and in fulfilling requests for exhibits illustrating monuments, fine arts and archives activities and the current condition of monuments. Upon motion duly made and seconded, it was resolved

“That the Commission approve the continuation and completion, as far as resources permit, of a War Damage Photographic Archive, at present in the care of the American Council of Learned Societies Committee on the Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas, and that the Commission approve, furthermore, the accrediting to the proper Government agencies, of the staff worker on this project, a former member of the A.C.L.S. and the Commission’s research staffs. It is understood that the project is supported by the American Council of Learned Societies with no formal obligation resting on the Commission.”[18]

While working on the photographs that had been accumulated by the Commission and the Committee, Mrs. Treo began the process of acquiring photographs from external sources. On September 4 she wrote Sawyer that he should request from the War Department for the ACLS Photographic Project free access to all War Department photographs in the US Army Signal Corps Pictorial Records Library and the US Army Air Corps Pictorial Records Library; and positive prints (4” x 5”) to be supplied gratis (one of each photograph selected) of as many photographs as may be pertinent illustration of the reports of the Field Officers of the MFAA Sub-Commission of the Civil Affairs Division, with the understanding that they will accompany these reports, now in the custody of the American Commission, to their ultimate governmental repository. [19] 

Miriam, on September 19, wrote the War Department’s G-2 Propaganda Branch requesting the photographic material, both classified and unclassified of the U.S. Army Signal Corps be made available to the ACLS Committee’s Photographic Project. She explained it was a research project under the auspices of the American Council of Learned Societies Committee on the Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas that had been set up at the request of, and to cooperate with, interested government agencies. The plan of the Project was to gather into one central file, and classify, such material from all possible sources as is pertinent to the illustration of cultural material in war areas before such material could become scattered or, in part, discarded. In this, it would cooperate closely with the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, and supplement the Commission’s work, by keying such photographs as the Project may assemble to the Field Reports of the MFA&A Officers of the US Army Civil Affairs Division then on deposit with the Commission.

During the coming year, she informed Maj. Aiken, the ACLS Photographic Project, by uniting and classifying illustrative material pertaining to cultural treasures in war areas in one central file will enable interested government agencies including the American Commission, the State Department, etc,., and accredited organizations and institutions to procure immediately, upon request, such material as they may require for consultation, for domestic and international exhibitions, and for reports and publications. The archive thus constituted, she wrote, will be government property and will eventually be deposited in a national repository with the MFA&A Officers’ field reports which it will accompany and illustrate.

She further explained that the ACLS Committee, under the direction of professor William Bell Dinsmoor, had appointed her a research assistant whose responsibility it was to achieve the ends outlined above. Until arrangements for office space can be completed, she noted, the temporary seat of operations of the Photographic Project, was through the courtesy of the Commission, the National Gallery of Art. She concluded by writing that it was understood that no photographs from the Project’s files would be furnished for publication without the express consent of the source of the photograph and that, in all cases, proper credit will be given the source. Besides the photographs, formerly in possession of the Commission, which had been turned over to the photographic project along with all those which come into the Commission’s possession in the future, the Project planned, she continued, to draw material from the following sources: US Army Air Corps; The U.S. Army Signal Corps Pictorial Record Library; OWI; magazines, newspapers and commercial sources; and, available foreign sources. [20]

On October 17, David E. Finley, Vice chairman of the Roberts Commission wrote the Assistant Secretary of War that in cooperation with the Commission, the ACLS had established a photographic archives project to assemble in a central file material relating to war damage of European monuments. This file, he wrote, would be incorporated with the reports of the MFA&A officers which had been forwarded to the Commission by the War Department. Finley pointed out that such a project had, in the opinion of the Commission, value both as a record of the accomplishments of the MFA&A personnel and as a permanent record of that phase of the War which it would be impossible to assemble once the major files, then in the War Department, were scattered. He added that the Chairman of this project, William B. Dinsmoor, had appointed as his research assistant, Mrs. Miriam Davenport Treo. “It would,” he wrote “be greatly appreciated if she could be given access to the files of the Army Air Corps and of the Army Signal Corps Pictorial Records Library and if she could be supplied with the material which is pertinent to the project. We hope that it may also be possible to arrange for a security clearance for her so that she can have access to classified material.”In early November, the Executive to the Assistant Secretary of War responded that they would be pleased to grant permission to Mrs. Miriam Davenport Treo to visit the Signal Corps and Air Corps still picture libraries. Finley was informed that if she would advise Lt. Col. Swarthout of the War Department’s Bureau of Public relations as to the date and time she wished to visit the two libraries, the necessary clearances would be made. Colonel McCarthy added that all photographs having to do with war damage to European monuments had been declassified and ended by writing “We will be happy to assist Mrs. Treo in every way possible.”  [21]

With the access and acquisition issues progressing nicely during the fall, the other issue confronting the Photographic Project was that of space. Leland’s September 4 letter was given to Holmes, National Archives Program Adviser, to consider. He wrote the Archivist of the United States, that Leland’s letter was so related to the general problem of the eventual disposition of the records of the Roberts Commission he thought it necessary to consider it against that background. He wrote that on September 8, he and Dr. Roscoe R. Hill, visited Sawyer, then the Commission’s acting secretary, to discuss the general subject as well as to see where the photographic project fitted into the picture. He noted that Sawyer had just returned from the Capitol where there had been discussion of the possibility of closing down the Commission’s activities by October 31. Sawyer told them he thought it likely that they would be allowed to live out their allotted span (that is until June 30), but the uncertainty of an earlier closing had not been definitely removed. Holmes observed that the Commission wanted to stay in existence for the remainder of the fiscal year to do at least four things: “First, to continue its advisory functions in the field of Monuments and Fine Arts, which it considers important at this stage even though operations in the theaters (which it is not supposed to administer directly) are going smoothly; Second, to continue to receive, register, and index the reports sent to it from all theaters—the only complete record set in this country since the War Department does not keep copies; Third, to prepare and publish a history of the MFA&A program, with emphasis on activities in the field—to be written largely by officers in the theaters and elaborately illustrated. This is apparently planned with the assistance of private funds. (Mr. Sawyer wants some discussion of the archives side of the work in this proposed history, and I intend to write a separate memorandum on this subject); [and] Fourth, to carry out the proposed special photographic project, which is the subject of Dr. Leland’s letter.”

Holmes informed Buck that Sawyer had given them a detailed memorandum (attached) on the photographic project for the execution of which the ACLS was providing the sum of $3,000. He reported that Dinsmoor’s Committee was evidently being kept alive as the Council’s supervising agent in connection with the project. Some 500 or 600 of the photographs were then in the American Commission’s files with related reports. Others that were taken at the request of MFA&A officers had still to be secured. Apparently, Holmes wrote, they “intend to round up others from all possible sources and organize them on a geographic basis, first by country and then alphabetically by place. They will be cross referenced to the reports and vice versa, so that the whole hangs together as a unit. I don’t suppose an appraisal of this project on our part is called for as a factor in our decision, but personally I would like to see it carried through and agree with Dr. Leland that the work ‘will be of value to your establishment.’”

Then Holmes discussed the space considerations. He noted that the request for space originated from the fact that the present personnel (6 or 7 employees) and records of the American Commission were then crowded into two rooms in the National Gallery, which is all, Sawyer said, that could be made available to them. Holmes observed that The National Archives was nearby, and inasmuch as the records were likely to come to them eventually anyway, it was thought that they might be willing now to afford the additional space needed for the photograph project while it was being worked on. Leland had requested, Holmes noted, working space for two employees, Mrs. Treo and a typist, the files, and office equipment (1 typewriter desk, 1 medium size table, 2 office chairs, 1 small supply cabinet, 1 4-drawer legal size file cabinet, 1 8-drawer “4×6” cabinet and space for some reference books).

Holmes added that:

“It would be very desirable diplomatically for us to accede to this request if at all possible for it would probably result logically in the accessioning of all the Commission’s archives as soon as the time is ripe, and do want them as early as possible rather than have them to the State Department and thus perhaps out of our reach. They contain the heart of the archives story in Europe that we will want accessible for any history of our own work in that commission. There are many documents in that collection that deserve printing, but that might not be made available for that purpose if they come within State Department’s control. There are items of information on archives all through these reports that can only be made use of if the records are at hand and accessible.

Commission officials, including Dr. Dinsmoor himself, I understand, like the idea of having them available in the National Archives for art historians and scholars that may want to use them…I should not like to disappoint them in their present mood of cooperation, and feel, indeed, that it would be difficult to turn down this request without good and obvious cause. I am rather anxious at this point to let bygones be bygones in our relations with the Commission and to try to close this chapter with feelings of mutual satisfaction.”

Holmes observed that he had checked into the National Archives space situation and had found the space needed if necessary. He therefore recommended that the National Archives afford space to the ACLS for the photographic project. “This work,” he wrote, “could be carried to conclusion even if meanwhile we should accession the American Commission’s files.” He attached a draft letter for Buck to send to Leland consenting to the use of space in the National Archives building.[22]

While awaiting a response from the National Archives regarding space for the photographic project, Miriam Davenport Treo was busy at the National Gallery of Art working with the photographs. Burke wrote Lee, October 1, that Miriam was “busily at work on the photographs already assembled by the Committee, and on those which came through to the Commission in the AMG Reports, arranging them by geographical location, putting on captions where they are lacking, giving them accession numbers, and making a file of caption cards leading to the photographs. In addition she is getting at various sources of photos not yet in the files, “so will have her hands and mind busy for quite a time. She sends greetings.” [23]  

Belatedly and apologetically, Buck wrote Leland on October 9 that he was much embarrassed to discover that he have not replied to his letter of September 4, asking if they might find space in the National Archives for the project of assembling, organizing, and indexing the photographs relating to the MFA&A program in war areas. Buck wrote that he had checked into the space situation and that space in the building was at such a premium then that they would be justified in making the proposed arrangement only if the work was to be of eventual value to the National Archives in connection with the administration and serving of the records of the American Commission when they were deposited with the National Archives. “I assume,” Buck wrote, “that such deposit is the ultimate intention of the Commission and that the photographic records in question will constitute a part of the records of the Commission.” Buck informed Leland space had been located for the project and if it was suitable Mrs. Treo should so indicate and arrangements could be made for its temporary use for the project.[24]

By the end of October, Mrs. Treo relocated her project to the National Archives building. She would soon be joined by Katherine Springer. [25] Throughout the first half of 1946 they kept busy with their photographic collection, working diligently to bring together in one place as many photographs as possible illustrating the fate of cultural material in war areas, before they could be either dispersed or discarded. Miriam also found time to marry her colleague William Burke.

The work of the American Council of Learned Societies Photographic Archive Project came to an end on June 30, 1946. During the ten months of its existence Mrs. Burke and Miss Springer approached thirty-nine possible sources of photographs and of these, sixteen deposited photographic material with the Project. Besides a large body of photographs accumulated by the Roberts Commission and turned over to Burke and Springer, they also acquired 1,500 prints from the New York office of the OWI; 4,000 prints from the U.S. Army Signal Corps Pictorial Records Library; 4,640 prints and negatives from the AMG MFA&A Headquarters of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF); and 4,675 prints from the Allied Military Government Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Sub-Commission in Italy. In all about 16,100 items (positive prints, negatives, and duplicates) were acquired.

Besides processing their collection, including preparing nearly 9,000 caption cards for items, Mrs. Burke and Miss Springer provided various reference services. They were consulted by twenty-five persons or agencies for information and/or loans of photographs for lectures, articles and exhibitions. About 1,800 photographs were loaned. Over 900 photographs were supplied to Jane Mull of the Roberts Commission to facilitate a selection of photographs for an exhibition being circulated by LIFE Magazine.[26]

In the latter part of June 1946, Buck asked Holmes to give him a report regarding the status of the photographic project before he was to talk to Leland about the project and its use of space in the National Archives building. Holmes reported that Mrs. Miriam Burke and Miss Kathryn Springer were the two employees paid with ACLS funds that had been working with the project in the National Archives building. Holmes informed Buck that Mrs. Burke, who had been in charge, of the project, on the morning of June 27 provided him with a copy of her final report, covering the period September 1, 1945-June 30, 1946 and she was to give Leland the report later that morning. Holmes noted that the report covered much of the information that Buck desired.

Holmes noted that she had informed him that Leland was unable to secure funds from the Rockefeller sources that had until now provided for the continuance of this activity but that he had found other funds “that would permit the continued employment through July of Mrs. Burke, Miss Springer, and Mr. William Burke—the latter until June 30, I believe, on the American Commission payroll as research specialist and in charge of paper records and reports that are over at the Commission’s offices in the National Gallery of Art building.” William Burke, Holmes noted, had also prepared the first draft of the Commission’s final report which was then at the Government Printing Office and would apparently have responsibility for seeing it though the press. Holmes informed Buck that Mr. and Mrs. Burke intended to return to William’s former employment at Princeton University at the end of July, but Leland had also promised they will continue Miss Springer’s employment in the photographic project through August and September. “There is no certainty at all,” Holmes wrote “of any funds being made available beyond that point, except that Leland is to continue to work on the matter of trying to find them.” Holmes wrote that Mrs. Burke informed him that their collecting activity from agencies other than MFA&A sources, would cease as of June 30 and that some additional MFA&A material would be received from the theaters to incorporate in the files. He added that during the following three months Mrs. Burke and Miss Springer would put everything in as good shape as possible for discontinuance completely of the work after September 30. Holmes recommended that the National Archives go ahead and accession the Photographic Archive at once, noting that Leland, Mrs. Burke, Miss Springer, and others agreed. [27]

With the demise in 1946 of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas and the Photographic Archive Project, their records were accessioned into the National Archives during fiscal year 1947. [28]

At the conclusion of the work of the Roberts Commission and the Photographic Archive Project, the Burkes during 1946 moved to Princeton. There, William resumed his teaching position and directorship of the Index of Christian Art in Princeton, then a division of the Department of Art and Archaeology of Princeton University. Miriam meanwhile first managed Albert Einstein’s office for the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, then she helped Princeton Professor Frederick Stohlman with his work on Limoges champlevé enamels. In 1951, the Burkes moved to the University of Iowa. There she plunged back into graduate work in art and within two years was an exhibiting and prize-winning painter and sculptor.

Burke’s death in 1961, left Miriam pressed for funds. She began teaching art and French to the children of her farming neighbors in Riverside, Iowa. Then she met and married Charles Ebel, an archeologist and ancient historian. Soon thereafter, she returned to teaching French at the University of Iowa, where she finished in 1973 a PhD in French literature. By the 1980s, the Ebels moved to Michigan, where Charles was a professor of history at Central Michigan University. Miriam continued research and publishing in French 18th century literature, paints, and, gardens.Miriam Davenport Ebel died of cancer in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, September 13, 1999. She was buried in Iowa, where she had lived happily with Dr. Burke and later Dr. Ebel.


[1] Report on the Activities of the Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas – Dec. 31, 1943, File: Case 145-E6, Relations with the ACLS Committee on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas (Dinsmoor Committee), Case Files Relating to Extra-Federal Archival Affairs, 1944-1948 (Entry A1 151), Records of the National Archives, Record Group 64; Personnel and Consultants: Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies, n.d., attachment to Letter, Paul J. Sachs, Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts to William L. M. Burke, Research Analyst, National Gallery of Art, November 24, 1945, File: Sachs, Paul J., Dr., Correspondence, 1943-1946[A1, Entry 7], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 16.

[2] Letter, William L. M. Burke to William B. Dinsmoor, Department of Fine Arts and Archaeology, Columbia University, New York City, May 10, 1945, File: ACLS Committee, 1945-1946, General Records, 1943-1946[A1, Entry 10], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 21.

[3] Letter, Assistant Secretary-Treasurer to Mrs. Miriam Davenport Treo, 107 East 37th Street, New York, New York, March 19, 1945, File: Personnel-General, Correspondence, 1943-1946[A1, Entry 7], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 16.

[4] Letter, Assistant Secretary-Treasurer to William L. M. Burke, McCormick Hall, Princeton, New Jersey, March 19, 1945, File: Personnel-General, Correspondence, 1943-1946[A1, Entry 7], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 16.

[5] Letter, William L. M. Burke to William B. Dinsmoor, Department of Fine Arts and Archaeology, Columbia University, New York City, May 10, 1945, File: ACLS Committee, 1945-1946, General Records, 1943-1946[A1, Entry 10], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 21.

[6] Letter, William L. M. Burke to William B. Dinsmoor, Department of Fine Arts and Archaeology, Columbia University, New York City, May 10, 1945, File: ACLS Committee, 1945-1946, General Records, 1943-1946[A1, Entry 10], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 21.

[7] Letter, Rens [Rensselaer W. Lee], College Art Association of America to Bill [William L. M. Burke], July 6, 1945, File: ACLS Committee, 1945-1946, General Records, 1943-1946[A1, Entry 10], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 21.

[8] Time and Attendance Report, July 29 1945 to August 11, 1945, File: American Commission-Time and Attendance Reports, D-15, Administrative Records, 1943-1946[A1, Entry 1], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 1.

[9] Letter, William B. Dinsmoor, The American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas to William C.[?] Burke], The American Commission, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., August 7, 1945, File: ACLS Committee, 1945-1946, General Records, 1943-1946[A1, Entry 10], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 21.

[10] Letter, Rens [Rensselaer W. Lee] to Bill [William L. M. Burke], August 9, 1945, File: ACLS Committee, 1945-1946, General Records, 1943-1946[A1, Entry 10], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 21.

[11] William B. Dinsmoor, Chairman, Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas to Mrs. Miriam Davenport Treo, August 15, 1945, File, Miscellaneous Correspondence (To Be Filed), Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1942–1945[A1, Entry 9], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 19.

[12] William B. Dinsmoor to Charles H. Sawyer, Assistant Secretary, The American Commission, August 15, 1945, File, Miscellaneous Correspondence (To Be Filed), Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1942–1945[A1, Entry 9], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 19.

[13] Charles H. Sawyer, Assistant Secretary to William Bell Dinsmoor, August 23, 1945, File, Miscellaneous Correspondence (To Be Filed), Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1942–1945[A1, Entry 9], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 19.

[14] Charles H. Sawyer, Assistant Secretary to William Bell Dinsmoor, August 24, 1945, File, Miscellaneous Correspondence (To Be Filed), Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1942–1945[A1, Entry 9], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 19.

[15] Letter, [William L. M. Burke] to Professor Dinsmoor, August 25, 1945, File: ACLS Committee, 1945-1946, General Records, 1943-1946[A1, Entry 10], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 21.

[16] Miriam Davenport Burke, Final Report on the Activity of the Photographic Archives of the Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas: September 1, 1945 to June 30, 1946 in Job No. 447-4, Accession No. 2280, Record Group 239 American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas [room 5510].

[17] The American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Memorandum for Members and Adviser of The American Commission, No. 2, September 9, 1945, File: Case 145-E7, American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Case Files Relating to Extra-Federal Archival Affairs, 1944-1948 (Entry A1 151), Records of the National Archives, Record Group 64.

[18] Minutes of Special Meeting of the American Commission for the protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, held in the Conference room, Office of Dallard, Spahr, Andrews and Ingersoll, Land Title Building, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday afternoon, September 25, 1945, at 2:00 P.M., Minutes of Commission Meeting, 1943-1945 [A1, Entry 50], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 60, Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 19.

[19] Memo, Miriam Davenport Treo to Mr. Sawyer, Subject: Facilities to be requested from the War Department for the A.C.L.S. Photographic Project, September 4, 1945, File: War Department-Miscellaneous Divisions, Correspondence, 1943-1946[A1, Entry 7], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 18.

[20] Memo, (Mrs.) Miriam B. Davenport Treo, Research Assistant, American Council of Learned Societies’ Committee on the Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas: Photographic Archive project, National Gallery of Art to Maj. William A. Aiken, Propaganda Branch, Pentagon, Subject: Photographic Archive project of the Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies On protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas, September 19, 1945, File, Miscellaneous Correspondence (To Be Filed), Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1942–1945[A1, Entry 9], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 19.

[21] Letter, David E. Finley, Vice Chairman to John H. McCloy, Assistant Secretary of War, War Department, October 17, 1945, Miscellaneous Correspondence to Be Filed, Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1942-1945[A1, Entry 9], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 19; Letter, Charles W. McCarthy, Col., Executive to Assistant Secretary of War to David E. Finley, Office of the Secretary, National Gallery of Art, November 7, 1945, ibid.

[22] Memo, Oliver W. Holmes, Program Adviser to The Archivist, Subject: Dr. Leland’s Letter of September 4 and the Records of the American Commission, September 12, 1945, File: Case 145-E7, American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Case Files Relating to Extra-Federal Archival Affairs, 1944-1948 (Entry A1 151), Records of the National Archives, Record Group 64.

[23] Letter, [William L. M. Burke], to Rens [Rensselaer W. Lee], October 1, 1945, File: ACLS Committee, 1945-1946, General Records, 1943-1946[A1, Entry 10], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 21.

[24] Letter, Solon J. Buck, Archivist of the United States to Dr. Waldo G. Leland, Director, American Council of Learned Societies, Washington, D.C., October 9, 1945, File: Case 145-E7, American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Case Files Relating to Extra-Federal Archival Affairs, 1944-1948 (Entry A1 151), Records of the National Archives, Record Group 64.

[25] Letter, Rens [Rensselaer W. Lee], College Art Association of America to Charles H. Sawyer, American Commission, January 3, 1946, File: Lee, Rensselaer W., Correspondence, 1943-1946[A1, Entry 7], Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 14.

[26] Miriam Davenport Burke, Final Report on the Activity of the Photographic Archives of the Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas: September 1, 1945 to June 30, 1946 in Job No. 447-4, Accession No. 2280, Record Group 239 American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas [room 5510].

[27] Memo, Oliver W. Holmes, Program Adviser to The Archivist, Subject: Situation with respect to photographic and other records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, June 27, 1946, File: Case 145-E7, American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Case Files Relating to Extra-Federal Archival Affairs, 1944-1948 (Entry A1 151), Records of the National Archives, Record Group 64.

[28] The National Archives, Thirteenth Annual Report of the Archivist of the United States for the Year Ending June 30, 1947 (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1948), pp. 15, 16-17. For a description of the photographs in Record Group 239 (American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas) see https://catalog.archives.gov/id/540138 and https://catalog.archives.gov/id/540133 

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