I just read these lines in a war pamphlet issued by George Stout, chief conservator of Harvard’s Fogg Museum regarding American troop’s treatment of Europe’s cultural objects. Stout’s justification for the protection of these monuments reveals an antiquated worldview and includes many references to God and mankind which are perhaps passé, but I find it quite powerful.
“To safeguard these things will not affect the course of battles, but it will affect the relations of invading armies to those peoples and governments … To safeguard these things will show respect for the beliefs and customs of all men and will bear witness that these things belong not only to a particular people but also to the heritage of mankind. These monuments are not merely pretty things, not merely valued signs of man’s creative power. They are expressions of faith, and they stand for man’s struggle to relate himself to his past and to his God.”
The fervor and religiosity which pervades Stout’s rhetoric grates somewhat on my post-modern outlook but simultaneously inspires me.