The National Archives in Washington DC, together with its partners, has launched a new international online database making millions of records related to Nazi-era cultural property available online for the first time. Over 2.3 million pages of documents created or received by the US Government during and after the Second World War as part of its investigations into cultural assets that were looted or lost during the war, are now available through the portal. It is hoped that the new database will enable families and institutions to research their losses, and historians to study newly accessible materials on the history of this period. In related news, the UK’s National Archives has been working with the Commission for Looted Art in Europe to catalogue and digitise over 950 files from its collection.
The mummified, tattooed head of an ancient Maori warrior, which has resided at the Museum of Rouen in northern France since 1875, is to be returned to New Zealand. The head, which boasts intricate tattoos and has a damaged eye socket, is one of about 500 in the world and will be handed to representatives of Wellington’s Te Papa museum. Although traditionally kept as war trophies by the Maori, it is believed that heads such as this were once in such high demand that men were specifically killed for their heads.
A pair of exquisitely painted French cabinets originally created for King Louis XIV of France and saved from destruction during the French Revolution, have been returned to Alnwick Castle in Northumberland following an 18-month restoration project. Only three such cabinets are known to exist, two of which belong to the castle. A third cabinet was sold in 2009 for £4.5 million.
Campaigners from the Kings Weston Action Group are currently looking for clues as to the whereabouts of a marble sculpture once housed in one of the pavilions of Kings Weston House in Bristol. The Georgian statue, depicting a woman draped in classical robes and with her hair in braids, went missing 40 years ago and hasn’t been seen since. Kings Weston Action Group has recreated a scale replica of the statue from a 1927 photo. If you have information on the missing statue or would like more details about the campaign, email firstname.lastname@example.org
A 67-year-old man from Rothesay has described how his father pulled Adolf Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess from his plane after it crashed on a farm to the south of Glasgow in May 1941. Hess had flown solo for nearly 1,000 miles from Bavaria in a Messerschmitt Bf 110, apparently on a peace mission before Germany’s invasion of Russia. According to George McKenzie, his father, Jack, took Hess to his farmhouse after Hess had surrendered his pistol, and then alerted the authorities. Hess was later sentenced to life imprisonment at the Nuremberg trials in 1945 and died at Spandau prison in 1987.
The 43-foot ‘little ship’ Dorian, which joined a fleet of thousands of boats to rescue troops off the beaches at Dunkirk in 1940, is to undergo a full restoration at the Aeronatica heritage site at Trafalgar Dock in Southampton. It is hoped that the 96-year-old teak-hulled cruiser will be fit to sail again by 2015 – its 100th birthday and the 75th anniversary of Dunkirk.
The Darwin Correspondence Project, which aims to publish every letter ever written or received by Charles Darwin, has received funding of £5 million from various donors, including £2.5 million from Evolution Education Trust. The project, which is jointly run by Cambridge University Library and Harvard University, is expected to complete in 2022, by which time it is thought some 30 volumes of letters will have been published. More than 15,000 letters have been identified since the project was founded in 1974. You can find out more about the project at www.darwinproject.ac.uk
A host of Olympic artefacts are to go on display at the Royal Opera House in London during next year’s Olympic Games. The exhibition will include every Olympic medal produced since 1896 and every Olympic torch since 1936. A selection of photos, films and stories of great Olympians, currently housed at The Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, will also be displayed.
Immigration papers documenting Albert Einstein’s 1933 escape from Nazi Germany are now on show at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool. The recently discovered documents include Einstein’s landing card, issued when he arrived at Dover. The card lists his profession as “Professor” and his nationality as “Swiss”, demonstrating how Einstein renounced his German citizenship in reaction to Nazi policies.