The Monuments Men

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Richard Gibson Hensley ( 1903-1959 )

Librarian and archivist, Richard Gibson Hensley was born in Tennessee on June 16, 1903. At the young age of seventeen, he began working as a reference assistant at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. He spent two years in a similar position at the New York Public Library while completing his Bachelor’s degree at Columbia University. He then moved to Boston, where he worked at the Boston Public Library while completing his graduate studies at Harvard University. Hensley served in many different capacities at the library, including lecturer in charge of a library training course, Assistant to the Director, Assistant Librarian, and Chief Librarian of the Reference Division.

Hensley enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve in early 1941, well before Pearl Harbor. In 1942 he was assigned to the headquarters of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Washington, D.C. He spent the following year instructing the Corps’s new recruits at The Engineer’s School at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. In 1945, following the end of hostilities, he was transferred to the MFAA in Austria. As an Archives Specialist Officer, Hensley was tasked with locating and safeguarding displaced archives in the U.S. Zone of Occupation. He was also involved in creating policies and procedures concerning the preservation, storage, cataloguing, treatment, examination, and reproduction of archives and records, including scientific and industrial information. In this position, he visited the mines at Altaussee, Durnberg, and Laufen, as well as numerous castles, villas, and private homes, all repositories for looted art. Hensley later served as the Chief of the Archives Branch of the U.S. Allied Commission for Austria (USACA).

Upon his return home to the United States in 1946, Hensley resumed his position at the Boston Public Library. He was a member of the American Library Association, the Bibliographer’s Society, the Society of American Military Engineers, and served on the executive board of the Massachusetts chapter of the Reserve Officers Association.

Richard Hensley died in New Hampshire on November 7, 1959.