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Kenneth C. Lindsay papers

Identifier: BUA-0008

Scope and Contents

This collection documents Professor Emeritus Kenneth C. Lindsay’s life and interests from his time in the United States Army during World War II, through his years as the chair of the Department of Art and Art History at Binghamton University, until his death in 2009. The materials found in the collection range from newspaper articles to photographs to handwritten research notes and correspondence. Three of the collection’s series focus on Professor Lindsay’s professional and personal research interests in the artists Wassily Kandinsky, John Vanderlyn, and Marcel Duchamp. These series cover Lindsay’s involvement in the exhibition of Vanderlyn’s works at the Binghamton University Art Museum in 1970, his research of Kandinsky that spanned over 40 years, and his comparison of the styles of Duchamp and Kandinsky. Both the Vanderlyn and Kandinsky series provide evidence of Lindsay’s work as a consultant in identifying pieces by these two artists, particularly the Campbell Panels painted by Kandinsky and a portrait of President James Monroe potentially completed by Vanderlyn (see the folder “Campbell Murals”, Box 3, Folder 3 and the subseries “Monroe Research”, Box 10, Folders 1-4). The Kandinsky series also contains materials written in German, French, Italian, and Russian. These materials consist of letters in German between Lindsay and Gabriele Münter, and newspaper clippings and essays written in Russian or Italian or French about international exhibitions of Kandinsky’s artwork and of his artwork displayed at the Guggenheim in the 1980s (see the folder “Guggenheim Kandinsky Exhibition--Director Thomas Messer, Curator Daniel Robbins”, Box 1, Folder 4).

A fourth series concerns Sergeant Kenneth Lindsay’s work with the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section of the United States Army during and after World War II. This series contains several art catalogues from German museums and photographs of Lindsay in the army, including one of his desk at the MFAA headquarters in Wiesbaden (see the photograph in Box 13, Folder 6). Also found in this series is an unsent 1945 memo written by Lindsay to protest the shipment of 202 pieces of European art to the United States (see Kenneth Lindsay’s memo in Box 13, Folder 2). His efforts to have the memo published in Stars and Stripes were hindered, but a year later, he wrote a letter to Senator Robert M. LaFollette, Jr. of Wisconsin, stating his disapproval of housing the artworks in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C (see “Letter to Senator LaFollette”, Box 15, Folder 7).

The remaining series cover a variety of topics such as Lindsay’s lifelong interest in forged artworks and war loot, his work with the Binghamton Commission on Architecture and Urban design in the mid-1960s, and the memorial that was held in his honor in 2009 at the Binghamton University Art Museum. Items in these series include a draft of an essay on war loot written by Lindsay, a booklet explaining the creation of the Binghamton Commission, the catalogue The Shared Treasure documenting an exhibit of artworks on display from private Binghamton-area collectors in 1956, and pages from the eulogy that Lindsay’s grandson gave at his memorial (see the following folders: “Articles Relating to War Looting”, Box 14, Folder 5; “The Binghamton Commission on Architecture and Urban Design, 1964-1967” Box 18, Folder 7; “Lindsay, Kenneth. The Shared Treasure”, Box 17, Folder 4; “Remembrance of Lindsay by grandson”, Box 17, Folder 25).

The Kenneth C. Lindsay Papers collection contains both professional and personal materials. Examples of personal items found within the collection are photographs of Kenneth and Christine Lindsay taken by Richard Berge at a gathering to discuss the documentary film The Rape of Europa, and correspondence between Lindsay and former students and colleagues that discuss careers and life (see for example the folder “Guenther 97”, Box 17, Folder 21). Professional items in the collection include drafts of speeches that Professor Lindsay delivered to organizations such as the Friends of the Library in Binghamton, handwritten notes on topics ranging from ancient art to mid-18th-century emblems, and letters by Lindsay concerning the publication of Kandinsky: Complete Writings on Art (see for example the folder “Handwritten Notes by Lindsay”, Box 19, Folder 4).

Note: The materials in this collection did not arrive at the Binghamton University Libraries Special Collections in their original order and therefore provenance has been lost. The current ordering is an attempt to make the collection more accessible to researchers.


  • 1802 - 2018
  • Majority of material found within 1945 - 2009


Conditions Governing Access

This collection has been reviewed for restrictions and is open for research.

Biographical Note

Kenneth C. Lindsay (1919-2009) was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on December 23, 1919. He earned his bachelor’s degree in art history in 1941 from the University of Wisconsin; however, his budding academic career was soon interrupted by World War II. In 1943, Ken Lindsay enlisted in the United States Army Signal Corps and eventually was deployed to the European Theater to serve as a cryptographer in London.

Three weeks after the Allied D-Day invasion of France, Sergeant Lindsay’s unit was transferred to the front, where he remained until the end of the war. Lindsay hated military life, but in 1945 he became interested in a new unit of the army called the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section (also known as the “Monuments Men”), which was tasked with locating, retrieving, and returning the millions of pieces of artwork and cultural heritage that had been looted by the Nazis. He asked for reassignment to the section, and based on his background in art history, he was recommended to join the section . His transition to the new division was not without problems, due to some difficulties with an unfavorable superior officer who tried to sabotage his transfer, as well as Replacement Depot noncommissioned officers who refused to believe that he, a sergeant and not a commissioned officer, was eligible for a position in the MFAA. However, Lindsay was not without his allies, who pushed through his transfer, and he remained with the Monuments Men until his discharge from the army in 1946.

While serving with the MFAA, Sgt. Lindsay was stationed at the Wiesbaden Collecting Point in Germany, where he worked with other military and civilian personnel to repair and sort the stolen artifacts, photographed and catalogued German-owned works of art, and then processed the requests of representatives from various nations when they arrived to reclaim their property. Lindsay also developed his life-long interest in stolen artwork beginning with the infamous 202 German-owned pieces that the United States military shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to be held for safekeeping and for care at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Along with local German citizens and other members of the Monuments Men, Lindsay protested this act but was unable to voice his disapproval until after his term of service in the army was ended. Instead, he was tasked with inspecting the condition of each piece of artwork before it was packaged for shipment to the U.S.

Upon returning to civilian life, Lindsay recommenced his academic career, receiving a Fulbright Fellowship to France, and earning his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Wisconsin in 1947 and 1951 respectively. His dissertation, which was on the early-twentieth-century artist Wassily (Vassily or Vasily) Kandinsky, earned him distinction as an authority on the artist for the rest of his career. Not only would he eventually co-edit an anthology of Kandinsky’s writings about art and help to identify works by the artist discovered in the U.S., but Lindsay also corresponded with the painter’s second wife, Nina Kandinsky, and his former companion, the artist Gabriele Münter.

During the academic year of 1950-1951, Ken Lindsay served as a professor of art history at Williams College, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where he taught courses on topics from the Renaissance to art in the 20th century. The following year, on the advice of his cousin who was teaching at Harpur College, which was located at the time in Endicott, New York, Lindsay took a position at teaching art history and creating the new college’s first degree program in art and art history. The young professor loved the academic atmosphere so much at Harpur and the students with whom he worked that he would remain there for the next forty years. Besides instructing undergraduates in courses on Marcel Duchamp, forged artworks, and erotic love portrayed in paintings, Lindsay started the first graduate degree program in art history in the SUNY system offering both masters and doctoral degrees, chaired the Harpur College—Binghamton University Art and Art History department for 17 years, and oversaw the creation of the Binghamton University Art Museum. Lindsay was also responsible for the 1970 exhibition of works by the early-19th-century American artist John Vanderlyn held at the Binghamton University Art Gallery. Through Lindsay’s efforts, the museum was able to display sketches and paintings composed by the artist that were held at various institutions across the United States, including the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown, NY, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the M. H. DeYoung Memorial Museum in San Francisco, California. At the conclusion of the exhibition, Professor Lindsay wrote the exhibit catalogue The Works of John Vanderlyn: From Tammany to the Capitol, which was published by Binghamton University. In 1989, after a long and successful career, Kenneth Lindsay retired as professor emeritus from the university.

Along with his work in the university’s art history department, Professor Lindsay presented lectures, wrote several publications, and conducted consultation work. He lectured locally at the Roberson Museum in Binghamton, NY, nationally at such prestigious institutions as The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, NY, where in 1963 he spoke about Wassily Kandinsky, and internationally in Canada and in Edinburgh, Scotland. Locally, he served as a consultant for the Roberson Museum, and he also provided consultations for institutions, such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and for private individuals across the United States. Meanwhile, he conducted his own research and wrote several essays on topics such as the Hungarian Crown, John Vanderlyn, and using computers in art history. These topics, and his other research interests, gave Lindsay a wide-ranging correspondence that included not only descendants of the Monroe and Vanderlyn families, but also contacts at the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, and people in Germany, France, England and Japan.

After retirement, Ken Lindsay remained active and interested in the art world. 1994 saw the publication of Kandinsky: Complete Writings on Art after almost ten years of work by Lindsay and co-editor Peter Vergo and after delays by the publishing company. Four years later, Lindsay shared his knowledge about the 202 works of art from the Kaiser Fredrich Museum in Berlin that he had helped prepare for shipment and housing in 1945 at Washington, D.C.’s National Gallery of Art in anticipation of the fiftieth anniversary of their return to Germany. His continued interest in this topic led to the eventual publication of the 1998 article “Official Art Seizure Under the Military Cloak” in the journal Art Antiquity and Law, and a lecture entitled “Preserved or Purloined: Did the US Try to Steal German Owned Art” to the Friends of the Library in Binghamton, NY, on September 24, 2000. And in the early 2000s, the former sergeant became involved in the film The Rape of Europa, which documented the efforts of the Monuments Men at the end of WWII, by sharing first-hand accounts of what he did as part of that military division. Along with other surviving members of the Monuments Men, in 2007 Lindsay was formally recognized by the United States government for his efforts of preserving and restoring precious European treasures stolen during the war.

In 2009, after a short illness, Kenneth C. Lindsay died at the Wilson Medical Center in Johnson City, New York, and his loss was deeply felt by Binghamton University’s art department. Several months after his passing, the department held a memorial service in his honor at which colleagues and relatives expressed their respect and gratitude for the former professor. In 2013, the art department further honored Lindsay by dedicating The Kenneth Lindsay Museum Study Room in the Binghamton University Art Museum in recognition of all that he had done during his long and distinguished career.

Binghamton University Department of Art History. “The Kenneth C. Lindsay Museum Study Room.” Binghamton Art History (blog), October 7, 2013.

Dixon, J. “Two Special Collections and University Archives Installations at Art Museum.” News & Events (blog). Binghamton University Libraries, April 6, 2018.

Faculty Biographical File on Kenneth C. Lindsay. Special Collections, Binghamton University Libraries.

“Harpur College Oral History with Professor Kenneth Lindsay.” Interview by Alex Huppe. Binghamton University, October 24, 2008. Video, 10:38.

“Kenneth C. Lindsay.” Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Binghamton, NY. 2009. Accessed December 3, 2018.

Lindsay, Kenneth C. “Biographical Statement.” The Kenneth C. Lindsay Papers. Special Collections, Binghamton University Libraries, 1975.

Kenneth Lindsay, “Official Art Seizure under the Military Cloak.” Art Antiquity and Law 3, no. 2 (June 1998): 119-136.

Lindsay, Kenneth C. Papers. Special Collections, Binghamton University Libraries.

The Monuments Men Foundation. “Kenneth C. Lindsay.” Accessed December 3, 2018.

Poole, Robert M. “Monumental Mission: Assigned to Find Art Looted by the Nazis, Western Allied forces Faced an Incredible Challenge.” Smithsonian Magazine, February 2008.

Sorensen, Lee, ed. “Lindsay, Kenneth.” Dictionary of Art Historians (website). Accessed June 11, 2019.


8 Linear Feet (21 boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection documents Professor Emeritus Kenneth C. Lindsay’s (1919-2009) life and interests from his time in the United States Army during World War II, through his years as the chair of the Department of Art and Art History at Binghamton University, until his death in 2009.


The records collection is arranged in ten series, with three of them further arranged into subseries. The folders in each series and subseries are arranged chronologically, and where possible, also by subject matter. Some titles on the folders retain Kenneth Lindsay’s original wording.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was gifted by Kenneth Lindsay to the Binghamton University Art Museum in 2009. Sometime after 2013 the collection was transferred to the Special Collections.

Related Materials

The library department of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., houses publications relating to Kenneth C. Lindsay’s activities in the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives division during and after World War II. Use the following link to the NGA library to find out more information.

Processing Information

The collection was processed in 2019 by Erika M. Grimminger (Graduate Student Assistant).

Guide to the Kenneth C. Lindsay papers
Erika M. Grimminger (Graduate Student Assistant)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Binghamton University Libraries Special Collections Repository

Binghamton NY 13902 USA