archive-org.com » ORG » D » DOAKS.ORG

Total: 1818

Choose link from "Titles, links and description words view":

Or switch to "Titles and links view".
  • Anniversary Blog — Dumbarton Oaks
    about her new home lovingly in correspondence with Mildred describing her fundamental happiness and content in being allowed to reside in the small house and even admitting that she had not dared to put her delight into words for fear that she would suddenly wake up Mildred expressed her equal thrill at having Clark on the estate writing I long to cross your threshold and to have you think aloud to me as we sit on the little terrace sipping lemonade Read More The First Garden Library Accession Number Maison rustique or The Countrie Farme Posted on Nov 23 2015 11 00 AM by Dumbarton Oaks Archives Permalink Filed under Rare Book Collection Garden Library The First Decade of Dumbarton Oaks Read comments None yet Published in London in 1600 Mildred Bliss s English language edition of Maison rustique or The Countrie Farme was 348 years old when in 1948 it became the first book to be registered with an accession number in the Rare Book Collection at Dumbarton Oaks The work was written in Latin by Charles Estienne 1504 1564 expanded and translated into French by his son in law Jean Liébault 1535 1596 and then translated into English by Richard Surflet fl 1600 1660 Its contents comprise whatsoever can be required for the building or good ordering of a Husbandmans House or Countrey Farme including the skills necessary to foresee the changes and alterations of Times to know the motions and powers of the Sunne and Moone to cure the fickle laboring Man to cure Beasts and Flying Fowles of all sorts and to dresse plant or make Gardens Emphasizing functionality over aesthetics Maison rustique served as the definitive text on the care of country houses for many years until its popularity was eclipsed by Olivier de Serres Th éâ tre d agriculture in 1600 the same year that Mildred Bliss s English language first edition was published Though by no means the most rare or valuable volume in the Rare Book Collection at Dumbarton Oaks the impressive age of the work and its fine condition after centuries of handling no doubt did much to inspire Mildred Bliss and the original library staff who selected it to give the book the first number in the cataloguing of the rare works As an instructional reference work on horticulture it was a fitting start to the collection which Mildred foresaw as a combination of contemporary gardening guides and exceptional volumes on plants In the nearly seventy years since Maison rustique officially became the first volume in the Rare Book Collection over 28 000 secondary works on gardening and over 10 000 books prints manuscripts photographs and drawings in the Rare Book Collection have been accessioned in the garden library Evelyn Hofer Mildred Bliss in Her Garden Library 1965 Read More The Garden Library Rare Book Collection and the Creation of a Studies Program Posted on Oct 08 2015 11 00 AM by Dumbarton Oaks Archives Permalink Filed under Garden and

    Original URL path: http://www.doaks.org/75th-anniversary/blog?Subject=Rare+Book+Collection (2016-02-18)
    Open archived version from archive

  • Anniversary Blog — Dumbarton Oaks
    well to several book sales organized to raise funds for American troops Acorn House converted from a kennel by G Chapman as a residence for Ethel Burnet Clark 1941 Having happily worked to catalog and build the libraries at Dumbarton Oaks Clark only surrendered her position because she had reached the age at which Harvard required retirement A year before Clark had commented on the sorrow of her predicament especially after learning that she had no chance of being an exception to the retirement age after several conversations with gentle and compassionate John Thacher the first Director of Dumbarton Oaks Nonetheless Clark was able to remain at Dumbarton Oaks after her official retirement under the title Keeper of Rare Books Emerita In this capacity Clark continued her work at Dumbarton Oaks and received a small monthly pension in addition to living quarters at the Acorn House a small cottage on the Dumbarton Oaks property Later in the 1960s she also helped catalog the Mary Mellon collection of books and manuscripts on alchemy and the occult which Paul Mellon then gave to Yale University Robert Woods Bliss remembered Clark s service and friendship She was the doyenne of our staff and bore the strain and inconvenience of bringing order out of our personal Library as well as in organizing a Bindery rebuilding the Quarters and making catalogues at the same time For this and much besides the unfailing charm she brings to all her relationships and duties we thank her warmly Particularly fond of the Acorn House which had originally served as a kennel for the Blisses guard dog Doberman Pinchers Clark wrote about her new home lovingly in correspondence with Mildred describing her fundamental happiness and content in being allowed to reside in the small house and even admitting that she had not dared to put her delight into words for fear that she would suddenly wake up Mildred expressed her equal thrill at having Clark on the estate writing I long to cross your threshold and to have you think aloud to me as we sit on the little terrace sipping lemonade Read More The Underworld Courier and the Blisses in California Posted on Dec 28 2015 11 00 AM by Dumbarton Oaks Archives Permalink Filed under Institutional History The First Decade of Dumbarton Oaks Underworld Courier Read comments None yet Shortly after the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection conveyed to Harvard University in November 1940 Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss went to their home in Santa Barbara in January 1941 see post They intended to spend the remainder of the winter in California and then return to Washington in the spring However Robert Bliss s deteriorating health due to a gall bladder infection kept them in California until May 1942 On August 3 1941 Bliss underwent a successful gall bladder removal operation and spent the rest of the year in recuperation Early in 1941 Mildred Bliss wrote of his condition The Ambassador has been perfectly miserable since

    Original URL path: http://www.doaks.org/75th-anniversary/blog?Subject=Underworld+Courier (2016-02-18)
    Open archived version from archive

  • Anniversary Blog — Dumbarton Oaks
    before Clark had commented on the sorrow of her predicament especially after learning that she had no chance of being an exception to the retirement age after several conversations with gentle and compassionate John Thacher the first Director of Dumbarton Oaks Nonetheless Clark was able to remain at Dumbarton Oaks after her official retirement under the title Keeper of Rare Books Emerita In this capacity Clark continued her work at Dumbarton Oaks and received a small monthly pension in addition to living quarters at the Acorn House a small cottage on the Dumbarton Oaks property Later in the 1960s she also helped catalog the Mary Mellon collection of books and manuscripts on alchemy and the occult which Paul Mellon then gave to Yale University Robert Woods Bliss remembered Clark s service and friendship She was the doyenne of our staff and bore the strain and inconvenience of bringing order out of our personal Library as well as in organizing a Bindery rebuilding the Quarters and making catalogues at the same time For this and much besides the unfailing charm she brings to all her relationships and duties we thank her warmly Particularly fond of the Acorn House which had originally served as a kennel for the Blisses guard dog Doberman Pinchers Clark wrote about her new home lovingly in correspondence with Mildred describing her fundamental happiness and content in being allowed to reside in the small house and even admitting that she had not dared to put her delight into words for fear that she would suddenly wake up Mildred expressed her equal thrill at having Clark on the estate writing I long to cross your threshold and to have you think aloud to me as we sit on the little terrace sipping lemonade Read More Philip Johnson s New Pavilion at Dumbarton Oaks Posted on Dec 21 2015 11 00 AM by Dumbarton Oaks Archives Permalink Filed under Philip Johnson Pre Columbian Collection Philip Johnson Pavilion Collection Oaks News Pre Columbian Pavilion January 2016 Read comments None yet By the late 1950s not quite two decades after the Blisses had given Dumbarton Oaks to Harvard University space was already at a premium Mildred Bliss s rare collection of garden landscape books had outgrown the Founders Room where it was then housed and the growing Byzantine coins and seals collections as well as Beatrix Farrand s gift of drawings plans and letters relating to the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens needed space to be properly housed On December 20 1957 Robert Bliss wrote the President and Fellows of Harvard College For some time past it has been evident that additional space must be provided at Dumbarton Oaks for the exhibition of objects in the Collection not now on display as well as to provide suitable rooms for the use and study of a library of books on gardens their design and ornament and related subjects which Mrs Bliss has been collecting in recent years and which it is her hope eventually to

    Original URL path: http://www.doaks.org/75th-anniversary/blog?Subject=Oaks+News (2016-02-18)
    Open archived version from archive

  • Anniversary Blog — Dumbarton Oaks
    reads Life has bestowed many gifts upon me Health with its companion resiliency delight in the sky the earth and the sea unaccountable joy in life itself that surprises and sometimes shocks me by flashing its light when I ought to be sad Clark was especially moved by the Blisses donation of Dumbarton Oaks to Harvard University She wrote about the gift All this time I have marveled saying It can t be possible No human being certainly not two could so consistently so unswervingly follow an ideal She compared the Blisses creation of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection to a road built with wisdom vision and will for pilgrims aspiring to reach the mountain top During her time working for the Blisses Clark contributed much to the growth of what came to be called the Founders Room collection Working with all forms of media including books manuscripts letters photographs and even 78 rpm vinyl records Clark was responsible for cataloging a significant portion of both the Blisses personal holdings and Mildred s garden library rare book collection Beyond cataloging she took responsibility for the acquisition of new rare books and miscellaneous other library matters As such she frequently interacted with book dealers collectors and authors to obtain new works She also dealt with what she called the exciting challenges relating to the functioning of the library Some of these challenges included rebinding library books devising and mounting bookplates and sensibly and efficiently organizing the location of books in the rooms at Dumbarton Oaks She assisted in the binding of 388 volumes during her time working in the house bindery from 1940 to 1942 In 1943 44 Clark supervised a volunteer group that assisted the Arts and Skills Corps of the American Red Cross This group took equipment and supplies to the Forest Glen Hospital an annex of the Walter Reed Hospital where they taught convalescing soldiers the art of bookbinding She was strongly affected by the Second World War and strove to serve the nation s war effort as best she could She attempted to qualify for the cipher and code division of the Office of Naval Intelligence In a letter to Mildred Clark revealed her diligence in preparing for the aptitude exam Often I reluctantly put away my pads and pencils at midnight and later jump out of bed because a possible solution has flashed across my brain Clark contributed her time and effort as well to several book sales organized to raise funds for American troops Acorn House converted from a kennel by G Chapman as a residence for Ethel Burnet Clark 1941 Having happily worked to catalog and build the libraries at Dumbarton Oaks Clark only surrendered her position because she had reached the age at which Harvard required retirement A year before Clark had commented on the sorrow of her predicament especially after learning that she had no chance of being an exception to the retirement age after several conversations with gentle and

    Original URL path: http://www.doaks.org/75th-anniversary/blog?Subject=Acorn+House (2016-02-18)
    Open archived version from archive

  • The Underworld Courier and the Blisses in California — Dumbarton Oaks
    have had such letters already recounting our amusing experiences in one way and another the comings and goings the successful completion of work unfinished at the time of your departure But even though the letters have not been achieved the constant desire to associate you uninteruptedly with our concerns has been always pressent You have not left us and you never will Instead of letters however the staff decided to publish a weekly newsletter called the Underworld Courier named after the basement area the underworld where many of them had their offices The staff sent the Blisses a telegram on January 7 1941 to express their delight in the initiation of the project The staff of the Underworld Courier beg to express the honor they feel in your interest in their infant enterprise For them assembling the copy will be a joy and their hope is that the flight of the weekly leaflet across the continent will mutually lessen the sense of distance The Blisses telegrammed back First number of Underworld Courier read with great interest Hearty congratulations to the Editor and to talented author of feature article No infant enterprise this rather is it born already adolescent The Underworld Courier provided a succinct summary of the happenings at the institution during the week The first issue dated January 11 1941 for example contained postings on the book bindery book acquisitions the Census of Byzantine Objects the gardens the Fellows Quarters and even the weather The feature article was titled Chicago and was written by Louisa Bellinger of the Mummy Case Bellingers about her research at the Field Museum on Coptic textiles for the Census of Byzantine Objects In all there were twenty five issues The last dating to November 1 1941 was billed as An Aftermath Don t Tell

    Original URL path: http://www.doaks.org/75th-anniversary/blog/the-underworld-courier-and-the-blisses-in-california (2016-02-18)
    Open archived version from archive

  • Then and Now: Midday Meals at Dumbarton Oaks — Dumbarton Oaks
    the Director s house Dining however did not always include the entire institution Prior to the directorship of Giles Constable from 1977 to 1984 see post only the faculty and the Fellows dined together the general staff were excluded Constable in an effort to democratize Dumbarton Oaks both opened up the midday meal to all staff and Fellows and switched the dining style from a formal served affair to buffet style allowing diners to come at their convenience and sit where they wanted Constable remembered this change in his oral history interview Of course when I went there the memory of Mrs Bliss serving tea and Sirarpie Der Nersessian presiding at the lunch table and ringing the bell for the servants to come in was still there And there was this rather strong and not altogether bad sense of being one large family with a number of family retainers But that is not the basis upon which a serious scholarly institution can run And on the straight forward level one of my first initiatives was to open up the Fellows Building But even so the feelings of resentment were so great that some of the staff would never come to lunch Above all Irene Vaslef who is my dear friend still is she absolutely refused to come to lunch because she had so bitterly resented being kept out for so many years And I absolutely sympathized with that Today Fellows and the Dumbarton Oaks staff continue to enjoy the midday dining tradition at Dumbarton Oaks in the Refectory sharing in Chef Hector Paz s delicious and eclectic preparations Following are some images of the midday meal at Dumbarton Oaks Fellows Building dining room 1953 Lunch in the Fellows Building 1962 Lunch in the Fellows Building ca 1977 1978 Midday meal

    Original URL path: http://www.doaks.org/75th-anniversary/blog/then-and-now-midday-meals-at-dumbarton-oaks (2016-02-18)
    Open archived version from archive

  • Life in the Fellows Building — Dumbarton Oaks
    living upstairs here And one day I came back here and Josephita was standing in this room screaming She was a small very large lunged powerful little Russian woman and was incomprehensible especially when she was screaming And she said what I finally understood they are killing my coat and they were killing the coat by virtue of the air conditioning And she demanded that throughout the Fellows Building this newfangled thing be switched off And of course because the hierarchy to some extent still maintained when Weitzmann wanted the air conditioning off off the air conditioning went Hans H Buchwald 1933 2013 The Fellows Building also had some shortcomings Hans Buchwald a Junior Fellow in Byzantine Studies in 1960 61 had mixed memories about the building Well it had good sides and bad sides Bad is perhaps too strong a word but we didn t have individual baths for instance We had to use all facilities together with the other Fellows which at times became kind of a nuisance You d have to wait to take a shower and also the walls were paper thin And occasionally I heard my roommate in the next room saying his prayers in Greek But on the whole it was a very fruitful experience Three meals a day with the same people after a while limits conversation I think there comes a point when you ve said almost everything you can say So even if you may be friends with everyone sometimes it became kind of a let s say static experience Marie Spiro Life in the Fellows Building also offered the great advantage of having close proximity to the library a perk well appreciated by scholars in residence Sidney Griffith remembered I was very happy to be able to live in the Fellows Building because it meant I was right near the library Marie Spiro reflected on her time as a Junior Fellow in Byzantine Studies calling the propinquity of the library a major draw especially since the library was open until midnight at the time allowing her and her husband to work there late into the night The nearness of the library was especially important for scholars who pursued research at Dumbarton Oaks in the early years as books could be checked out of the library and brought home to the Fellows Building a policy that has since been discontinued Social interaction at the Fellows Building was far from limited to just intellectual discourse The residence also was the preferred venue for hosting parties Thomson remembered how the Junior Fellows approached the Byzantinist Ernst Kitzinger with the request that the old radio in the Fellows Building be upgraded resulting in the installation of a good stereo system Thomson purchased additional wires so that that the stereo could be moved into the dining room where the Fellows would dance in the evenings accompanied by other young people in the area whom they met mostly through embassy contacts Elizabeth and Michael Jeffreys former

    Original URL path: http://www.doaks.org/75th-anniversary/blog/life-in-the-fellows-building (2016-02-18)
    Open archived version from archive

  • Giles Constable — Dumbarton Oaks
    they spend about half the year at D O and half the year away JC Yes That s a typical arrangement GC It s obviously quite favorable for them as they get research time and a position although it doesn t always turn into a tenured one JC Among the other important intellectual activities of the organization are the symposia that are offered each year Do you have any reflections on the symposia of your directorship GC Well they continued probably less changed than most other aspects of the intellectual tradition That was one of the things that was very much in the charge of the Senior Fellows that they would choose what they called the symposiarch And then the symposiarch would take over The only thing again somewhat I fear to the regret of the symposiarch was that I limited the budget quite a bit It had been a very very expensive thing and Ridgewells came and did the meals very lavishly And I like dining as much as the next man but we were going to go into the red And Judy Siggins and I really had to work hard on it But that s a minor thing and intellectually I think and in its basic formation and subsequent publication from the point of view of the outsider it changed comparatively little but you may have differing views on that JC No I agree completely with that And speaking of publications what was the typical interest of the organization in the seventies and eighties to sponsor or to bring to publication scholarly work GC Absolutely Now here and I don t think the Trustees would have been so pleased if they d known my view was still is that D O should publish works that no one else will publish in the field of Byzantine studies and pre Columbian and garden although I had less to do with that That is why really to my great grief we did not publish Otto Demus s great book on San Marco because Chicago was willing to do it It would have occupied not only our entire budget for publications for three years but our entire personnel for three years and would have meant that we probably couldn t have published ten other works that no other university press would publish So very reluctantly well both reluctantly but gladly we decided that Chicago should do that And I think we always tried to farm out with very much reduced costs for instance the D O P which was published by Augustin in Locust Valley very beautifully It is still pretty nicely produced I don t think that people now would be aware although at the time people sensed that there was some decline and that was above all who was the head of publications JC Glenn Ruby GC Yes And Glenn did a very very good job I think in that sort of way He kept up the quality but made it more business like I also was much much firmer than Julia had been People would send in works with literally a third of the notes unwritten asking the editors at D O to do it And I just said Absolutely not Julia we re not doing that sort of work for people They can come here and do them if this is the only place they can be done but the staff of Dumbarton Oaks is not here to complete the footnotes JC But until that decision it was amazing in that publications department how meticulously they went over text and footnotes and filled in the lacunae and GC Well I was glad of that and they needed to fulfill their editorial function but not do the work that was the job of the author JC Exactly But I think they did up to a point and their research especially by GC Fanny JC Yes Fanny Bonajuto benefitted many articles and publications GC Oh hugely JC and were probably uncredited GC But the net result was we could publish less JC True Because it was time consuming GC Yes immensely time consuming But these are the sort of details that were the working out of things that were not fundamental and it was just a matter of getting it again as I said onto a somewhat more business like basis JC The Collection or Museum as it s now called began to open in the summer as well after air conditioning which was better conditioning for the objects and I believe Gary Vikan came in that period GC He did indeed JC as Associate Curator and started doing special exhibitions GC He did JC I m not sure that had happened before GC It had not JC Can you speak a little about that and maybe about some of the acquisitions such as the St Peter icon GC Well why don t I start with the last because on the whole we didn t make a great many acquisitions We tried to with some things which I ll come back to But the St Peter icon was the great acquisition and I actually went to Holland to go and see it And as the Archivist you may know yourself that the Trustees very properly in my opinion because we did not know where it came from made the sale a conditional sale with the money in escrow that if any claim were brought against it and we were the judges whether it was a legitimate claim or not the seller would return the money And so the Trustees sold the Matisse to pay for it But it was by far the biggest acquisition I had always felt when I came that the biggest gap was in the area of icons The Blisses themselves didn t terribly much like icons JC That s right GC Although they liked those miniature mosaic icons which are almost like jewelry JC You know the Forty Martyrs icon had been offered to them in the late 20s or early 30s and they turned it down It was only through Hayford Peirce s widow s collection that they finally acquired it So I don t think they liked very much any kind of icon of any variety GC No And I always thought that if a cultivated Byzantine individual of the twelfth or thirteenth century would have turned up he would have said Well you ve got some very beautiful silver things and some fine jewelry and fine this and that but where are the Byzantine things So I felt that was the biggest hole and I wanted to concentrate on it although we did bid on one or two things at the von Hirsch sale and Jack Thacher actually offered to help us and he felt very badly Jack had cultivated Von Hirsch for years in the confidence that the ivory would be left to us but it was not and it went well above what we were prepared I forget what it was but we were prepared to go to seven or eight hundred thousand and it went for a million three or something But there again although it would have been wonderful to have it s an area where D O does have pretty good ivories And the truth is that there were not a very great number of pieces that we wanted that Sue wanted although we made incidental small acquisitions Now going on to the exhibitions I favored this very much And I actually and I regret it that I could never induce the curator think that we should have exhibited some fakes all museums worth their salt including D O have fakes often very good ones because sometimes they re resuscitated and sometime they re not But with an expert opinion and we did do this for one or two things with Gary and Ernst And with one piece Gary thought it was fake and Ernst did not and to have their opinions for the public to see I think educates their eye certainly mine And it also excites their curiosity a bit that the experts disagree about whether or not it s an authentic object With most museums as soon as something is thought to be a fake into the cellar it goes and they try to hide the fact that they have it Or they think they re not doing their duty if they don t They shouldn t get too many but a few I think is inevitable if you re being adventurous in your buying So Gary helped organize these And he left fairly shortly afterwards But we did continue having some exhibitions And what s more although Gary principally organized internal exhibitions we had the Bulgarian jewelry exhibition And I don t think that tradition has continued too much has it JC No Partly as you know lending has tightened for any number of reasons security cost GC Yes They re expensive JC I believe the institution is in a much better shape now to revisit that question GC There s a new gallery isn t there JC There s a new temporary exhibition gallery that has museum standards and on the forms that are inevitably sent out to tell lenders that their objects will be well taken care of we can now convince them of that But it s unclear with the recent decline in the economy and perhaps budget constraints similar to those that you faced if loan exhibitions can be arranged GC The Bulgarian exhibition fortunately wasn t a very expensive one because the items are very small And I went to Bulgaria several times and they were very pleased with this initiative But there was one difficulty that we ran into that sort of became part of the institution s intellectual history Sue and I and Sue particularly realized that at some point the Bulgarian curators who had come were not happy with something and we didn t quite know what But in any case to cut a long story fairly short we realized that in the tendency of Byzantine art historians all the best pieces were described as Constantinopolitan and all the others were provincial And whether this is true of not I think is an interesting question and I m not certain that the Byzantinists are right that everything of very high quality was always produced in Constantinople but that s in a way what they believed but the Bulgarians obviously didn t like that And once we changed some of the labels they cheered up no end And yes the exhibition was quite a success and I got to know the Bulgarian Ambassador very well We gave a party and we had a Bulgarian who s now probably dead who gave a concert and all the Bulgarians turned up I remember that at the concert itself we were rather late in beginning And there were a number of people coming in And I said to the Ambassador What should we do And he looked back and said They re all from the Embassy The concert can begin He was in charge of this We arranged our concerts a year to a year and a half in advance This was arranged about a week in advance But because this was a dictatorship when they told her I forget her name she was a very nice person who knew my mother had travelled on a plane with her she told me when she was told to go to Washington she went to Washington whereas no American musician would dream of being bossed around that way But it was a very good concert Now the other major exhibition that you ve probably come in contact with was the Aztec exhibition a joint one And that was a much bigger operation and involvement for me rather personally and for Elizabeth too It was I think the first major exhibition of pre Columbian art held in an art museum America is still I think disgraceful that nine tenths of pre Columbian art is considered third world and you ll find it in the natural history museum JC Or anthropological GC Yes And D O always stood and Mr Bliss himself stood fairly strongly for the fact and very rightly I think that this was in the fine arts tradition and that these cultures were producing beautiful things when Greece was still primitive They had beautiful techniques The Aztecs of course were later but it s all part of that particular tradition There again I went down to Mexico and did most of the negotiation And oddly enough while the Mexican government in some ways was pleased because it was in the National Gallery and this gave a recognition to pre Columbian and Aztec art there we d probably have gotten yet more things if we d been in Newark New Jersey because there was the idea that Washington snaps its fingers and Mexico dances the tune and lends whatever is wanted that did not please them We still got many fine objects you know and yet many that we didn t get was because they didn t want to be pushed around by the National Gallery But the exhibition was a great success JC Was the idea of the exhibition initiated by Dumbarton Oaks GC Yes Absolutely JC That certainly started a long and successful tradition at the National Gallery of focusing on pre Columbian GC Oh yes And I think it was the very first big exhibition that they had and absolutely it was initiated by us But it was much much bigger than we could handle And I think that Elizabeth and I would have liked to do it but it was out of the question we didn t have the gallery space And of course we didn t have the money or the tradition of a heavily insured and very expensive exhibition But it was as I say rather fun And again I think played a role in D O s history that was an individual episode but an important one JC Let s talk a little about the issue of repatriation which was becoming an issue in the seventies and when certainly laws about what could cross over borders were tightening which of course caused problems for museums that had to deal with objects that were procured before that time and often without good documentation How did you handle that during your tenure GC Well I spent a great deal of time on both issues with the pre Columbian and with the Sion silver And in both cases the Trustees were extremely supportive I had a fairly elaborate scheme with the then head of the international union or whatever it s called JC The Organization of American States GC Yes And they were going to become the technical possessors and administrators of the collection which would remain at Dumbarton Oaks needless to say I am a great believer that for a museum technical ownership is not what matters we don t want to sell the things what matters is to be able to exhibit and study the objects And the Trustees were much pleased by the idea that the OAS yes the Organization of American States and this got quite high with them would basically assume the title of the cache with the understanding that it would stay at Dumbarton Oaks And then they would pay the expenses of it too and assist in acquiring things And that would have solved any number of problems for the future as well as for the past And much to my surprise there has never been a rumble from any of the places from which many of those objects undoubtedly illegally came above all Mexico But unlike Turkey they never raised any question But then the trouble was that whatever his name was Mr Ortega I think or I may have gotten it wrong got into some troubles with the OAS and the whole issue fell through I think it would have been a very interesting idea But I spent nothing like as much time as I did on the Turkish and there I don t know how much of the literature you ve gone into on that JC I ve seen it GC Yes Well I came up and I will say I although it was done at every step with the full approval of the Trustees with the idea basically that the title to the silver would be returned to Turkey it would be theirs given back to them on the understanding that there would be a joint restoration because one of the troubles of the Sion treasure is that part of it is still in Turkey and parts of the same piece which they very rightly won t even show us I can see they don t terribly want to collaborate But the idea was that we would have paid for that for the restoration program And then it would have been exhibited on a rotation to be agreed upon at Dumbarton Oaks and in Turkey And when it was in Turkey they would have lent us things from their museums to be exhibited at Dumbarton Oaks And frankly I still believe that this is a brilliant suggestion And that is why my relationship with Mr Elekdag improved rapidly and I think he very much regrets that they didn t go ahead with this JC And who is he GC Mr Elekdag was the Ambassador But I got as high as the Minister of Culture But the difficulty is if I d stayed longer it might have gone through I don t know but Turkey had very strict laws that no object that belonged to the Republic of Turkey can be exhibited outside It came with a Turkish exhibition in the seventies or sixties when objects got badly damaged and they passed laws that nothing could be lent from Turkey And I think this was a great mistake Because it means that the Greeks who of course exhibit freely outside encourage the impression that Greece is the cultivated traditional highly civilized world and Turkey is just barbaric which is ridiculous They have marvelous museums and a very great tradition of works of art But it probably would have had to go to the President of Turkey And it was my conviction and that of those who advised me most that if we could have ever got fifteen minutes to explain what the program was he would have approved it But that s a very difficult thing to do for a very busy man JC So the sticking point was truly the exhibition embargo GC That I believe There were other small sticking points They wanted the restoration work to be done in Turkey And the truth is that they did not have at that time sufficiently skilled people I think we could have overcome that If need be we would have sent people to train them There were always going to be Turkish craftsmen involved but we hoped to do it at the British Museum which has the best tradition of metal restoration or possibly at the Fogg But there was always going to be Turks and so they would have gone back and would have established a first rate tradition And I think we could have done that But no the thing was it would have required basically a brave politician to say that Turkish objects could be exhibited and live outside Turkey Now I was assured and I believe it because the Turks have a long diplomatic tradition that if they had signed the agreement they would have honored it And other people say Well how do you know They would have kept the collection after exhibiting it and say We won t return it And the entire corpus of Turkish scholars said they just wouldn t do that If they solemnly agreed to it but it would have to be solemnly agreed to and signed and sealed by all their people as well as our Trustees they would honor it And even then it wouldn t have been a huge deal We d have got the collection in storage We would have exhibited it for whatever rotation period we d agreed to one year off two years on five years on off And I think this would be a wonderful thing to bring to D O from Turkey Byzantine objects that otherwise would never be seen outside Turkey And I really believe that both the Minister of Culture and above all Mr Elekdag regretted that they didn t press it more firmly I told them that I was leaving and I knew very well that Robert would take no interest whatsoever And I don t think since Angeliki the matter has been revived at all Has it JC I believe that when she was Director the Turks came and paid another visit GC But just claiming it JC Right Yes not to discuss reciprocation My read of this which is unfortunate is that our interests were scholarship and preservation oriented and that you had to deal with politicians interested in the law GC Yes JC whereas if you could have dealt with academics the issue of reciprocity would have been clearer and more easily agreed to GC But they could never have made the decision JC Perhaps the Nezih Firatli s of GC Nezih Bey I was thinking of him Of course he had died by then but had he lived I think Nezih Bey would have been very helpful And I notice that more and more museums are moving in this direction they have agreements precisely of this nature JC The recent unhappiness in the museum world about repatriation and whether its right or wrong we don t need to get into but much of the interest it seems to me if for lawyers and politicians to make a name for themselves GC Yes JC to become heroes in their lands because they are able to get the Elgin Marbles back And the real interests keeping the objects safe putting them on public display publishing them GC Where they can work for the culture JC yes is omitted from the discussion and their bottom line is if the objects left illegally they need to come back or nothing GC Yes I quite agree with you The Elgin Marbles have been the best Ambassador of Greece that s ever been I think it s fair to say that Western Europe certainly England would not have supported Greece in rebellion if it hadn t been for the feeling for Greek culture that they created Now I changed my view about 1960 The things the Blisses got previously under the old dispensation they don t bother me But I would very strongly and I did in the American Association of Museum Directors oppose buying illegally And at that time I was scoffed They said Oh Giles that only applies to antiquities Of course it doesn t it applies to all things It s a different tune now but that was back in the seventies but it gave me a feeling of what the old regime was like JC Let s revisit an old rumor which I never understood how it started or what GC I suspect I know what s coming JC was that Dumbarton Oaks because of double digit inflation and in view of possible deficit spending might have to go back to Harvard the physical real estate of Harvard GC Yes JC How did that come about and what transpired in that period when that rumor was afloat GC Well it created a lot of bother for me JC I m sure it did GC It was there well before I went But it was greatly enhanced by my going because I was the first Harvard professor It is my genuine belief and I ve never looked of course at the records of the Trustees i e the Corporation that it was never seriously considered JC I ve never found any evidence of a white paper position It s always been gossip GC Both the Corporation and the Trustees who of course were the same people wearing different hats would have been horrified of thinking of trying to do it quite apart from the Trust that was involved I don t know whether Mr Tyler felt this at all himself but certainly there was great nervousness at D O when I went there partly because of the departure of the faculty which had mostly taken place already I mean Ihor had gone to Harvard we ve discussed that already And I think that the whole institution was very nervous And they knew I believe that somewhere in the Deed of Trust Harvard does have the right to move it But I know that the very first time I went out there and met with the entire staff we met in the Music Room and I was introduced Mr Tyler himself asked me that question and I replied perfectly true then and true now that I didn t think there was a word of truth in it That it was one of those rogue rumors that was almost in its nature a middle and lower level rumor rather than one from those who were really making these decisions But one of the troubles of being in that position which I realized and it was interesting for me as an institutional historian that I was damned if I did and damned if I didn t I mean if I denied that there was such a rumor or such a possibility I was a skillful liar If I really didn t know I was very ignorant And I talked to people in Washington years afterwards who told me the most extraordinary things about Dumbarton Oaks And if I tried to say there s absolutely no truth in this whatsoever they either thought that I was denying it on policy or worse that I was ignorant The same thing happened when I was a Trustee at Radcliffe People told me the most extraordinary things about what Radcliffe was planning which just from the few years that I was a Trustee I knew what was going on And I really did know and I knew Polly Bunting pretty well and I did know that some things were and some things weren t But they absolutely wouldn t believe it And if somebody who should know denies it it shows that either they don t know or they re good liars or bad liars for all I know But I just think and I m interested that you ve discovered absolutely nothing I think that it was actually the product and I ve never really thought about this of a display of Dumbarton Oaks s own nervousness for its future a feeling that the old regime was passing and Mr Tyler was the last representative of the old regime and that changes were coming financial and administrative in its relation to Harvard and that somebody got this idea I won t say that there weren t people I mean Ihor when he moved to Harvard would have liked to get more of Dumbarton Oaks s resources up there and may have said so for all I know And Bobby Wolff was as you probably know and for reasons I never quite understood quite anti D O But they wouldn t have known what to do with it I mean they would have to have kept the house and the gardens I think legally that there would be no question that they would They probably could have moved the scholarly activities And maybe in the 1960s it could have been as good an institution possibly more so if it were in Cambridge with the scholarly activities and the Fellows and the library Indeed one of the troubles with D O is that it s intellectually rather isolated But that s the way they founded it and I believe very strongly that people have a right to spend their money the way they want to provided it s one that isn t very bad for society or something that shouldn t be done It s perfectly reasonable As I say I don t believe the Trustees ever seriously considered it If we d gotten into a worse financial condition however I don t know what they would have done JC Let s return to the question of what in fact is the nature of the relationship between Dumbarton Oaks and Harvard GC Yes I remember soon after I went there or maybe even before David Wright who is an old friend and knew Dumbarton Oaks pretty well and we were classmates way way back he said one of the difficulties is that Harvard is how did he put it it s rich it s powerful and it s distant And I think it is and has been hard for D O to be governed by an institution that is far away that has an interest but not one that is really very friendly And this can lead to a certain amount of demonization particularly I think when times were a little difficult as they were in the mid seventies and quite unjustified but perhaps the very lack of interest that Harvard took and takes to some extent I mean for me the Trustees were absolutely ideal so long as we were in the black they really didn t bother very much And on individual things like the plans with the OAS or the Turkish Government I found Derek extremely supportive and the Trustees too I mean there was no problem whatsoever And my friends who are directors of institutions who have trustees that took a keen interest in them envied me This worked very well when the institution s going well not so well when the institution s in trouble And I think this probably fostered the sort of feelings of suspicion that were not justified but which were natural and understandable in a group of people who were bothered about the future of the institution that they cared for and worked for and where they really weren t quite sure what was going on I once suggested largely for the sake of D O that the Trustees should meet at D O When I say largely for the sake I mean so that the people there could see that they are perfectly reasonable people But they said Giles you have no idea how busy the Corporation is There is absolutely no question about ever meeting at Dumbarton Oaks The most he allowed me was that one member of the Corporation Andrew Heiskell was allowed to attend all our advisory committee meetings I liked Andrew very much and he was very useful and he was at least a link with the Trustees I think you know that in the original plans of the Blisses there were to be two extra Trustees for D O alone but they were never appointed JC Not even once right GC No Not even once No it was a difficult period and so they are exactly the same people though I believe that the Secretary of the Corporation has to say Gentlemen or Ladies and gentlemen you are sitting as the Trustees for Dumbarton Oaks And that any business that they do for Dumbarton Oaks has to be in that capacity even though they don t even get up from their chairs I think it would have been very good if there had been two extra Trustees Joe Alsop as you might know took a great interest Joe was to us an extraordinarily useful advisor because he was very useful in the Washington community But I have no doubt that he had suspicions of Harvard Many people do It s because of what David said and not only at D O but rich powerful distant institutions invite certain suspicion even if it s not justified Joe was extremely shrewd and very experienced and he minded very much when Dumbarton Oaks s funds were unitized And he felt that and I think he may have been right it was certainly done for Harvard s administrative simplicity and not necessarily with Dumbarton Oaks s interests in mind It was before my time But it has probably simplified life for D O too But it encouraged the belief which was certainly wide spread in Washington that all Harvard really wanted to do was to lay its hands on D O s money and that they would fulfill a minimum of the obligation I think that was totally untrue But if the little guys at Dumbarton Oaks believed this if the more powerful guys in Georgetown And of course I was absolutely forbidden to raise money for D O Derek was absolutely explicit But if I had sat next to somebody at dinner who d said that he wanted to endow another fellowship or to give something I wouldn t have to say no But I was absolutely not allowed JC And that was because you would be competing for GC Funds This is something that I think Bill Tyler didn t fully realize poor man And this is another aspect of these suspicions that Harvard did not fully support him in the plans for the Library under the North Vista When it came down to it the Georgetown giving community was counted as much or more in Harvard s book as D O was Now mind you I think there were reasons against that plan I myself would not have wanted to change the plans I don t think the North Vista should become two rather than three levels But that is an aesthetic decision on my part But you may know that when Derek came down during that great brouhaha which certainly fostered suspicions of Harvard both in the Georgetown community and at D O when they refused permission for that building he was picketed and as a labor lawyer he was not the sort of man to like that And I was told and I have no reason to doubt that it s true that one Georgetown madam came and her maid walked behind her carrying the sign and when she reached the picket line she took the sign and walked around with her friends Then when she went home she gave the sign back to the maid so that she didn t have to walk around the streets of Georgetown carrying the picket sign But Derek didn t like crossing the picket line And influential people were opposed to the building I of course was not in on that decision at all But I m certain that Bill minded very much indeed as it was very much his brain child and was done he felt very much in the best interests of D O they did need more library space and I m certain again that this fostered the belief that Harvard was not supportive Now does this fit in with anything you ve read in the Archives JC What I ve read is that the official conclusion was that Harvard didn t want to face such unpleasant and possibly litigious actions on the part of those concerned with the gardens of Dumbarton Oaks And that in the mid seventies building costs were escalating and the value of the dollar was worsening and it really was a losing proposition GC It wasn t the time to do it JC Exactly But that s the official explanation that s

    Original URL path: http://www.doaks.org/library-archives/dumbarton-oaks-archives/oral-history-project/giles-constable (2016-02-18)
    Open archived version from archive



  •