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".
  • Angela Constantinides Hero and Helen C. Evans — Dumbarton Oaks
    Well he could be I ll tell you I mean Meyendorff was by nature a very gentle very mild person The other one you ve known Ševčenko haven t you But I ll say something else for Ševčenko Ševčenko would go to bat for his students Yes He was there for us all the time And knowing how demanding he was we worked hard You couldn t produce for Ševčenko something that was substandard he d throw it in your face Sure So I he was for me he was the guiding light Afterwards I wanted to continue with him but he left Columbia and went to Dumbarton Oaks as acting director interim director And he told me to go to Meyendorff because Father Meyendorff had come to Columbia as a visiting professor for a year And when I told him that I wanted to continue for a doctorate he said You have to come to Fordham I m leaving I can t accept a position here and I m offered something at Fordham And that s it That s the story of my life girls I ve got to go now because HE because you think you re going to get rained on AH So of course I was going to I didn t know if you had interviewed Alice Mary INT We re planning to INT In August AH Yes And I was going to suggest that you go to her because she is Dumbarton Oaks She s been there from 65 all the way to last this past year HE This year AH She retired And we are now in fact I m writing an article for her Festschrift So she is phenomenal as far as I m concerned because not only is she a superb scholar but she s also an excellent administrator I envy this as far as administration goes I can t I hate it I dread it administration Don t give me such duties no in my white tower there ivory tower INT You were quite involved with the Byzantine Center here at Queens AH Well yes I was there yes but not in the administration yeah Right And it was a small center We started it with you know Professor Psomiadis who was the founder of the center and I helped him out It s I cannot dismiss I ll tell you why because I cannot fire anybody Laughter I can t I would die before I had to fire somebody before I tell somebody because I can t use you anymore I have a cleaning lady and the poor thing now is getting older and I do more work than she does Laughter My sons tell me This is absurd I can t I can t tell anybody I don t need you anymore I can t But Alice Mary is fantastic And then like Helen they can juggle as I said fifty different projects here there I hate traveling that s another thing HE She still goes to Greece AH Not anymore And I can t travel because I ve got problems with my back and sitting is not good for me So if you ll excuse me I m eighty three years old INT Thank you INT Thank you that s amazing HE Do you want me to get somebody to get you out to a taxi INT I can walk you out HE Do you need to do your introduction or do we just keep going INT I think we can just keep going INT This is part two and now we will be speaking with Helen Evans at the Metropolitan Art Museum We re so honored to talk with you today Thank you so much So we understand that you were a summer fellow in 1981 Was that how you first came to work at Dumbarton Oaks or were you involved earlier than that HE No it s not how I first came and I can t remember I remember being at the symposium that was the first symposium that Robert Thomson from Harvard attended And I spoke at the symposium East of Byzantium and I had not even really picked Byzantine studies as my dissertation topic at that time and so it was a paper I had given for Tom Matthews and he was one of the co higher ups of the symposium And I remember giving the paper and being so stunned that I was giving it and my mother had just almost died so I d come from the hospital to the conference and I d re written the paper in the hospital so that I hadn t the research wasn t good enough I had no access to the books to do anything about it And I was so nervous that when I finished speaking and people were very very positive about it I essentially tore off the platform and had not unclipped the mic So I remember that mercifully somebody gasped I stopped and the mic cord was as tight as it could have gotten One more step and I could have discovered whether I fell down or the platform turned over Laughter So that s one of my first great memories of Dumbarton Oaks But then in 81 as I began my dissertation I had a fellowship I started graduate school to do Japanese art history I think I m the only Byzantinist that went on the Silk Road backwards from your point of view We had lived in Tokyo for several years when my husband set up a merger venture there And I began studying at Sophia University the Jesuit school in Tokyo and then ended up studying Hagia Sophia so it was a reverse And when the man I went to the Institute of Fine Arts to study with retired himself INT Was that Krakow HE No I went to study with Alexander Soper who was the Pelican History of Arts author of art and architecture of China and art and architecture of Japan and was a grand old man It led me to tell everybody who asked me for advice on dissertations to be sure that your advisor is either tenured or you have time to finish before they come up for tenure and is young enough not to retire before you finish which used to infuriate Tom Matthews as a set of basic advice but it was highly relevant to my life Soper was a wonderful person to study with I just had no intelligence that would lead me to have figured out how old he was I knew he was old but I didn t know that he would retire himself And Tom Matthews whom I d taken every course that Tom had taught at the Institute I arrived just before er just after he did then let me become a Byzantinist So I overnight left Japan and went to the other end of the Silk Road And I had published my talk in the Dumbarton Oaks East of Byzantium series It was on an Armenian topic And the Byzantine topic Greek topic I thought would be a dissertation topic I couldn t get the permissions I would need to do it Tom told me that if I would answer a question for him on a book he was working on then it would be a perfect topic for me because the manuscript I was studying would be in the States and I would be able to cope with two children and the husband I had have too now So I suddenly became an Armenologist and went and took courses in Armenian and have backed up the Silk Road ever since then So I have the advantage of or disadvantage depending on your point of view of my scholarship of having skipped classical Greece took one course I think the advantage is that I studied Al Gandhara a good deal in college with Soper and it makes you ask two questions that I don t think you always think to ask when you come out of the great western classical tradition And so one of them is Did the motif travel but the second question is Did the meaning travel And we assume a transmission of meaning that I don t think we should always assume and that s been a part of what I ve always thought that you had to prove was how even when the image is as simple as a Christian symbol does the community that continues to use it receive it in the way the community that produced it thinks of it And it may be a subtle difference or it may be a very big one For Gandhara it was usually very big If you go to the Afghan gold show that we have on right now if you haven t seen it there s a wonderful necklace that has a cameo and it s a classical god I think its Mercury but it s one of the classical gods and its hung sideways Clearly the man who had to put it in the necklace did not care that he had a male figure He could not have missed the head and the feet so it s not like I don t know it s a human being It just meant nothing to him To him it meant I ve got an exotic rock from the other end of the earth that proves how powerful and wealthy I am And then in the catalogue of course they do it upright so you have no idea that it s a total other meaning to whoever in the world owned it in the vast past INT So it was through Tom Matthews that you came to know Dumbarton Oaks HE Through Tom Matthews Tom Matthews encouraging his students to go to Dumbarton Oaks symposia I went to graduate school like Angela did later than you all are I had returned to I had come to New York I grew up in Tennessee from having studied in Tokyo and the person I studied with Julia Meech had written the letters that got me into the Institute of Fine Arts as an Asian student And I had been interested in medieval art in college and so I took all the medieval courses that were of interest to me and that was everything Tom taught so I had all of Tom s courses I had all of Soper s courses and I had like three other courses by the time I was taking my orals but I turned in a qualifying paper for Tom and a qualifying paper for Soper and used Japanese answers for some of the issues that I took my orals on on Byzantine for Tom a year and a half later It was several years before I felt like I really knew Byzantium INT Have you worked at all or perhaps you could comment on the importance of the collection Byzantine Collection at Dumbarton Oaks as you see it as a scholar of art history of Byzantine art history and also from your point of view here in New York vis à vis the collection here of the Metropolitan and the relationship HE My predecessor Margaret Frazer was actually at one point offered the job as the head of the collection at Dumbarton Oaks And I think that the Met and Dumbarton Oaks in varying ways have not precisely collaborated or cooperated but also have been respectful of each other s collections They re the two great collections in this country I was charged when I was hired here to make the Met s collection better than Dumbarton Oaks you know that was fully said to me And whether you think I ve done it or not that is what I have been certainly trying to ensure that we were as comprehensive and as important I think that what the Dumbarton Oaks collection did in for many decades was to offer a place where in this country you could see a collection brought together and identified as Byzantine When I renamed our collections and now my title is the Mary and Michael Jaharis Curator of Byzantine art I changed the focus of what this museum did And our collection is built on the 1880s theory that the great northern tradition took a little bit from the Mediterranean Christianity and infused it with the noble people of the north to create Gothic art And the early installation of the Museum actually up until 2000 was origins of European art And what we had done with the installation here in 2000 which Dumbarton Oaks already had was to see it as the art of the Byzantine world which as one of its aspects influences European art but does not exist only for having influenced European art So that it is a change that was very important here and with the exhibitions I did And I think it is relevant in that Anastasia Tourta who just retired as the director of the museum in Thessaloniki said it was the first collection in a major museum that used the word Byzantine So Dumbarton Oaks was always this beacon that understood Byzantine but what we added was Byzantine in a larger context because of the breadth of our collections The summer I was at D O I which would have been when I should have spent all my time looking at the collection I never meant to be a museum curator so it wasn t the way I particularly thought of my life I actually spent the summer working at the Freer because the manuscript I was doing my dissertation on was at the Freer so it was really in their store rooms looking at all of their Christian objects because they let me look at them all and they have this amazing collection of Christian material that never goes on display that I remember as more influential on me than actually the D O collection INT Do you remember from that time I think you were also working with a piece at the Walters am I right about that Maybe that s wrong in the record During your summer fellowship HE I went to visit the Walters that summer I spent some time I was looking at the Armenian manuscripts at the Walters maybe that s what it was if you have notes I was supposed to do my dissertation on a manuscript in the Freer that had not been fully studied and was filled with illuminations It was in theory by the artist Toros Roslin and was therefore connected to the one by Roslin that is signed that s at the Walters And in the end I turned in a dissertation that discussed the western influence on Armenian illumination in the kingdom of Cilicia which was pretty much every image that Sirarpie der Nersessian had said was a native Armenian tradition It was a very traumatic dissertation to disagree with a woman that was as wonderful as she was when I met her and who was canonized in the Armenian community And some people still don t speak to me because of it some people do But at the time I turned it in my first and second reader had not expected that dissertation so it was not the dissertation that was supposed to be fast and dirty that I was sent out to do where I was supposed to agree with her But I think that has to be it because I d go up to the Walters and look at those manuscripts and then I would spend most of my time during the week in the Freer going through the actual manuscript and then spend half the day at Dumbarton Oaks And to me what was wonderful about Dumbarton Oaks was that I went in early in the morning and I left about ten or eleven at night and I had my children in camp and my husband in New York and I just read and looked at books all day I had relatively little interaction with the people there I was there the summer that the Fellows Building was closed down for something they were doing to it so we did not have the fellows lunch where we all talked together And I stayed at night to use the library INT So you were probably in the Wisconsin Avenue apartments HE Yes I was there the summer Prince Charles got married This is the way I can remember it And the Washington newspaper afternoon paper was going bankrupt And they devoted the entire summer to wonderfully snarky articles on the wedding which I would pick up the paper on the way up the hill read all these kind of Vanity Fair articles on the wedding and then the next morning go back to Dumbarton Oaks and return to Byzantium And when they got married there were several Greeks there the summer I was there and they invited me they rented a television and we all went and looked at the wedding and they devoted the whole discussion to how the English had learned from the Greek wedding not to have flowers because that was what drove King Constantine off the throne And any effort to say Well actually we think it s an incredibly expensive wedding in which flowers would have looked busy on TV was met with No no They knew And I learned of everybody who was unacceptable to the Greeks at the wedding starting with King Constantine So that was the other thing I learned that summer I learned more about Greek politics and Prince Charles wedding and really remarkably useful and lovely access to the library INT Could you get a chance from your time at D O to get a sense of the I guess an active relationship between institutions like the Freer with which you were working closely and Dumbarton Oaks HE At the time I was there the relationship was close to zero largely from Dumbarton Oaks then I was welcomed extremely well at the Freer but not because of Dumbarton Oaks And I made some use of the Library of Congress where there may have been a little bit more of a connection than I ever perceived but Dumbarton Oaks viewed itself as a self enclosed entity And the only thing I really remember is somebody unacceptable went swimming in the swimming pool and so there were large notes that you it didn t matter if you were on the board of trustees of Harvard you were not allowed to swim in the swimming pool I remember looking at that and thinking that s just really weird But I don t even know who it was that insisted that they should be allowed to swim in the D O pool INT Was Giles Constable the director HE Constable was the director and it either was the first summer that they had summer fellows or one of the first summers I did not know that but later I learned So I of course appreciated very much the fact that he had opened it up in the summer It was clear that summer that not all the staff was fond of the fact but I didn t know what they were un fond of I just you could tell from their tone of voice I think that it depends on where you stand I came to Dumbarton Oaks late I have no firsthand knowledge of when Mrs Bliss had footmen seating people The fanciest symposium I went to we were in the Orangery and the tables did have white tablecloths maybe the food was served What happened was that it was a weird moment in time where using red clay flowerpots was very chic for serving chocolate mousse which would look like dirt and you d stick some flowers in the middle of it and that was those were the centerpieces on the table and my table of course was the young nobodies in the back no matter what our age was And so we didn t realize that the waiters would serve us the mousse And I do still remember the look of disgust on the waiter s face when he got to us having served like three other tables and realized we had served ourselves our dessert That s the closest I ever was to the high Bliss years There was the summer I was there a young man who Giles had allowed to go through the Bliss archives and his mother had been there before him and he put up a little exhibition on the Blisses and I remember that to me it was just interesting and to an older generation at D O it was horrific Mr Bliss made very bad grades at Harvard so I remember this guy saying to me But I found one where he didn t have any Fs and that was very hard It was all Cs and Ds But there they were I think maybe even on the label But someone was telling me that when you were there in Mrs Bliss years you took her for a walk told her what you wanted money for and if she liked it she d pull the money out of a little purse between her breasts So then of course she dies and somebody writes probably Ševčenko and says I want x money for next year and Harvard writes back Fill in the forms And these are people that have told amusing anecdotes to Mrs Bliss they haven t filled in I m going to spend 50 for transportation and 10 for food So I know there was a great deal of tension in the transition and that Constable was one of the people that got the pressure of the transition But for me he was always an extremely helpful person that was someone that I saw I don t remember particularly talking to anybody my summer there I remember reading books INT Have you been involved in symposia or colloquia or any of the conferences since your time as a summer fellow HE I ve gone to a number of the symposia I have not been to the symposia for the last four years because I ve been the editor oh no the head of the editorial board of the Art Bulletin which unfortunately has its major annual meeting the same weekend as Dumbarton Oaks So I have been fulfilling that thing and missing each and every one of the Dumbarton Oaks symposia as a result I have used a number of people involved with Dumbarton Oaks in the writing of the catalogues for my two shows I didn t actually go to Dumbarton Oaks to do any major amount of research of my own There are very few books if any at Dumbarton Oaks that are not in New York City just a little bit more irritating how many different physical places you may have to go to to get them but the getting of them is just as possible INT You ve also written on pieces from the D O collection for I think for catalogues here and in other aspects of your position here Unless again I m HE You may be right Maybe for Glory of Byzantium although I don t know For Glory of Byzantium I was very intent that I would prove that American scholars were on par with Byzantinists in other countries because if you look at the arc of Byzantine exhibitions the ones in the generations right before it had been very much Byzantine art in France by French Byzantine art in England by English And it seemed reasonable to in a way prove that America had come of age in scholars And I thought very hard at that time against having entries for catalogues written by scholars from other countries or from lending institutions not that I won every one of them but overall I won that I should get people who were involved in the object rather than the institution for authors And then for Byzantium Faith and Power where actually Europe is ahead of American scholarship in looking at the late Byzantine post Byzantine period or was at that time we went in the other direction and drew on a much more international body of authors I think Gudrun Bühl is an excellent head for the collection at Dumbarton Oaks in part because she s able to stand back from the pattern of Dumbarton Oaks and look at it from a perspective that comes out of in part the Bode Museum which is so important in its collection because all the German scholars that were writing on Byzantine and early Christian art were looking at the Bode collection to define that for them In a way to me if you look at collections what you need to extend to is who s using them And that s what in a way makes the Byzantine collection at Dumbarton Oaks important is the variety of scholars who whether they looked at any individual object by the hour or walked past them and to a degree defined themselves by them I don t know if you ve looked at the collections here at the Met but if you go to the Cloisters everything s big Mr Rockefeller bought a collection of a sculptor and it s what that sculptor bought that drives that collection Mr Morgan which is the core of our collection downtown liked little things So if you take their big things and our little things you ve got some chance of knowing what people had in the Middle Ages But one looks like nobody had any furniture and there are large stones and we look like all they had was tchotchkas and no place to put a roof over them It has nothing to do with the taste of the time it s the taste of the collector right around 1900 because they were both built up then Now Julie Jones is very interested in the pre Columbian collection for the fact that it s in her mind accumulated largely in terms of aesthetics And the Byzantine collection is increasingly interesting in the degree to which it ignored religion The Blisses were not that interested in things that were Orthodoxy Icons come in after them and there s a whole body of literature of which I now have two shelves of research on beginning of the twentieth century you begin to get the argument that modern art will be based on Byzantine art that they both avoid looking at realism And to a certain extent the Blisses fit into that that you are looking at something or an aesthetic that doesn t care about the religious meaning And now we re in a period where we re going back to a focus on the religious meaning INT They did have scholarly advisors though I think HE Oh no they had very very good ones and there was that one exhibition that was done in Athens Georgia at the University of Georgia on the Blisses collectors no and she broke off an engagement with Tyler INT Royall Tyler HE They had very very good advisors but they turned down works that they thought were too religious There s a lovely work in the V A that they did not buy They were not collecting orthodoxy Then you can get into the argument Rob Nelson enjoys it whether they were collecting Royall Tyler s taste or not I think it s actually and ultimately fairly irrelevant They built up this collection and then supported the scholars They could have just had this collection in their home and not brought in the scholars to research it What puts their collection into a larger framework is all the Bliss scholars that came through you now if they had just seen it as Hillwood the Marjorie Merriweather Post collection Have you been to Hillwood Have any of you been to Hillwood Oh you have to go to Hillwood It s in Washington D C and you have to make an appointment ahead but Marjorie Merriweather Post and her husband Mr Davis bought a lot of things in Russia Stalin was selling them and Davis was the American ambassador to Russia And so you have this house that makes Dumbarton Oaks look like a small tiny little servants quarters splaying across the hill filled with things that are being studied more now but if she had put the amount of money into paying for scholars to come out of Russia in those times of trouble and be around Hillwood and look at her pieces as the Blisses did to theirs we would have a different understanding of Hillwood It s really the Blisses great gift that they understood the need to have things studied and to get them looked at from what we may now go back and look at differently but we go back and look at Syriac studies differently than 1900 when there s several translations I like to quote What else can I tell you that is any use INT I wonder if you might comment on one of the great contributions of your exhibits that you ve done here at the Met was really to open up Byzantine art to just a tremendous amount of people I think who never thought about it And just the amount of people who visited it s wonderful the exhibits that you had And Dumbarton Oaks still despite the choices of its Byzantine art collection doesn t there s still a tremendous amount of people who don t know about it We don t get the visitors I don t think HE Keenan did not want visitors Keenan told me he did not want visitors I think that what the Met offers the opportunity to do and it s doing it right now with a show called Pen and Parchment is to look at things from a new point of view I study I come from the periphery I come out of Japan through Armenia to Constantinople I think that the important thing about Byzantium to do in this generation was to knock down the idea that there was a unicum Byzantium that had only great art it was only Constantinople Everything else was bad to the margins But in Europe every single town had a different style If every town in Europe has a different style then there are lots of different centers of wealth in the larger Byzantine sphere and they need to be looked at with a certain amount of interest at least in what they re trying to say so how they receive Byzantium how they turn it around how they define themselves in relationship to it And that s what I tried to do in the Byzantine show and to show that this is an empire that for many many centuries sets a standard for people even if they don t know what it looks like They know it exists So in The Glory of Byzantium we used a lot of quotations because I also wanted people to know that they could read and write And one of my favorite the people coming to the Met don t necessarily know that in fact that s why they don t go to Dumbarton Oaks My least amusing memory of The Glory of Byzantium was standing halfway through the show in a gallery of ivories in which every single image had Christ maybe a baby maybe a dead man every image had Christ and listening to some man turn to his wife and say Who are these Byzantines did they live before or after Christ I have no idea who he was I thought I m just not going to be able to say politely everything in this room has Christ on it But that s the audience For all I know that man has a Nobel Prize But he certainly was well dressed and sophisticated I sought in the show at the lowest level to have in both shows but certainly in the first one to have people walk through the galleries and if they read no label to say I don t know who those people were where they were but they certainly did interesting things I should go back and read a label And then at the highest level to say I ve always been interested in this issue and she s brought together the works that allow me to come to some conclusions So I wanted an Alice Mary Talbot to gain what she could but also to make people realize it s really a great empire In the second show a Russian scholar writing on an icon I borrowed where I only borrowed it so that I could say that the style of the Palaiologan period continues on in Russia until past the end of the empire her entry on it was that in the fifteenth century in Russia there s a cult that believes that the world is going to end in the 1490s and it s how they count the dates of the apocalypse And months after the show was over I realized that they were right the world ended at the date they said because it s almost exactly the same year that the Portuguese break the eastern Mediterranean s monopoly on the spice routes and that there will it doesn t matter who s going to rule the eastern Mediterranean or Russia No one will ever have a monopoly as they have had throughout all of history until that date So fire and brimstone didn t occur but a seismic shift in world power And by the time we have academic institutions in the model that we think of the eastern Mediterranean has already become relatively dead Sinai and I spent a lot of time studying it looks like it s at the other end of the earth That s our favorite opening sentence Sinai at the other end of the earth Well Sinai s actually right dead center on the most important trade route until the Portuguese find another route It s a balance that shifts and we don t even think about it because once we are doing academic scholarship it s already shifted so far we have trouble recreating it So I think what the shows here have done to a degree is to open it up again And not everyone is happy with it But I was quite appalled when I studied Byzantine history at Columbia with Nina Garcoian that I was the only person in the classes that was not from the Byzantine world that every other student would say they were studying it because of their contact through a grandparent or a great grandparent with some aspect whether it was Russia or Syria And I think it s that Byzantium is too important to what Suger thought at the abbey of St Denis he built to compete with the church of Hagia Sophia He didn t build to compete with another church He writes that he wants to know that his liturgical objects are as great as those the crusaders have seen But my favorite quote before you end up is Harold the Bluetooth do you know this wonderful great fun we borrowed for The Glory of Byzantium several objects from Scandinavia and I wanted to show that the Varangian Guard were Scandinavians that there was this northern route to Constantinople that we

    Original URL path: http://www.doaks.org/library-archives/dumbarton-oaks-archives/oral-history-project/angela-constantinides-hero-and-helen-c.-evans (2016-02-18)
    Open archived version from archive

  • Kenneth G. Holum — Dumbarton Oaks
    normally with an appointment in Harvard or somewhere else who is the director of studies in each of the fields here but there aren t in addition professors who are permanently here doing research and not teaching which is a somewhat different model I mean the emphasis is on the research program AS During these same years Bill Loerke was Director of Studies While we re talking about the administration I was just wondering what your interactions with him were KH I had very I had good I guess I get along with too many people He wasn t difficult to get along with at all He was a capable administrator He was a very bright scholar who knew a lot also a wonderful resource like for younger scholars as I was at that time It s obviously important to be around senior people who are willing to share their time They remember things that you haven t run into yet and you can learn so much from them Bill was terrific that way Certainly if I went through the things in my first book that I owed to each of the scholars at Dumbarton Oaks every one of them would be represented I learned things from all of them and from the Fellows and I think I got most of them into the acknowledgments but I don t remember about Bill He had he was not terribly productive as far as the quantity of books and articles He was more when he was here he was more an administrator and a facilitator than an active scholar I guess But I have only positive recollections of him and his wife and his son who was one of the guards for some time JNSL How would you characterize the interaction among the Fellows of the three fields Did you initiate dialogue or scholarly exchange KH Interesting I have the impression that it s better now than it was There was no there wasn t any hostility is that sufficient We by and large got along Do you know who Linda Schele is She s one of the major scholars that this place has produced AS We understand that she was good social glue KH She was very there was a volleyball they were talking this morning about David Axelrod s basketball buddies we had a volleyball group Ihor was a permanent member This lasted all through the 70s until Ihor left Ihor was a member of the group Anthony Bryer John Nesbitt and I and Linda Schele was a major figure JNSL Where did you play KH In Montrose Park There was a we pushed the picnickers out of the way sometimes they weren t very happy We tied this net up between two trees It was Ihor was vicious AS We ve heard tall too I imagine he was very good KH Yeah he was tall and physically capable So was Linda she was very good too I don t remember Margaret playing volleyball maybe we had gotten away from volleyball by the time she arrived There was this wonderful Fellow I don t know if anyone has mentioned him John Wiita who should not be forgotten He was John Wiita was a Finn from North Dakota I guess in fact he and I worked out the genealogy and decided we were related because my relatives were from North Dakota but that s a I have relatives from North Dakota Anyway he was a student of Tom Jones at the University of Minnesota and came here to write his dissertation on the Strategicon of Maurice It s a major military treatise of the late sixth century and he did a brilliant job of it and it became part of he never went anyplace he never got a job and he was such a strange character I guess that it was too difficult for him to find a job But his work became sort of integrated in George Dennis work on the Strategicon so it s not lost But John Wiita was also in the center of everything really impressive intellectual and great basketball player great volleyball player and we also played volleyball in the swimming pool although that caused some of the JNSL You set up a net there KH No we had a technique We didn t need a net It was pretty wild and I think some of the people didn t like it It intimidated their free use of the pool John Wiita eventually went back to he had lived in Connecticut and he went back and got some kind of job and died died fairly young I don t remember exactly when it was probably in the 80s EG Did you attend any symposia or lectures or anything like that in the early days KH Oh yes EG Were there any that were particularly memorable to you or important KH Have you talked to Gary Vikan JNSL Yes last summer KH And he didn t mention the famous Byzantine Studies Conference at Dumbarton Oaks AS I think this might have come up but go on KH That he and I organized It was the I mean every every year one or two people got saddled with the job of organizing the BSC and one year they decided that Gary and I should do it so we did it And we decided that we would do a BSC that would never be forgotten and I think we succeeded It was the first one I guess there d been others at Dumbarton Oaks or maybe not but this was early on they began when in 1976 JNSL That sounds about right KH The first one was in Cleveland at the Alice Mary hosted it So this was probably 78 79 80 somewhere in there and it was in the Music Room by far the most splendid setting for such a conference in the Music Room and other places We had a really wonderful program I mean everyone came because it was in Washington at Dumbarton Oaks and it was a place everyone wanted to attend I don t remember all the details We had a great reception in the Music Room with bartenders that I had recruited at the University of Maryland that made a big hit and I didn t know that they were capable bartenders So we that was a high point in the early years of the BSC I guess The I think I didn t miss a Dumbarton Oaks symposium until I mean what s happened with me is I got my early career was almost entirely at Dumbarton Oaks and there s a sense in which it still is because this library is one of the top three or four in the world for what I do so it s very convenient for me to be here But I got involved in this excavation project in Israel and so I m almost very much involved in that community the archaeological community and particularly the archaeologists in Jerusalem and so forth So I ve been less profoundly enmeshed in the activities of Dumbarton Oaks since the mid 80s although still pretty enmeshed I ve spoken here and attended lectures here I was at the Roman Holiday or the Roman whatever it was called That was really wonderful Another secret of my career is that I m not a Byzantinist I m a fraud My field is late antiquity which is part of the sort of commission that Dumbarton Oaks has but I come at late antiquity from antiquity I m a Roman historian essentially Doesn t make any difference it s still the best library for me but I m also involved in that other a couple other academic circles There are a lot of other people in the same boat like Tom Parker and Mike Maas and Mike McCormick well he s more western medievalist than a Byzantinist So the circles of Dumbarton Oaks go far beyond the central set of issues and Byzantine studies strictly speaking AS I wonder as we re talking about the various figures in the field we talked a little about the sort of the 70s crew but when you came back in 82 83 there were Kazhdan was here and some different set of scholars and other Fellows who I m certain you know influenced your work and worked with you if you might talk about them a little bit KH I ll yeah Alexander and later lots of other people I guess Who was the director the third one when I was Fellow for the third time AS Angeliki KH Ah Angeliki was yes but I worked so hard on my project that I hardly saw anybody Alexander was less although he wrote an article he and Tony Cutler wrote an article that was very influential on my work for a long time He was less I got to be less and less of a Byzantinist well never was a Byzantinist But he was a real Byzantinist and what he was mostly interested in was issues later than my work although I wrote articles for the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium And I was amazed when I wrote my articles I don t know if he did this with everyone but I came in and we sat down in his office and talked about them and he knew all this stuff you know he was it was amazing He knew the details of all of the things I thought were my specialty what is he doing knowing all this He was such a learned man it was amazing I ve just been some of the things I m working on right now involve Mike McCormick s book on the birth of the European economy because his first chapter is on the death of the Roman economy and I look at things very differently from the way he looks at them so I had to cite him But he writes about Alexander s influence on that book and how he how Mike got the idea when he was here for this approach to the emergence of the European economy looking at communications and trade and he presented his first findings in a seminar at Dumbarton Oaks and Kazhdan shot him down I mean this was and this was the beginning of this serious thinking about it and he dedicated the book to Kazhdan s memory He didn t have that kind of influence on me because I work in much earlier periods but he did we did intersect Personally he and his wife were such charming people By then I was married to my wife Marsha and we found both of them very charming I had less to do with Angeliki although on my final fellowship we I got to know her quite well We were at her house in the director s house for dinner a few times I was always intimidated by dinner at the director s house from the time of the first one with Giles I don t remember who the others were but it was sort of assumed that if you went to dinner in the director s house whether it was Giles or Angeliki or whomever you could speak French It was perfectly normal for the conversation to switch back and forth from English to French I can t speak French I can read French perfectly well When I hear French it sounds like Marsha speaks French quite well so it was no problem for her I think I could do perfectly well in German but nobody seemed to think that never came into the equation It was either English or French So But it was still fun to have dinner in the director s house and Angeliki had I remember a particularly nice dinner that she had once I probably wasn t a Fellow but if someone is visiting who is in the field of some scholar in the vicinity they often invited us over We were Jan invited us to dinner last year but we couldn t there was an underwater archaeologist from Istanbul or who had been working in Istanbul anyway and unfortunately I had just had surgery for my knees so I couldn t come I was going to come but then we decided it would a little too embarrassing hobbling around so I haven t had dinner since he arrived AS Did the social atmosphere change much among the three separate times when you were a Fellow here or like the daily life routines things like that KH Well I changed you know I was probably less disciplined the first time I was a Fellow in the 70s During my first fellowship I was working on my book Theodosian Empresses and in a way that was the most critical of the three because I met people who led into the next stage of my career I don t remember it was the second one when Margaret was here in the early 80s that I remember as being particularly intense socially Don t tell her that There seemed to be more parties that year than ever Again I was frustrated to some extent because there were so many social occasions that I couldn t get any work done It was a little different for me because I live here you know and the third was one was the same I drove from home I didn t live in the Fellows Building or Dumbarton Oaks accommodations we just stayed at home so I was in my normal social setting The other Fellows were sort of thrown on their own resources you know They interacted with each other and they had more time for partying than I did because I had all the other partying to do also I don t know we don t party don t get the impression that we partied all the time but that year it seemed that every week there was some occasion that needed to be celebrated and it was great fun and Marsha was included in it and enjoyed it enormously But we had to drive all the way in from Silver Spring to participate in something like this AS In those years the Kazhdans were great hosts right Is that we ve heard that before KH They were great hosts I was in their they lived in what did we call it AS Now it s the security building KH I know Well I guess they just called it the No that s not right It s where I think Ševčenko lived there There was a special term for it but I can t remember I was in their house they were wonderful hosts of course How could they not be They were such warm friendly people But that was after the 70s I was involved in other circles in the area so I wasn t as profoundly involved In the 70s this was where I spent all my time I was really a denizen of Dumbarton Oaks It was wonderful AS In the course of your three fellowships what kind of interactions have you had with the D O collection We talked a little bit about your interactions with the library but have you spent a lot of time with the collection KH Well if you mean I spent quite a bit of time working on coins when I wrote my first book Not the coins that are on display although the I was interested in the marriage belts which made their way into my first book a little bit But I was more interested in certain issues of gold coins from the early fifth century which I wrote an article and I added to my books I worked in objects and that to me this may not be what you have in mind but that was an opening to me into a sort of a world I hadn t been in in graduate school which was art history because I was trained as a text historian ordinary text historian and then it turns out I spent the best years of my career working as an archaeologist which is far from what I was trained in But when I worked in the collections began and worked on these coins and tried to address historical problems using these objects I learned how to deal with a different with the sources in a different way and was then attracted Gary Vikan and I wrote a seminal article called The Trier Ivory Adventus Ceremonial and the Relics of St Stephen that neither of us will ever admit could be improved upon and that was again I was working with Gary on that and that object is in Trier not here but it was the same kind of thing working with the object taught me how to deal with evidence in a different way There was a direct line from that to studies in urbanism using physical as well as textual evidence and even environmental evidence even seeds and bones and things of that sort Mike McCormick has gone through the same transition So the proximity of the collection is important even for historians everyone will say that in that in the 70s and now much less there was a sense that there were two kinds of Byzantinists historians and art historians There were some odd ducks who did liturgy and other things but basically historians and art historians and we were sort of at war with each other they the art historians are getting too much attention There was no sense that we re all in the same game and that s very much different now I think Historians deal with objects and images and material culture just as much as the specialists

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

  • Stephen Houston — Dumbarton Oaks
    is they were drawing these young scholars often males I understand at that point into their social world and part of what they were doing there was supposed to entertain themselves by having these bright young intellects around But also I think they almost saw it as a kind of finishing school where they were imparting polish and socializing these people into how gentlemen should behave And I think there were just the slightest echoes of that when I was there in the 80s still But Betty of course knew the Blisses Mike Coe knew the Blisses too And so they would know much more about them CW Were there still teas when you were there in the 80s Or did you go to the concerts those kinds of legacies of the Blisses SH Yes the concerts were still going on When I was there as a Junior Fellow it was very different because I had a young child and a son who was a newborn and I don t know if this was some long term disquiet of the Blisses with raucous family life and having kids that couldn t quite be controlled or whether it was something to do with the intermediate directors and other authorities there in the intervening years but they were not family friendly to use that expression You were not given housing you had to go find housing on your own And it became quite arduous because they would barely assist you in finding any place to stay I remember for the first month I was there I had to commute from a friend of the family s home and literally it would take me two hours one way because it was on the other side of D C over in Maryland beyond Anacostia There really wasn t a great deal of sympathy for this at D O and again I don t know because I wasn t there in the 70s or before whether this came out of the Blisses attitude toward scholars As you know and you ll find out when you go to Oxford historically places like that are about young singles usually single men In the old days in Oxford you d better not get married or you would not stay there as a Fellow and there s a little bit of that that transferred itself to D O It was maybe not quite the thing to have children and families We would get invited to certain parties let s say The staff had parties and the associate director at that time Judy Ullmann Siggins was really quite lively I ve completely forgotten her name but she went on to marry Bill Isbell and left D O and had been there for many many years Judy Anyway it s completely escaped my memory But there were a few openings where families would be included but generally you were kept at arm s length There s still a little bit of that There seems to be last year a lot of paranoia about letting the wrong people in or people that just had to be girlfriends And you had to specify when you had been dating someone because if not they would not be permitted to come in as girlfriends Just strange rules as though there were hordes of unwashed people at the gates desperate to get in and attend these parties and social gatherings at D O So that s been a long and established tradition at D O But it s nothing new but it just goes through strange permutations CW On a more scholarly side when you first arrived were there any older Fellows there who mentored you I guess you had had this relationship with Mike Coe so maybe you knew something about his D O experience SH None I would say that because there were such a limited number of Fellows you didn t When I was there as a Summer Fellow Elizabeth was on her way out and Dick Diehl was there so it was too much in flux And at that point I had a fairly clear idea what I wanted to do As a Junior Fellow I think I was kind of clueless And I did have good interactions with Emily Umberger who was a more senior I think at that point tenured person But there were other tensions with my cohorts between some of the other women But I just probably because I was always compelled to live off campus I couldn t involve myself as much And I was there for a shorter stay because I really felt I needed fieldwork experience And in my discipline the time to dig is in the spring That s really the only time when the rains allow you to go off into these very remote areas and do excavation So I think I took that fellowship too early I should have waited another year CW Because you were still a Ph D student SH Yes I was a Junior Fellow But I think I wasn t personally ready at that time to do it It s as you ve probably heard from other Fellows very very common to putter away a lot of your time with little projects because you feel like you have all the time in the world to finish the thing you ve come there to do And suddenly the year the term is over and you have the feeling of not quite getting accomplished very much And it is unless you re remorselessly single minded about doing just this book or just this project very few people ever finish stuff there It s very very hard to do it And I would even say that when I was there and I haven t seen many of these lately but when I was there as a Junior Fellow there were many more of these multi year postdocs at D O There was a guy named Bob Edwards not the guy on NPR But I believe his name was Bob Edwards who did Armenian fortifications And there was another guy named Denys Pringle who was also there doing Crusader forts or the like and they had multi year fellowships And those were people who I think were able to get projects done I don t personally think the one year fellowships are tremendously productive for really doing and wrapping up a big work It just isn t doable And so we tend to be there to work on fragments or portions of them Some people who come there with big chunks of their Ph D s done and I m thinking now about Junior Fellows might be able to finish their projects by the end of the year And that happened when I was there with Alex Tokovinine He was able to finish up But he came with a lot of it already written I think one of the conceits of the place is that you go there you do this project you finish it you leave and then on to further glories but I don t think that happens very often The reports that you see are obviously going to be a lot of spinning about how I got tremendous amounts done but the reality is a kind of cycle in which you first dither away a lot of your time on this article or that talk panic sets in usually right after Christmas you beaver away at something energetically and then two things happen a month or two before the end of the term you either get really desperate unhappy gloomy or you descend into a kind of late term frivolity with late term gatherings by the pool and wine tastings So I think the final month tends to be a disconnection It s a disconnecting process Just as the first several months is attempting to get up to speed you re on that bike and you re trying to get those pedals working And then you re coasting at the end because it s very hard to engage in something where you know you have to shut down in a month and you have to pack up everything Again just the peculiarities of this changes I really think the library is the big issue there Because in the old days it was so easy just to walk out four or five feet and you just grab the book you need And now with the so called rationalization and institutional rationalizing of the library they ve made all sorts of decisions that really make no sense to me and actually diminish it as a research institution For instance rather than having a seminar format where the books are close to the people that are going to them and this isn t a library that a lot of people use It s basically for a handful of Fellows maybe a few dozen people There are lots of readers with those little badges and the red cards but they re never there You almost never see them But instead what they did was they put the books that are most widely used the furthest away from the Fellows down on the bottom floor I ve heard there are weight considerations because of these devices they have that compress the stacks but surely there could have been some other arrangements And then by the Pre Columbian Fellows they put all of the large folio that we never use and that are not used by anybody And these are relatively rare works I imagine they re quite valuable So what do they do They expose them to the most light And then vast quantities of space that don t seem to have anybody in them and large archives where I d imagine this thing might go eventually that again don t seem to have any living bodies down there And at the same time just vast numbers of librarians but you don t really know what they do It s sort of fascinating watching an institution and again I m thinking in abstract sociological terms but having detached these entities and making them commensurate or putting them on par with each other then each one of them goes into a busy mode where they start trying to hire more and more bodies Again you acquire strength institutionally you acquire momentum by getting as many people under you as possible This seemed to be an effort in the library just hire more and more and more librarians and this was clearly another source of tension at the place When I was there they were advertising for somebody to start a Pre Columbian imaging collection and there are no images as far as I can tell The images that were purchased from Nicholas Hellmuth many years ago of all these Maya objects they re over in the museum So I thought the whole thing was just in a way sad because I do love the place but also kind of comical and sociologically predictable in a very very obvious way In a way it s easier to see these things because you re only there for a year and to a certain extent you care and you want to give advice as far as it s listened to But we re not citizens of D O we re not a member of a republic or the monarchy I should say so we re out of there but it makes it a little easier to see what the impact of some of these decisions might be I think the other important question is just what s going to happen to D O in the long term It has obviously a ton of money although I think the lavish expenditures under Keenan and the radical expansion of the physical plant some of which I m sure needed to be done I m sure the buildings probably needed help The question of course is what is going to happen to it in the long term I m not sure it can change a great deal without breaking apart and rethinking the space Something I mentioned before again as an anthropologist I m very aware of the fact that space conditions behavior and influences how people interact and these decisions about the way the buildings were configured in previous terms particularly under Keenan are not easy to re shape I m not sure how it can be done in some ways Again I don t know exactly what s going on but I do have a suspicion that towards the end maybe Keenan was there s a moment of excitement I see this with the directors there there s a moment of excitement and initial energy They try to make certain changes And then there s clearly at the end where they re looking ahead and thinking about other things and it could be that some of the most crucial decisions in the history of Dumbarton Oaks were made at the time when the Director was looking elsewhere and thinking towards retirement And again I didn t know the guy but I don t get the feeling he was someone who was tremendously consultative from what I understand from other Senior Fellows meetings He was not a guy who listens a lot And then a kind of over lavish slightly opulent almost imperial quality to the physical plant which I think really didn t work out very well either the decision to acquire this house that belonged to the Senator Warner Elizabeth Taylor for a great deal of money lavish gardens We have at this point a modest very mellow nice guy who I m sure would have been just as happy in the old director s quarters where we now have dinner or lunch rather But there s a kind of personal impress from Keenan that is really permanent I don t know how to change it and yet involving decisions that really weren t sensible And so personally I feel a lot of anxiety for the institution because it still has a lot of resources it s obviously going to chug along it s always going to get great applicants important work will be done there but it s too bad it isn t as pleasant a place as it used to be that it isn t a little more congenial It would often hit me when I was there and to some extent this is a lamentable bi product of having been a Fellow there in three separate decades is that I have a base for comparison And the other people that were there just thought Well this is the way it is But I remembered much more collegial probably a more amiable place in some ways in earlier periods Although I d have to say that independent of what kind of person you were of what kind of Fellow you were if you were a young Junior Fellow with a young family maybe it wasn t such a warm and hospitable place I do worry about it I m not sure what can be done in the long term or what will happen during the long term The other thing that probably is an issue at D O it probably needs to even though it s obviously a very traditional and indeed backward looking place this project you re doing is backward looking in a way it needs to get much more focused on the cutting edge digital initiatives I think there has been resistance to it but it s something they really need to embrace in terms of databases We re probably leaving the time behind in my opinion where maybe libraries will not have the same role A lot of these things these images can be digitized It can be made into a very different kind of location The libraries can be virtual and the databases which are elaborately prepared by people like Grierson and others there they probably shouldn t be in these over produced books with very expensive paper and varying degrees of editing And I really don t see any signs that D O is changing very much there I don t think the investments are going to be made CW How do you view D O s role in Maya studies in particular I know you were involved in that NOVA program SH I m being candid Too candid probably I hope Jan doesn t listen to this I would say that it s overstated That period of Maya research was useful You started getting a lot of people together speaking to one another and until that point Maya studies had been really much more isolated with a handful of people working on it in very intermittent contexts So I would say the pulse got a little more intense and to a minor extent D O was involved in that But it s a little bit of a self serving narrative about the people involved how important they were how wonderful this work was but some of that research was done by other scholars or it was already known I m sure it was very important for the people involved and that they got very excited by it but I don t see it as being tremendously important in that respect It s really much more in terms of the fellowships that I think it s had an impact and to some extent the conferences I think the conferences were more important in the earlier periods because there were not many specialized focused conferences The national meetings were probably a little less well developed So those early D O volumes on the Pre Columbian field from the 60s into the 70s and even to some extent into the 80s and

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

  • John Dixon Hunt — Dumbarton Oaks
    to the extent that through a mutual friend called Peter Willis who was one of the very early Fellows appointed by Mrs Bliss before the program got started up I was in Washington I think no I know I was working at the Folger Library Peter Willis must have written to Mrs Bliss told her that I was there And I had gotten an invitation from her to give a lecture And I did give the lecture She introduced me personally I remember I think I remember it was a rather intimidating audience because all of the front row in the newly finished music room was almost entirely composed of members of the Kennedy family But that was really my only connection I gave a lecture and I forget what it was on but it is probably on my early work in writing about English landscape gardens But that was really my only connection with the early program And I think that must have been in the 60s some time It was just two years before she died so you d be able to find out when it was JS Right JH And then the actual program got started and I think I really got involved at the time in 1980 when I was asked to edit the Journal of Garden History which is something that Dumbarton Oaks should have started itself It was not very honest really about its field Anyhow I was asked to edit a journal in England so I m editing that journal And I said that I would background noise should we go somewhere else for this Yes I was asked to edit this journal and I was organizing an editorial board Betty MacDougall was one of the two people at the time whom I said Look I will do this I will edit this thing but I really need to get them on board Well the first issue came out in 1980 so it would have been in about 79 early 79 that I got back in touch with Betty whom I had met before And from then on we were often in contact And it was not I forget when I did have the fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks but it was quite some time later But we d been in contact and I did go to some of the symposia before I either had a fellowship myself or became a Senior Fellow JS I see And if you were say in which you as a scholar would prefer the direction to go in terms of the field or how better could Dumbarton Oaks be of service to the field what would you recommend or what would you say would be a better vision in terms of the resources that are present there JH Well I think Dumbarton Oaks well I have a vision of what landscape should be But it s partly because I now have fifteen years experience teaching history and theory of landscape in the School of Design So I am teaching practicing landscape architects But even as I went as director to Dumbarton Oaks let me go back When I was a Senior Fellow there were occasionally interesting applications for fellowships from landscape architects who simply wanted in a sense to come for a semester and immerse themselves in historical reading But this was really not considered suitable material for a scholarly fellowship and those kind of applications were never really successful And I think it was in those years as a Senior Fellow that made me realize was that one of the things that Dumbarton Oaks not just the library and a scholarly library but also a wonderful and historic American garden should be doing more to pull in people who were practitioners I mean accredited landscape architects mainly but also there are quite a lot of perfectly intelligent and interesting landscape designers who are not professionally accredited to the American Association of Landscape Architects sic And I felt that somehow we should be giving these people the opportunity to sort of plug into the resources and the combined sort of intellectual although as I said earlier I always felt that three Fellows were an insufficient critical mass But when I did start these round tables on Friday afternoons the Fellows were always there There were a few people who came up from CASVA like Therese O Malley So there were some professional scholars in the room with a lot of people who were really hearing and discussing aspects of modern landscape architecture And then for example we had a session in which the Parks Department and the Chairman of the parks from Baltimore committee came over and we had a discussion about what open space was happening about how it is being designed in the city of Baltimore what was needed and there were a couple of very articulate people from the community saying what they needed This was it seems to me exactly one of the things that could be done And I think this is something that if my memory is correct Wolschke Buhlman certainly maintained And as I say he was a practicing landscape architect and I think he saw his own excursions and workings scholarly research fields as something that really helped and augmented his professional practical life or it had done and it would do And therefore he saw the same thing The last six or seven years have seen I think Dumbarton Oaks in its symposia and publications take a much more scholarly research line with some yes some invitations and openings out to landscape architects But largely those who would perform within the very sort of theoretical conceptual world that Michel Conan created at Dumbarton Oaks And this is another way of doing something in Dumbarton Oaks I think that one of the problems really is either Dumbarton Oaks has never adequately established a profile of what it thought landscape studies should be or it has not accepted the fact that every director will try and do something different and therefore that you are going to have a very different notion of landscape architecture every six or eight years And that given the length that the field has that s not a bad thing So I think the fascinating thing about landscape studies is exactly and this at least it was never in my day appreciated it had exactly the same scope as Pre Columbian or Byzantine It involved economic historians anthropologists archeologists art historians in the case of Pre Columbian Studies geographers and it really is a field that is multi disciplinary And that I think and the difficulty there is who do you bring in Who do you bring in as Fellows And if you ve got just a very small group of Fellows it s got larger I gather in the last couple of years but if you are bringing a large group of Fellows in you want a good mix and you want a good mix of disciplines And then I think that one of the other issues that Dumbarton Oaks has faced and taken on I see it only from the outside so I really can t comment upon its success but is to take in the whole business of non Western gardens There were in the early days symposia on Persian gardens and I think that was it But under Michel Conan there was a considerable reach out to China and Chinese gardens And that opens another whole dimension of you know if you are providing a library for people who work in that field a very large area you will need some competence somewhere in the building if not the director of reading Chinese And Senior Fellows are a wonderful group of advisors but they are not there the whole time And therefore the day to day sort of weekly intellectual life of the place is mainly sustained by the Director of Studies and three or four Fellows There was a certain excitement and usefulness in there being scholars in the other fields there and certainly there were times when there was real dialogue and sort of cross fertilization but it was more the exception than the rule So I think that the landscape people and I certainly as director felt not socially isolated because one got on quite well with one s colleagues and made very good friends there but intellectually isolated within the field In a sense the field consisted of fellowships three a year an annual symposium and the publication of the annual symposium And that was it If you look at the publications under Michel Conan the last six or seven years they ve been exponentially developed and enlarged And that certainly spreads the word about the field But I still feel that my instinct was right that Dumbarton Oaks ought to and in this it should have been able to liaise much more with GSD at Harvard it should have been talking to the people who are making the gardens and landscapes that future scholars will want to discuss and in fact more and more garden historians of the last ten years who are working on contemporary or modern landscape architecture And that was not really the problems of the program when I got there I think the I am just trying to think Beatrix Farrand was probably the only symposium topic in the years of Betty MacDougall s directorship that was anything in the modern field J C Louden in the 19 th century was the next earliest and that was way back And I think that I gather that Dumbarton Oaks has been hoping to collect archives of leading landscape architects but it s rather odd to do that in an institution where landscape architects don t readily think of being able to go I mean I even remember in my years as director having to I won t say fight for but argue for a reader s ticket for a student of a Master of Landscape Architecture program I can t remember now where they came from It couldn t have been Harvard because that presumably could have been organized just to have a reading ticket because they weren t sort of advanced in their scholarship But they were probably doing they were just sort of reading I remember one of the arguments was well Couldn t this person just do that reading in a main library And I think my answer was Maybe they want to see what s been written in English for example on André Le Nôtre I don t know whether that was it But all of the books are here And that s a good place And also they go down to the open stacks and see that there are you know twenty five books on André Le Nôtre to realize what they take on has to be done in that already established scholarly spread And that would be very useful even if all they ever wanted to do was to find out a bit more about I don t know how Versailles was constructed which they could perhaps have done from publications elsewhere But it was the opening of the awareness of garden history to interested people I mean obviously the worry of my colleagues at Dumbarton Oaks was that they didn t sort of want hoards of people of a sort of Sunday colored supplement interest in sort of gardens coming in But it did seem to me that there were opportunities that could be offered to people who wanted to do some serious but not scholarly work Let s make that distinction on something that was interesting to them as their professional life I forget who this landscape architect was but they certainly weren t going to go out into the world designing for a patron but I thought it was a perfectly good thing that worked in the end But just to have to sort of confront that mentality was odd And it may have changed as I say I have not been back One of the other things that I thought was a great feature of Dumbarton Oaks was a rare book room of open stacks that were essentially devoted to our field that could be browsed and the Fellows were down in a room right by the open stacks There was a rare book librarian who was always available to let them into the rare book room And the open stacks down below were very rudimentarily but rather usefully divided into a design section and a horticultural section If I was interested in the shape that Versailles took I knew which part of the stacks to go into If I was actually interested in the planting that was available at Versailles it would probably be stuffed in the botanical classification So in a way it was a very wonderfully easy library to use and I think Fellows appreciated that And the other difficulty was that and that s going to be a difficulty with any such institution is that applications for Fellows always invited them to say how they would use the collection and they still are I would imagine I mean I ve sent at least five or six graduate students down there since I ve been at Penn and at least shall we say with 50 of my graduate students whom I was backing and writing recommendations for it wasn t so much that the library would be better than what they could find at the University of Pennsylvania library which is an excellent library especially in the design field but it was the fact that they would be able to wander into the library find things that they had never thought of that they would be able to talk to people So the Senior Fellows I think always had the difficulty of adjudicating out of you know sometimes twelve or twenty applications to choose three people on the basis of were they doing the scholarly work which was always the main criterion And then very much more sort of down the list of requirements or pre conditions was would the collections be useful to them And I think that in the three years that I was there I had what nine Fellows Probably there were only five out of the nine that really used the collection Otherwise what it was that people with a sabbatical wanted to come to a place where they would have a stipend and have a place where they could write In my last year it was particularly frustrating because I felt that at least two of the Fellows really they were very interesting people but they were really not interested in a collective talking about the field of landscape architecture They were into their own three totally different things and they really couldn t talk to each other One of the things that I did and I know that it has been kept up in some way or another was that I gathered the three Fellows together once a week we had a glass of sherry together in my office and then we went to have lunch together And in my first two years that sort of did work quite well The people sort of exchanged ideas a bit more and they were building up the field of garden and landscape studies more It was bigger than their own particular contribution of a little field or chunk of the field And in my last year that simply didn t work at all and I suppose it may have been the final push for me to feel that it really wasn t working And the other thing I suppose I can say this myself I m a fairly energetic person and there really wasn t enough for me to do I mean to organize one symposium edit the proceedings and organize monthly round tables on various subjects was fine but it really wasn t what I felt the only research institute in landscape and garden studies in the world should be doing I thought we I don t know quite what publishing a lot more perhaps I would have thought a journal would have been a wonderful thing But that was certainly not something that anyone then or now wants to take on And certainly journals in the field have grown and prospered since then so probably now there is no need for it But it s been very encouraging to see the amount of publications that under Michel Conan s directorship were got out JS And if you could pinpoint perhaps one exciting project that you were particularly happy to be a part of during your time there or symposia JH Well I think it was the symposium that was organized by the Senior Fellows in the year before I became director so that I was the director of the symposium but a symposium in honor of Betty MacDougall It was published just as a volume called Garden History and I think Issues Methods Approaches But what it was was an attempt not just a chance to see where the field had come but in a sense to say that Betty has done a wonderful job as a first director in setting up this scholarly program This is the kind of materials that have come out of the program and served quite a few of the people who had been Fellows and been working Jashemski would have been one who talked at that symposium but also we invited fifty percent were people saying This is what the program has been producing and doing The other fifty percent were people who had not been at Dumbarton Oaks and who were invited really to push the field further out

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

  • Peter Jacobs — Dumbarton Oaks
    s no question about it I guess I spent a fair amount of time trying to encourage that cross fertilization when I was living there And to some extent I think I was successful but it takes a lot of animation because people are more inclined to focus on their own particular research and to work in silos as the universities are now structured They re basically trained to deal with the people that are dealing with the subjects that they re interested in So the cross fertilization I don t think is high It does require nurturing and animation and I would say that it s a goal that Dumbarton Oaks should consider a little more carefully But in the long run I must say that the scholars that are selected are generally selected because of their project proposals and are primarily focused on those project proposals so it s understandable that taking a risk in trying to see what links between Pre Columbian and Landscape and Garden Studies might exist requires a fair amount of energy and a fair amount of self confidence on the part of the people involved to say hey I ll take a look at this and maybe it ll produce something It s not an easy situation for a young scholar to have to be confronted with if you will On the more senior level I think that there was a great deal of interest in interacting and that would be amongst the scholars and the directors of studies incidentally who really did spend a fair amount of time talking to each other It may just be an age related thing or where you happen to be in your career path that would define perhaps the willingness or lack thereof to interact with other fields Sorry that was a fairly long and a convoluted explanation but it s a complicated issue VKM Yeah Do you think the garden archaeology initiative is related to that desire in the Senior Fellows to have more interaction between the departments PJ I think that it s a kind of an activity which was generated largely by Michel Conan But Michel had a former student Aicha Malek who worked with Wilhelmina Jashemski and it was a very powerful sort of two people Aicha was just really really very bright and Wilhelmina recognized it and had not only no problem with it but was very supportive Michel basically added a lot of the administrative and intellectual push behind that and I think it was an attempt to reach beyond the common borders that usually define what Landscape and Garden Studies are but he did that in a number of other areas as well There was a gentleman named James Dickie who was an interesting researcher I believe he was British by birth who had spent a great deal of time in and around the Alhambra understood and read and wrote Arabic beautifully and was one of the first to be encouraged to start looking at the linguistic properties of the decorations of the Alhambra and to try and relate the landscape structure with the semiotic if you will messages that occur throughout the Alhambra And that was the first time I believe that that initiative was taken So there are quite a number of interesting intellectual stories that have occurred generated primarily by the Director of Studies not exclusively but primarily and in the time that I was there certainly strongly supported and improved if that s the right word but elaborated perhaps is a better word by the Senior Fellows VKM Did you ever attend the symposia and talks for Byzantine and Pre Columbian Studies or the concerts by the Friends of Music program PJ Well when Ellen and I were living there we attended the concerts with enormous pleasure It s an unbelievable privilege to be seated in what s called the Music Room let s say about 30 feet away from some of the best musicians in the world You sort of feel like they have been invited into your living room It was a marvelous experience In terms of the symposia as a Fellow I went to all of the symposia that were given by Landscape Byzantine and Pre Columbian Fellows or Junior Fellows I m not quite sure which was which when I was there and actually believe that I contributed a fair amount of comments from my perspective particularly in the Pre Columbian context because much of what they were doing was situated in landscape settings that I suggested had an impact on why they were where they were why they were oriented the way they were oriented etc etc And I really enjoyed very very much listening to the presentations of the Fellows in fields that weren t my own So yes I was very much involved in all three VKM You were also at Dumbarton Oaks during the construction of the new library right PJ Yeah VKM Can you give me a sense of your reaction to that project and that of your colleagues PJ Well I was involved with Ned Keenan at the very very beginning when the first proposal was made which created an enormous storm of protest The initial proposal was to put the library underneath the grass lawn in front of the main building extending towards the ravine And it was to be an underground library no visibility etc etc and all sorts of people had all sorts of problems with that particular proposal myself included incidentally And then because of my background I guess I was asked and offered some advice with respect to what alternatives might be available and whether or not it was or wasn t viable to proceed with the first proposal The second proposal which is the one that was generated towards the end of my tenure as chair of the Senior Fellows seemed to be more consistent with a campus type of approach to developing the property and when I came back and used the library and lived in the Fellows Building I must say that it was I think very successful as a way of developing the property without having any really significant visual impact at all So I think that was quite successful I think the way the buildings function is a little bit less successful but that s a whole other issue VKM Did you use the library collection much either before or during or after the construction PJ I used it very much after the construction and again while I was resident I believe that the library has a really amazing collection of books Once again the books are segregated by the study centers and because I had the time I found that there were quite a number of books upstairs in the Pre Columbian area that I found most interesting I must say that the librarians plural were very very helpful and supportive in terms of saying OK why don t you go to the Library of Congress why don t you go here why don t you go there for particular things that I was looking for that were not available in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection But by and large I think the library is really an amazing resource I have really really serious issues with respect to security and how it operates and how it relates to people as people I think it is in desperate need of some more humanizing aspects I m not an expert in security I have absolutely no problem with making certain that things are not stolen etc etc but I think the approach towards the individuals that use the environment is frankly off putting VKM Yeah it is a bit PJ I m being extraordinarily gentle When I was there a young lady who I assume is approximately your age we ve never met so I m guessing but she was not an elderly lady forgot her card with the color coded thing and they wouldn t let her in They knew exactly who she was etc etc and she said Look I just have to go to my desk and get my book and come back whatever the story was and they just wouldn t And she just broke down and almost had a nervous breakdown because the whole approach was you re guilty now prove you re innocent It s not very scholarly let s put it that way VKM Is it all right for me to move on to talking about the Board of Senior Fellows now You were a member of the Board of Senior Fellows in Garden and Landscape Studies for six years What would you consider to be the major responsibilities of the Board while you were there PJ I would say the formal major responsibility is to choose the Fellows for each new year the Fellows and the Junior Fellows to help shape the annual symposia to chair sessions at the annual symposia to suggest and support new initiatives for the Landscape Garden Studies component of Dumbarton Oaks but the informal and probably most important activity of the Senior Fellows is to support and be critical of the Director of Studies and to support the Director of Studies and the Landscape and Garden Studies component itself vis à vis the Director of Dumbarton Oaks Basically to make the case for the new initiative and for the need for more support if such is necessary And I would say that there s an awful lot that is critical in terms of the interpersonal relationships between the Senior Fellows the Director of Studies and the Director of Dumbarton Oaks which is virtually impossible to put down on paper in any formal way VKM You were also chairman of the Board Did that have any special responsibilities attached to it PJ Well I have a very good relationship both with Michel Conan who s the Director of Studies and with Ned Keenan whom I liked a lot and I know he liked me a lot so it wasn t difficult for me to bring up issues with him I was asked to help with my advice on the building project which really almost more than anything else characterized the time that he was there I know professionally that the number of meetings that Ned Keenan must have had with the myriad groups both public and citizen groups that were concerned with the development of Dumbarton Oaks he must have had a thousand meetings over a three or four year period And I was happy to help him with whatever advice I could give on that particular issue and generally to make his life as pleasant as possible for the modest amount of time that I spent there as a Senior Fellow VKM All right Did you work closely with any of the other members of the Board PJ Well again the Senior Fellows meet twice a year sometimes three times but usually twice a year so it is much more a network of people than it is a working colleague relationship I certainly did review a number of papers that were written by members of the Senior Fellows supported a book proposal by one of them You know you do that kind of thing but it s not usually the kind of thing where you develop a working colleague relationship and you re working on the same project together The Senior Fellows basically come from all over North America and Europe and in my case there was even a Senior Fellow from Latin America South America in fact So no you keep in touch through emails and through short notes and things of that nature but I would say that it s more a networking procedure than it is a working relationship VKM You said that mostly you just heard the presentations from the Junior Fellows and that was it Were there any that you did work with PJ Well certainly not as a Senior Fellow because as I said our time is three days twice a year so you can t really develop a working relationship with a Junior Fellow other than if you might have known them before and in one or two cases the Junior Fellows may have been students of Senior Fellows I can t think of any specific examples but that wouldn t surprise me I know John Dixon Hunt sent a number of people from the University of Pennsylvania to Dumbarton Oaks but I don t think he was Director of Studies at that point So we would know who they were we d be supportive of them but we didn t really have a working relationship VKM OK One thing that I noticed when I was reading over the minutes of the Senior Fellows Board meetings was that you were often pushing to make things available online PJ Yes VKM How do you think Dumbarton Oaks handled the expanding importance of the Internet and Internet technology PJ Boy well I will be frank They handled it in the typical Dumbarton Oaks manner which is I would say to look at the whole issue very thoroughly I would say it was more a dramatic opera approach than let s say like jazz They tend to crush problems to death and in the development of a website I would say that they ve come a long way I think they could be a lot further along and I think it s a question once again of thinking a little bit further outside the box than they have a tendency to do Now having said that I m not really super aware of all the constraints that they re operating under I know they have serious questions of protecting copyrights on materials that they have etc etc so I guess my sense of getting involved with the Internet and everything that it represents I would have hoped that it would have evolved a little bit more than it has but I am sympathetic to the fact that there may be some serious constraints of which I am not that aware VKM I listened to an interview I think with John Duffy where he said that Ned Keenan was someone who was also really pushing to have Dumbarton Oaks adopt new technology faster Do you think that s also true PJ Absolutely I think Ned Keenan was if I m not mistaken and I don t think I am I think he was a consultant to the Library of Congress because of his expertise with respect to digital and digitalizing if you will materials And there are a lot of problems associated with such a procedure But he was definitely literate if not extremely literate with respect to electronic media and with respect to the whole electronic world I think he was frustrated by the processes that he had to deal with at Dumbarton Oaks and Lord knows that if he had trouble with it then there must have been some really serious constraints because he was the boss VKM This is a really general question but what you would consider the greatest accomplishments of the Board while you were a member PJ I would say there were three things The support that was given by the Board for a contemporary landscape initiative I think that was extremely important It was well supported and as I said I m not aware of how far down the line it s gone That was certainly I think one of the more important things I think the other thing was the support we gave the Director of Studies Michel Conan with respect to thinking outside the box garden ecology being one issue but there were others I think that was important By and large I would say the Board was relatively actually quite successful with Ned Keenan in terms of encouraging him to provide better and more support to Landscape Studies I think Jan was not involved when I was I left I think at the same time as Ned Keenan so the only relationship I had with Jan was essentially when I came back as the Distinguished Senior fellow and my relationship with him on a personal basis both with he and his wife was excellent I m not sure how much he has or hasn t provided support to Landscape Studies I m not in that loop anywhere as much as I used to be VKM Was there anything you would consider a failure on the part of the Board PJ Yes I think our failure and it s been a failure for a while I don t think I would limit it to me or my contemporary colleagues we have not been successful in interesting the profession and interesting the academics in more than a really tangential manner interesting them in the work that Dumbarton Oaks Fellows are doing the papers they re generating etc And I think that s a serious problem Just to give you a little bit more background I am a Fellow of the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects and the American Society of Landscape Architects I was president of the Canadian Society I write frequently for Landscape Architecture Magazine and know the professionals very well So I m really linked in to the professional component but somehow or other I just haven t been able to generate any kind of flow between Dumbarton Oaks and the profession either in Canada or the States So those that are linked in to Dumbarton Oaks are linked in through symposia the occasional workshop or seminar but it s a fleeting kind of relationship It s not a very permanent one And that s a failure VKM That actually segues very nicely into discussing Garden and Landscape Studies as a

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

  • Elizabeth and Michael Jeffreys — Dumbarton Oaks
    way one did things in those days you wrote them and then you typed them And you did it EJ Yes yes Your notes were always very bad so I tidied up the notes But CW Two days after EJ I think that s probably slightly exaggerated But so yes not a particularly child friendly place But we did cope and we did manage and that time I was working on the War of Troy edition which went on for years and years and years but I did push it ahead quite a lot and wrote the paper on the attitudes to ancient history in the Chronicles So it was all very productive and pleasant ABF Were there any other academic couples here during any of your many visits EJ Couples when I saw that question on the paper quickly what came to mind was Paul Magdalino and Ruth Macrides who were here afterwards They were here for two years as we were here for two years I think they consciously or Ruth has told me this subsequently saw what we had and Paul applied for a fellowship for one year and Ruth applied for a fellowship the following year And so yes there s that couple Otherwise MJ I can t think of a couple but you know but there has been a Fellow with an academic wife in this sort of direction but not a wife who got institutionally involved you know who didn t become EJ There might have been I haven t looked through the list of Fellows But from personal knowledge I wasn t particularly aware of it Diether Reinsch has just been here with his wife We do have overlapping interests and also we have different interests and I suppose we started collaborating together quite early on Basically your thesis grew out of my thesis MJ Well yes I being a friendly sort of person tried to help you with you thesis and discovered that the bit with which I was trying to help you was very very interesting indeed And so I stole it EJ And we ve carried on ever since collaborating in various things MJ I think we re the only married pair or unmarried pair for that matter to have a combined variorum studies volume which means that EJ We didn t make it very clear which of us had written which paper in that volume so we re always getting misattributed MJ Yes there is in fact a paper which I wrote which is attributed to you in Byzantion EJ Yes well so CBW The good thing is that the only person who would complain MJ Well you know I thought what does one do Get them to EJ It s on the contents page that it s wrongly attributed The article itself has got the right name on it MJ Are you sure EJ I m sure I m quite sure CW Would now maybe be a good time to ask about the oral tradition MJ Well we as Classicists had been exposed to Homeric studies I found myself working on a text like the Chronicle of the Morea which has got formulas clearly formulas they re not complicated and abstruse formulas like the Homeric formulas but they are repeated chunks of text which are always used for the same character And it s got a very mixed and complicated language it s got every linguistic element it seems in some cases from antiquity through to modern Greek all in the same text which is another obvious parallel to Homer And it just struck me that there must be something there I found one of two articles there s one by Constantine Tripanis who was sort of your teacher in Oxford though he departed before you really got involved with him But nobody had actually done the work of going through the text and seeing whether this was a significant statistical part of what was happening or whether it was just something you could observe and maybe it was an imitation of something So I always liked making lists you know I was a train spotter when I was young and so I did this And it was something which was necessary Somebody had to go through this rather painful business to show that it was statistically significant and that in comparison with the texts that Lord had looked at the Chronicle of the Morea had got the same sorts of numbers of formulas It s not an oral text of course One of its formulas is in fact far back in my book In other words one of the formulas is a sort of cross reference to something that the person has talked about before has written about before And another formula is expressing extreme wonderment is what tongue could write of this I m not sure whether there is a serious mix up there or whether that is a natural form of expression But I m quite certain that somewhere in the background of this text there is an oral tradition with some of the characteristics that can be worked out from the surviving manuscripts EJ This was brought to your attention through as we were saying earlier listening to Jeffrey Kirk s lectures which was rising out of the sort of slight bombshell as it were It s probably difficult now to realize that in the 60s Milman Parry s work had been done and published in the 30s but it just simply hadn t been taken on board And it took Lord s book to really ram it home And it was a scales were dropping from eyes as it were MJ In one direction you know some people scales were dropping from their eyes in another direction people were absolutely furious You know Homer an unwashed illiterate EJ But this was also being spread through other medieval literatures too I mean French and German were also taking it on board So in some respects Michael s work in Greek was a slightly belated catching up with what was happening generally in medieval literary studies in other languages And the reception of these discussions I think actually it is now generally accepted that there was a great deal of skepticism and an awful lot of rather willful misunderstanding going on So to some extent MJ And you know everyone assumed that if you counted formulas you were saying that the text you were working on was produced by an unwashed illiterate And every now and then I go back and look at what I wrote and that is not what I said It was extremely this problem had arisen in about six different literary situations in French in German as well as in Classical Greek And I was extraordinarily careful I think to get the mix of things right that there was something in the background but that the text itself was a written text But people looked at the lists of formulas and came immediately to conclusions without reading the rest of what I wrote EJ But I think that has now died down and I was very interested in the conference in Greece two or three years ago in the series Neograeca Medii Aevi looking at the literature in the vernacular in Medieval Greek And there it was a background assumption that of course there is an oral literary tradition going on behind these texts And discussion has moved on now I think the work you did has sort of entered into the scholarly discourse MJ And curiously enough my thesis has just been in one dimension re done by one of Elizabeth s students enormously better she s Elizabeth s best student and not just better from the fact that thirty years have passed and an awful lot of thought has gone on in the area but you know it is just qualitatively a better piece of work And she says at one point I think in the thesis Fortunately I don t have to do the counting of formulas to prove that this is something statistically valid because it s been done EJ So the argument can move on MJ So the argument can move on and can work out these decayed oral traditions what conclusions can you draw from it about the connections between and the Greeks and the Morea in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries ABF How did this original disagreement about orality affect how your work was received at Dumbarton Oaks EJ I don t think it really came up at all apart from the fact that I submitted the main article here to D O P And it was obviously read by Mango and Ševčenko which is what happened there And Mango I think delivered the positive verdict so we now know a lot better in Oxford than we did then And he said something like I m not sure this is a valuable thing to do but insofar as it s been done it seems to have been done quite carefully and you ve not made any outrageous statements or demands So we ve decided to publish it So I think that was high praise EJ So and then subsequently when Kazhdan was here and we were here I don t think it ever got discussed ABF Was that in the 80s also EJ Yes yes That would have been 84 That was before the dictionary had started I was also here in the 90s MJ In the 90s I had a fellowship and Kazhdan was definitely here then Our problem is that all these things collapse together It s a sort of oral situation this is an oral history project So you must realize that in all oral situations the past is arranged to give a sort of easy framework for the present So what we are talking about Alexander Kazhdan whom we probably met on two occasions but we may be thinking of only one EJ The thing was after the publications on the oral stuff in the 70 s we then went to Australia and moved on in other areas and though the oral interests were constantly there in the background and were very important when I was working on the War of Troy trying to work out its style we also moved on into other areas and started working on Malalas and that was a very different sort of thing So the oral stuff slightly fell into the background It didn t become a wasn t always a major interest Coming here to Dumbarton Oaks we wouldn t necessarily have particularly wanted to talk about it it wouldn t have arisen very much MJ I don t think it was part of the program we offered either in the 80s or in the 90s ABF So how did it work when you were working on the Malalas project and you were here in 84 with Katharine EJ Yes ABF and you were in Sydney MJ Yes I came for a time didn t I EJ The Malalas Project was a glorious piece of serendipity We found ourselves in Australia through a whole series of accidents and we then re encountered some old friends Ann Moffatt and then Roger Scott whom I had known briefly as an undergraduate when I was in Cambridge and he was a graduate student well actually he d come to take MJ He was in Cambridge EJ he was in Cambridge So we sort of got together And then the other person who appeared was Brian Croke who d been a fellow at D O after his Oxford doctorate and had come back to Sydney And he was lamenting was Brian that his hard won knowledge of Greek was getting rusty So what could we do about it So I said Right let s have a sort of fun series of evenings reading Greek And he came round and we found a few more friends and we wondered what to read and for some reason I thought Book 18 of Malalas might be quite interesting because Brian is a sixth century person and it s an interesting linguistic thing MJ And Malalas just like the Chronicle of the Morea and so on acts the interface of the oral side of history it s the bottom level of written history and so on So we could see a link there EJ We gathered up a group of friends classicists and so on to read this text and made a translation of it and at that point discovered that Roger in Melbourne you must realize that Sydney and Melbourne are very far apart Roger had also been playing around with Book 18 of Malalas to help out with some of his history courses So we scratched our heads and thought This is a bit daft let s pool our resources MJ So we got some money for it We re getting a bit off D O so we ought to this is relevant to us but this institution EJ By the time we in 1984 there was a draft translation of Malalas which had been put together by a committee and it was in a very lumpy state and so we spent time here smoothing it out and we were the as it were front persons for a team of about twelve people So you can imagine what state the translation was in MJ Yes ABF You were working on an apparatus also weren t you at the time MJ But that was particularly my bit I think EJ shakes her head quizzically you find that looks at EJ Okay You find that Malalas was taken up by all sorts of people all over the place and in about six or seven different language and that their take on Malalas in each different language is slightly different from the actual text of the Baroccianus manuscript in the twelfth century which is what we think of Malalas There was obviously a much longer Malalas of which these that these other adaptations in other languages are preserving bits but that the whole thing is only held together by the Oxford manuscript which is shorter EJ I suppose in fact in Sydney we had been able to find most of the texts that we needed to construct this apparatus But coming here to D O meant that we could polish off a lot of odd corners and complications and take lots of photocopies which we managed to take back so we could finish off the checking process MJ This is one thing D O viewed from Australia is very different from D O viewed from Britain In Britain the books are there They are scattered all over the place even in Oxford they re in six different libraries at least EJ Yes you ll discover that you walk a lot MJ Whereas in Australia the books aren t there And all you can do is to get inter library loans which were not earlier as developed as they are now So coming to D O was an absolute salvation from the Australian direction We knew what was here and we were delighted to be able to come EJ Yes and at that point coming from Sydney to Dumbarton Oaks was an absolutely essential life line if one wanted to push a project which demanded lots of sources Yes it was very significant and very important to be able to do that MJ We gradually brought up a moderate library of books in Sydney which regrettably now that we re no longer there is being neglected and but still that s another matter ABF So besides the abundance of sources and the freedom from the distractions of the world at large what did you find most valuable about the intellectual environment at Dumbarton Oaks EJ Listening to the other Fellows presentation to hear what their work in progress was and to debate matters there listening to visiting lecturers I can remember hearing Peter Brown at one point which was interesting I mean that the sheer passing through of people who were at the cutting edge of the field was important MJ And also the sense of a community of people in a slightly monastic framework all doing the same thing all working You see what other people do you see when they arrive in the morning and when they leave in the evening And you try to do a little bit more yourself EJ Absolutely MJ at the beginning of the year Towards the end of the year you couldn t care less But at the beginning of the year there s a little bit of competition going on And you find out how people work what motivates them how they turn off their academic pursuits and what they do when they re not being academic and somehow the profession of scholar gets spread around a little bit And I hope that it s a sort of equalizing upwards rather than a dumbing downwards of all of us discovering that I can remember regularly in this room regularly watching the Redskins on a Sunday afternoon But I suppose that s a bit of dumbing down unless you re Redskins supporters EJ Yes Robert Browning wasn t very enthusiastic about that MJ No at the end of the year they brought me a Redskins cap and awarded it to me at a special ceremony which I ABF Did you still have very lavish lunches Were there still these sit down lunches or was it more cafeteria style as it is now EJ It was cafeteria style with the food laid out in the room at the end there I think at no time was it I can t remember from the early stage MJ

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

  • Christopher Jones — Dumbarton Oaks
    the History Department I co taught a course with her for a couple of years History 10 and I thought she was so good at lecturing although it was a team taught course I attended all her lectures out of admiration for her teaching and trying to pick up a few tips about teaching from the way she taught She was very firm this is outside the business of D O in the meetings of the History Department I remember one time we were discussing a question and I rashly said Oh the answer to this question seems to me a No Brainer And Angeliki said Do you think we don t have brains Christopher laughing But seriously she was a lovely person and I had the impression that the place was extremely well run I used to love my visits because when I was there I would always ask permission to be let into the garden I loved the gardens in D O I also greatly loved and admired the Philip Johnson little Pre Columbian sort of pavilion which I think is very good with a lovely collection Of course I also greatly admired the Byzantine Collection But in some ways I think that inevitably that very elegant round Philip Johnson Building is perhaps the loveliest part architecturally of Dumbarton Oaks Whenever I was there I would always take the opportunity to visit it JNSL Very nice Did you ever hear any stories about Mrs Bliss herself from other people or what she was like CJ No no I didn t I ve just been reading about her as a matter of fact in a new book of letters of the British professor though born in Latvia Isaiah Berlin who remembered Washington from the forties when Mrs Bliss was one of the great society hostesses But no I had no direct contact with her I m not sure I even knew anybody who knew her although if I did I never talked with them about her JNSL Would you mind commenting in your view about the relationship between Harvard and Dumbarton Oaks as you saw it and what your thoughts were between the two CJ Yes I you probably already talked about Professor Ševčenko s migration translation to the Classics department which I think was very good for Classics giving it you know an absolute star in the field of medieval Greek in Byzantine Greek I think that was a loss to Dumbarton Oaks but whatever Ihor s motives for the move are entirely up to him I understand that he wanted to teach and knew that he wouldn t be able to do that at D O and therefore asked to be transferred You ve probably talked about that with other people The aspect well let me put it this way I never felt that the relation between Dumbarton Oaks and the Hellenic Center were as close as they really should be The two institutions sit facing one

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

  • Julie Jones — Dumbarton Oaks
    The presentation of the collection didn t change The installation was pretty much set when it first opened and I think it will remain pretty much the way it was until this recent renovation So the collection itself remained as it was What changed was the attitude around it and how they focused on their interests They began with having more Fellows They began increasing the library The library in 1963 started as Robert Wood Bliss s personal library They had a lot of ground to cover to get it to be a real scholarly library which it is now So they put their efforts into those kinds of issues and it certainly aptly paid off It is still very much the direction that Dumbarton Oaks goes in now Fellows a scholarly establishment Their recent director would have seriously disbanded the collection because he didn t find that in the interest in a real scholarly world However he couldn t do that So it was put back in place Put back in place slightly differently but it s still there The collection maintains a sort of integrity all by itself almost disrespective sic of everything that goes on around it Although as I say now there is less pressure to ignore it and not to study it for the scholars to study it They re beginning or have begun to very elaborately and carefully publish their collection So in that sense the collection is being paid attention to it s true In that sense the art objects themselves get again to have a bit more visibility than they have had during the 80s and 90s when the attitudes were so negative CW And which director were you referring to JJ Oh the last one What was his name Ned Keenan He was not a museum man But he was certainly a library man He built a big library renovated the Main House He did pull all that off CW And was it your suggestion to do this paper in April JJ No CW You were invited to do it JJ I was A couple of years ago there was an organization called the Pre Columbian Society of Washington D C I don t know whether you re familiar with it It s a totally amateur group It s interested in Pre Columbian studies Two years ago they had a meeting in honor of Betty Benson And I was asked as I had known her for so long if I would give a talk about her professional career which I did And actually I think that even though I have reason to believe there were many candidates for the discussion of the pre Columbian collection at Dumbarton Oaks at this recent celebration the presentation I had done on Betty Benson earlier in 2006 was instrumental in them thinking me appropriate for this next talk CW So was it through your relationship with her that you became primarily interested in JJ No no Perhaps along parallel lines as she was interested in the collection which is why she went back to work on it because she had actually left the National Gallery in something like 1960 and had come to New York She was off on a whole different career And Bliss asked if she would come back for the transition from the National Gallery to Dumbarton Oaks So in a way that was a period of time when I was in graduate school our interests were parallel but they didn t intertwine at that time CW And so your contact with Dumbarton Oaks as you said earlier since the early 60s has been as a visitor to the JJ That s correct CW conferences mainly And do you use the library at all when you re down there JJ I don t know if you can get past your tiger of a librarian I m sorry laughing In truth I have not had to The library resources in New York really pretty much cover the same We have our own departmental library that is certainly an every day very useful library And then of course you have the New York Public Library You have the American Museum of Natural History which are older libraries So New York can pretty much do it ABF What is your understanding of the relationship between a collection at Dumbarton Oaks and the Pre Columbian Studies program as a whole JJ Well it would seem to me at present it seems to be a bit tenuous The studies program as I understand it does not involve itself in the museum The museum is sort of a separate entity God knows that the presence of the Fellows and the activity that their work and their points of view generate are wonderful for the collection because you get all of that involvement and energy and people doing things and studying and learning which does impact the museum staff Absolutely does And that s great In terms of any sort of structural relationship I m not sure that there is one at the moment Perhaps I m wrong about that ABF How has that relationship changed over time as you see it JJ Well I probably don t really have enough insight into it over the years I ve became aware of it during these past months because I ve been involved with these issues from Betty Benson s professional career to Robert Woods Bliss and why he got into pre Columbian art All of those issues I ve been dealing with more than I d ever dealt with before because I was asked to look at them So there are parts that I can t speak to CW We probably touched on this a little already talking about the change in the overall field of pre Columbian studies in these years but have you seen the role of Dumbarton Oaks in the field change at all or evolve

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



  •