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Guide to the Contents

The Dumbarton Oaks Garden Archives correspondence, drawings, and photographs have been organized into folders to enhance browsing of similar content. An explanation of all content fields used is included for reference.


Correspondence related to the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens can be found in folders organized by type or format. The types of correspondence are: Book Lists, Invoices and Receipts, Letters and Notes, Newspaper Clippings, Plant Lists, Price Requests, Telegrams, and Unindexed Items. In a few instances a correspondence might include both a letter and an invoice. In these cases, a decision was made to organize the material into one correspondence type folder (e.g. Letters and Notes), but to index for both correspondence types, (e.g. Letters and Notes and Invoices) to enable identification through a search.

Unindexed items are illegible correspondence that has not been included in the Index, but has been assigned subjects, if possible, to enable identification through a search. This folder may include more than one type of correspondence. It is hoped that others will discover/decipher their message.


Drawings and Photographs

Drawings, Historic Photographs, and Contemporary Photographs have been organized into content folders by the garden area represented by the drawing or photograph. In some instances a drawing or photograph might represent more than one garden area. A decision is then made to place it into one garden area folder, but indexed for all relevant garden areas to enable searching. The Garden Area folders closely align with the organization of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens in Beatrix Farrand’s Plant Book. Smaller garden areas have been organized into Enclosed Gardens, Informal Gardens, and The South Front.

In the Garden Archives the area for The Museum Wing and Areas Not Generally Open to the Public, mentioned in Beatrix Farrand’s Plant Book,  are in the Additional Garden Areas folder and include material for most all of the smaller spaces mentioned in the book.

Drawings include architectural drawings, sketches, measured drawings, cyanotypes, and photostats created by Beatrix Farrand, landscape designer, Ruth Havey, landscape architect, and others involved with the creation and development of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens.

Historic photographs document the state of the garden areas up to the death of Mildred Bliss, January 17, 1969. The majority of historic photographs are black and white.

Contemporary photographs document the state of the garden areas after the death of Mildred Bliss, January 17, 1969. Most contemporary photographs are color.


Garden Ornament Studies

Garden Ornament Studies include drawings, sketches, and tracings of various garden ornaments, ironwork, and details by Ruth Havey that were used as a portfolio of design ideas as garden areas were further developed or modified. Some were tracings of ideas from published books and others were clearly her own designs. Most of these drawings and tracings are undated and were never realized in the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, therefore these are not assigned a garden area.


Contemporary Art Installations

In 2009, a Garden and Landscape Studies program to exhibit contemporary art in the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens was created. This folder includes contemporary photographs that document the temporary art installations within the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens. An art installation may have been created in one garden area or scattered throughout the gardens. These photographs are indexed for the garden area to enable identification through a search.


Garden Maps

Garden maps include published and unpublished drawings showing aerial views of the garden.  A number of the maps have been included as part of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens tour leaflets from the 1940s to the present.


Garden Videos

Garden videos are moving pictures that may or may not include audio. They document garden areas at a moment in time, art temporarily installed in the gardens, or an event.



Biographies include individuals and firms who sent or received correspondence or created drawings, photographs, art installations, maps, or videos associated with the development of Dumbarton Oaks Gardens.

Explanation of all fields used for correspondence, drawings, and photographs in the Garden Archives:

Title: A short identifying phrase to describe the item (e.g. correspondence, drawing, photograph, garden area history, or biography).

Alternate Title: Other title phrase for which the item is known. Many times this is a longer phrase transcribed directly from the item.

Creator: The individual, individuals, or firms associated with the creation of the item or the garden space depicted in a photograph.

Sender: The individual or firm who sent the correspondence.

Recipient: The individual(s) or firm(s) who received the correspondence.

Associated Name: The individual(s) or firm(s) who are directly associated with the creation of the correspondence or drawing. It is also the individual(s) or firm(s) involved with the creation of the garden space depicted in the photograph.

Photographer: The individual or firm responsible for taking the photograph.

Date (for correspondence and drawings): The year written on the item or the approximate year the item was thought to have been created based on the history of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens and other related items in the Garden Archives Collection. The date can appear as a single year or a range of years.

Date (for photographs): The year or approximate year(s) the photograph was taken is noted in the title. For example: Wisteria Arbor in bloom, wide view, 1979. The year the photograph was taken is 1979. The date field is used to provide a year or range of years for the created garden space depicted in the photograph. If a year is open ended, it means that the design is still in existence.

Garden Area: The name of the garden area within the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens discussed or represented in an item. In some cases a garden area has been referred to by more than one name. All garden areas and associated names are listed in the Chronology of Garden Names.


Description: Explanatory notes and summary information about the item not provided in other fields.

Accession No.: The number assigned to a correspondence, drawing, or photograph in the Garden Archives Collection.


Related Items: Other items of the same format (correspondence, drawings, photographs) that are related to the item being viewed. For example, different designs or views for the Arbor Terrace fountains would be considered related items. Related Items can also be those designs created over a number of years.


Work Types: The format of an item. An item can be assigned more than one work type. Examples: a letter which includes a small sketch will be assigned both correspondence and drawing as work types. A planting plan shown with a plant list key will be assigned work types for drawings, plant list, and correspondence; correspondence is selected as a work type because plant lists are organized under correspondence. 

Measurements: The physical size, scale, and dimensions of drawings and photographs is noted for each of those items. Correspondence have not been measured.


Materials/Techniques: The materials, techniques, and processes used in the creation of drawings and photographs. There is no field for materials and techniques for correspondence.


Subjects: The terms for concepts, people, and places that describe, identify, or interpret the item and what it depicts or expresses. 


Collection: The name identifying the group to which the item belongs.


Repository: The place where the item is found and stored.


Location: The owner, city, and state for the item.


Index Terms: Terms found in the index and linked to an item. 

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