Henry and Eunice Maguire
ABF: We are Anna Bonnell-Freiden and Clem Wood, and we are here with Henry and Eunice Maguire to talk about their involvement at Dumbarton Oaks over the years at their house in Baltimore, Maryland, on September 3, 2008. So, we’d like to start by asking you about your impressions of the social and intellectual atmosphere at Dumbarton Oaks when you first arrived, in 1971.
EM: Oh, I shouldn’t really be the one to start because you were the one who was the Junior Fellow – but maybe if that means I have less to say, I should go ahead.
HM: Well, you did more socializing.
EM: Well, we were both graduate students at that time, and I think even I – though I had not originally been an advisee of Professor Kitzinger’s – was by that time. In fact, it was he who had first welcomed us to on our first visit, when we were still undergraduates; and Henry paid his first visit to America during the winter vacation of my senior year – and that turned out to be a very important visit, our visit to Dumbarton Oaks, and meeting him, and having his interest encourage us both in our directions. We were both interested in Byzantine art, but I was – no, we were also both interested in Western medieval art. And he encouraged both interests. So, I was, I think, still casting about, perhaps, either to narrow my thesis topic or to find a doable one for him, at the time you had your Junior Fellowship. So, it was a wonderful opportunity for me too, and I found all the staff and fellows very friendly and welcoming, and, of course, I was very excited to be given a seat in that fabulous library. The reading room was upstairs where, now, the Director of Studies office is and the outer office. It was all one big room with the long tables across; and I was lucky that I was given a seat near the window, so I had the sense of the garden being there. And I was sitting at the same table opposite Irina Andreescu, and behind me was Nancy Ševčenko, just to give you a sense of the atmosphere and the contemporaries. Also, the photographic resources…the photo collection, which was at that time under the care of Marlia Mundell – before she was married – and the other photo resources were very helpful to me because my work has always been quite visual; and I was looking for material which hadn’t been published in the way in which I wished to approach it. So, that was very important, as were the museum collections, though I didn’t know at the time that I would end up as a museum person. And there were many informal opportunities for stimulating conversations. The only disappointment was – and this maybe will come under one of your other questions, but – at that time, there was an official ban on inviting spouses to lunch in the Fellows Building. And, of course, a lot of the intellectual, informal intellectual conversation goes on – or used to – at those lunches, maybe even more than now, because I think people tended to go more all at the same time then, for lunch, because it was a smaller group. So, I did feel excluded in that sense and I felt that I was penalized for being a scholar, because scholars…scholarly colleagues were allowed to be invited, but if you happened to be a scholarly colleague and also a spouse, you couldn’t; and I wasn’t the only one who suffered in this way, among the various couples who were there over the years. The one who wasn’t a spouse…I mean, the one who wasn’t a Fellow, until that rule changed, couldn’t mingle with colleagues in the Fellows Building; that was the only drawback, as far as the social and intellectual atmosphere goes.
HM: Although I would say that lunches were rather formal affairs and often were eaten in silence because the Junior Fellows were afraid to say anything because they would reveal their ignorance, and the senior faculty – and there were a fair number in those days – they often weren’t on speaking terms with each other. So, they didn’t speak either. So I’m not sure you missed an enormous amount, except for the food, which was quite good.
EM: Well, the other drawback for me, of course – and that was jumping ahead to your question about daily routine – that my time was really circumscribed by the challenge of finding affordable childcare, or childcare that was affordable to two graduate students. So, I remember that one Saturday, Irina Andreescu said, “I think it’s outrageous that you can’t come to lunch. I’m going to invite you and Gavin”; so, this was our son who turned two at the end of January that year. “And, because they might not approve of that, I’m going to do it on Saturday.” So, I think…I don’t remember whether lunch was served on Saturday, but I do remember we were the only people in the room. But she made a point of bringing me in to have lunch with her on Saturday to have lunch with her, with this tiny child on my lap.
HM: So, you asked about parties. There was one memorable…one party I remember that year was a Guy Fawkes party, which was organized by Charlotte Roueché, who was actually not officially a Fellow. She was somewhat in the same position as Eunice. She had a fellowship, I think, from Newnham, but she elected to spend it as D.O.; but since she wasn’t officially a D.O. Fellow, she couldn’t come to the lunches and this kind of thing. Anyway, she organized this Guy Fawkes party in the Fellows Building; and everyone was there, including Paul Lemerle, who was one of the senior visitors at that time. And I remember our son…he had some grandchildren, so he was very taken with our son, and our son was spreading marshmallows on his lapels. They were roasting marshmallows in the fire.
EM: Yes, and Lemerle was dressed very formally in a beautiful dark suit, and there were these sticky little fingers all over his suit [laughter].
CW: Where was this?
EM: In the Fellows Building, facing the fireplace. We actually roasted marshmallows and maybe even hotdogs in the fireplace.
HM: In those days, there were some interesting parties there. There was another party, which I think was on one of our later visits, when Seka Allen…I asked her for a recipe for a punch, and she came up with some sort of strawberry punch which she said was delicious, and it was, but it was actually very potent, and many people went away somewhat tipsy.
EM: What I remember was the Halloween party, when people came in costumes. And some of the Pre-Columbian Fellows wore, kind of, Day of the Dead masks; and it was wonderful to see them dancing in those, even with the mask of the back of the head, so the boots were pointing in the opposite way from what seemed to be the face. And I remember that the Magaws came as Justinian and Theodora and danced very elegantly in those costumes.
ABF: So did a lot of your social life revolve around the Fellows’ Building at that time?
HM: Quite a lot of it, yes, because that was one place where you could have large gatherings, because the apartments that D.O. provided were very small. But, of course, we had a social life outside of Dumbarton Oaks as well. So, we knew some people in Washington
EM: But speaking of outside of Dumbarton Oaks, one thing I didn’t mention that was amazing and, in those days, tremendously – a very useful privilege – was that they had runners to go to the Library of Congress to get books that were there but not at D.O. – which saved a lot of time. And later on, when the runners were stopped, they managed to get stacks privileges for us, so that we could go to the Library of Congress and find our own books. I think that lasted until the Library of Congress re-shelving system became so backlogged that it was impossible with a stack pass to find the books – which was too bad, but it was very – and I think, also, of course, it must continue with the Hellenic Center, the library. The cooperation between libraries was so facilitating. That was great.
ABF: Did you have a lot of contact with the Center for Hellenic Studies?
HM: No, not a great deal, no.
EM: I didn’t, no. I think some people did who were dealing on philosophy topics, or something like that. But the art historians didn’t, maybe because there weren’t as many art history…
HM: The library is very not strong in art history, not nearly as strong as D.O., so we didn’t really have much reason to D.O.
EM: The D.O. Byzantine library used to keep up with a very wide range of fields: lots of archaeological material, lots of ancient Greek and Roman, and lots of Western medieval, so it was very good for general research on Byzantine topics.
ABF: And so you often spent that year working in the library?
HM: Yes, essentially trying to finish my thesis. That’s probably true of most Junior Fellows. You know, they arrive with an unfinished thesis and they struggle to get it done before the ax falls and they are ejected. I think that’s a very typical experience. Usually, the first part of the year is more relaxed. I mean, I could tell when I was Director of Studies that there was a change in mood in the lunch room come about March. People would see the end of their fellowships and become much more serious.
ABF: So, in those first years, who were the scholars who had the greatest impact on you?
HM: Well, I mean, of course, my two supervisors – the supervisors of my thesis – had the greatest impact, though neither of them were at Dumbarton Oaks at the time; those would be Kitzinger and Ševčenko. But in later years, I came to know Alexander Kazhdan, and he had a very strong influence on my work; and perhaps also Robert Browning, in different ways. Kazhdan was very interested in social history, and obviously saints and saints’ lives, and he also had a strong interest in Byzantine literature as literature, which in those days was somewhat unusual. Whereas, Browning was more of a philologist, but he was interested in Byzantine gardens, so I found a kindred spirit there; and he was also very, very kind in his advice. Even if you made horrible mistakes, he would point them out very kindly and set you straight, so I appreciated working with him.
ABF: And what was your thesis topic?
HM: The thesis topic…it was a slightly strange topic. It was about the ecphrases (which are descriptions of works of art) and specifically about one feature of them, which is that they often talk about the emotions of the figures in the scenes; and, in those days, sort of in the ‘60s, people didn’t think of Byzantine painting as being emotional. It was connected with modernist painting and thought of as being abstract; and so, as a result, these ecphrases were thought of being essentially false, not giving a sort of correct impression of Byzantine painting. So, the thesis was partly, in a way, to exonerate the ecphrases and say that they did have something to say about what the Byzantines thought about painting and, secondly, to show that there was this strong emotional element in Byzantine art; and I focused on depictions of sorrow. And now, of course, this is absolutely perceived wisdom; I mean, people are very aware of this aspect of Byzantine art. But back then, you know when I told people the topic, they thought it was a sort of non-topic, because they didn’t think there was such a thing as emotion in Byzantine art. Anyway, that was it.
ABF: But they believed in you.
HM: Well, eventually. Eventually, you know, I published it. Always with these things, you find that other people are working on the same lines. So, what you might imagine is a totally new and original direction that you are taking, you find that people at the same time in different places are doing the same thing. So, another scholar who worked on somewhat the same assumptions was Hans Belting, although in different ways. So, his work has been very influential. So, I think that yes now this is generally agreed that this is an important aspect of Byzantine painting.
ABF: Did you know Belting at D.O.?
HM: Belting – he came, yes.
EM: Yes, we met him there.
HM: Yes, we met him there on several occasions
EM: And there were other people too who were not officially posted or connected with DO over a period of time but who would come as readers or perhaps as speakers and stay for a few days; and one of those people who had a great influence on me, in encouraging me personally and helping me…giving me some courage with developing aspects of my work that were not simply visual, was Peter Brown, who was there for a whole semester reading everyday when he was teaching at Catholic University as a Mellon Professor – that was sometime before he was at Princeton. So, that was very helpful to me, because I was still working on my dissertation at that time, long-distance from my adviser. There were other people whose names you didn’t mention, though all the ones you did mention were people who very much broadened my way of thinking and also gave personal encouragement, which is one of the wonderful things, I’m sure you would agree, about Dumbarton Oaks – people like Robert van Nice, who was there putting together the archival photographs and drawings, his amazing drawings of Hagia Sophia. His love for that one building really was inspiring; and I was working on a subject in architectural sculpture for my dissertation. And then I think I mentioned Megaw. Davis was another one of the great figures who was there off-and-on frequently; and John Meyendorff. And then, in the library, you mentioned Seka Allen. She was a bibliographer, as you probably know; but she did take a personal interest in everybody. She was a wonderful social pivot, really, because she knew – she and Irene Vaslef, the Byzantine librarian – knew what interests people had, more than we might discover by casual conversation among ourselves. And she would help – they both would help bring people together – as well as leading you to the right books, they would lead you to the right people to discuss some aspect that maybe you were just beginning to explore, which was another wonderful grace really, to have their attention to everyone. And ones’ contemporaries – people slightly younger or slightly older – also had sometimes…quite by chance you would meet somebody in the stacks or you would see a book that somebody opposite you in the reading room was reading, and you would ask about it, and it would reinforce the direction you were just beginning to take or that you had been taking but you thought that no one in the field would approve of or encourage you to go in another way along a path that you were trying to follow. I remember conversations like that, for instance, with people like David Olster, who was working with antique texts when I was beginning to try to explore them in some unfamiliar directions – and Leslie MacCoull, when I was beginning to work with Coptic Egypt.
HM: I should mention that the second time I visited Dumbarton Oaks, when Ihor Ševčenko was still there; and he had been asked by Ernst Kitzinger if he could be the second superviser – reader – of my thesis; and he said, “Well, I’ll have to examine this candidate first.” So they flew me down from Cambridge to Dumbarton Oaks; and I met Ihor and Nancy for lunch. They gave me lunch in the building that is at the corner, where sort of S Street turns the corner – they had a house there. We had this long lunch, and he served two bottles of wine – I think we must have had the best part of one-and-a-half bottles of wine, between the three of us. So, at the end of this, he produced a couple of Byzantine epigrams and said, “Please translate these.” Byzantine epigrams are not, you know, the easiest things to translate; but it just happened that I had already read these before. But I was able, in spite of my slightly inebriated state, to make sense of them.
EM: Maybe it helped.
HM: Maybe it helped, yes. So he said, “Okay, I’ll take you on. I’ll be your supervisor.” So that was my exam [laughter].
CW: That’s a great story; and was this when the library was still on the top floor of the Main House? You were working next to everyone?
HM: Yes, yes, yes. It was in those days it was before they even had air conditioning. So, yes, it was very hot up there in the summer. In fact, I think Dumbarton Oaks more or less sort of closed down in the summer. They didn’t have summer fellowships. The faculty went off to the hills of Europe, and it was too hot to work.
EM: It was also very conducive to browsing because they had to extend the stacks underneath the eaves, so there were funny, kind of changes in level, which they carpeted over to make a little less hazardous. But, for me, it meant lots of places where I could sit, pull books off the shelf, spread them out, and see which ones I really wanted to take out and which ones I didn’t. While I was doing that, I came across a number of very early, sometimes eighteenth- or nineteenth-century editions of books that I might or might not have heard of. And I started taking those down to Irene Vaslef, and that was the beginning of the rare book collection, which hadn’t been separated from the other things at that time, as far as the Byzantine library went; and she asked me if I would continue to keep an eye out for things like that for her.
HM: It was very nice to be in the old library, sort of after hours, when it was more or less empty, and you could imagine yourself as a kind of French aristocrat in his chateau with all these books at your disposal, in strange places, in cupboards. It had a lot of character.
EM: I bet. There was that spooky closet behind the elevator, where some of the books were kept. When you went in there, you would hear the creaking of the elevator and somehow have the feeling that if somebody shut the door, you might never get out until someone else needed a book from there [laughter]
CW: So then after that year you went to Harvard right away?
HM: Actually, it was…Yes.
CW: Or was it after the second year?
HM: I had a year as a Fellow. Then I spent the year teaching at the University of Massachusetts and then to Harvard. And so then I had three years in teaching at Harvard and three years at Dumbarton Oaks.
CW: And were you…was that the first group of joint appointees?
HM: More or less, but there were joint appointees not only with Harvard but with other universities at more or less the same time. So, I think Rob Nelson, for example, had a joint appointment, I suppose, with Chicago, a little bit after mine. I’m not sure exactly what the chronology of them was, but there was a sort of a group of these joint appointments about the same time.
ABF: There was Michael McCormick as well.
HM: Yes, he was. I think maybe Ioli Kalavrezou had one as well, if I’m not mistaken.
CW: So, I guess you were at Harvard for the first three years, so that was really before the talk of moving Byzantine Studies there.
HM: Well, at Harvard there was really no talk of it. But as soon as I got to Dumbarton Oaks for the second three years, it was very much in the air. And it was a fairly tense time, actually, at Dumbarton Oaks, because the future was obviously very uncertain – especially that first semester or year, when, as you spoke of in your list of questions, the triumvirate was sort of taking over the duties of Director of Studies. That was a rather strange period.
EM: When was it that they lent highlights of the Dumbarton Oaks collection to the Fogg? I remember that we had a feeling that it was a kind of double-edged sword. Because, on one hand, it was very nice to see Byzantine things in Cambridge; but, on the other hand, we wondered, “Does that mean that they’re thinking of moving the whole collection?” Because, if it does, it will mostly go underground, because, well, Harvard University Art Museums is now closed and planning an expansion, but they will always have to have a lot of wonderful things in storage because, unless they have everything out in study storage – in other words, storage rooms with everything visible to the public – there won’t be room to display everything that they have; and clearly, a lot of the Byzantine things would go underground. And if that happened, then to some extent we saw that as emblematic as what would happen to Byzantine studies.
HM: Well, I think the main plan was to move the library and the fellowship program and, to be frank, the funds, up to Cambridge; and then to leave – obviously they couldn’t move the gardens – and the gardens have their own endowment in any case, so they were going to leave them. And it seems they were seriously planning to do this, but then a number of alumni, powerful alumni, objected, so Harvard backed off. So it was people like Joseph Alsop, who kind of saved the – saved the intellectual aspect of Dumbarton Oaks for Washington
EM: Because he cared about Washington, as well as because he cared about Dumbarton Oaks
ABF: Who favored the move?
HM: I suppose, well – I think some of the professors at Harvard favored it because there would have been more money to spend there more broadly on the humanities, and it would have enriched the library at Harvard – and the books would all have been in one place. Because, it is true, that even today, there are gaps in the Widener Library that correspond to books that are at Dumbarton Oaks; so this is obviously irritating for Harvard professors. So – but I think it was mainly probably attractive to the administration because D.O. had a huge endowment (especially in those days it seemed very big), and it was being spent on what seemed like very esoteric subjects, and there was no teaching going on. So, I remember Bill Loerke, who was Director of Studies, you know, while this was all brewing up, had a visit from the Harvard – some people from Harvard, I don’t know exactly who – he told me that they asked him what was going on at Dumbarton Oaks. He showed them all these books that had been published, shelves of them, and this made no impression on them at all – because, you know, what are sort of twenty feet of books compared to hundreds of students who could be supported with the same amount of money? So I think it was mainly the administration’s scheme.
ABF: Was there talk among people at Dumbarton Oaks about the legacy of the Blisses, in so far as they had very specifically left the money for the Byzantine and Pre-Columbian programs?
HM: Yes, I mean, obviously that was one of the things people talked about. I think people were more worried about the future of Byzantine Studies; because, at that time, Dumbarton Oaks was – I don’t want to go sort of into later questions – but it did at that time play a major role in the field because of its active fieldwork and the number of people who had been on the staff – Byzantinists who had been on staff at Dumbarton Oaks – and these joint appointments. So it was very important in promoting the field in America and abroad too. But, so, I think that was seen as being under threat; that, if they moved the endowment to Cambridge, then the money would have been spent just broadly on the humanities, so on Western medieval and on the Renaissance and history and all sorts of other fields as well. And the particular flavoring of Byzantium would have been lost. But, of course, it didn’t turn out that way, so that was partly why, I think, we had this very strange situation of the three, sort of junior assistant professors playing the role of Director of Studies, which was strange, in a sense, because I was in charge of the publications; and so I was writing letters to senior scholars, you know, advising them on how they could improve their manuscripts, which probably didn’t go down very well.
EM: How else was…I can’t remember how else the responsibilities were divided up between John Duffy and…
HM: Irina Andreescu was in charge of fieldwork and John Duffy was in charge of the fellowship program.
EM: That’s right.
ABF: And this is while you also had this joint appointment?
HM: This was, yes, when I’d moved down to Dumbarton Oaks. So, yes, I still had, officially, a joint appointment with Harvard, although I wasn’t actually doing any teaching up there. I spent three years teaching at Harvard, and basically partly visited Dumbarton Oaks and then three years at Dumbarton Oaks.
ABF: And it was in those three years at Dumbarton Oaks when you began to pick up those responsibilities that had previously fallen upon the Director of Byzantine Studies?
HM: The Director of Byzantine Studies, yes. And then, at the end of the year, Giles Constable came as Director, and he assumed the responsibilities of Director of Studies himself. So, then we were sort of free to pursue our own research, so we had essentially two years of research fellowship – which was very nice.
ABF: So can you tell us more about that experience of working so closely with Irina Andreescu and John Duffy?
HM: Well, as far of the three of us were concerned, it went fairly smoothly. I actually, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed working with the publications. So, that worked fine. The uncomfortable part was the sort of political goings-on outside. For example, at the Byzantine Studies conference, we felt, I think, rather on the spot – people asking us questions: “What’s going on, what’s going to happen?” Which was really out of our hands. And, of course, people at Dumbarton Oaks were either nervous or angry or both, so.
ABF: And what were your responsibilities?
HM: Well, as I said, with the publications, it was mainly that I was in charge of the Dumbarton Oaks Papers. So, that would be, sort of, doing a first editing of manuscripts when they came in, finding readers for the manuscripts, sometimes suggesting ways that they could be clarified or improved, and, likewise, with the books.
EM: And putting pressure on authors who were taking a bit longer than expected.
HM: Yes, and on readers who were taking forever to read the manuscripts.
CW: And so then you were next directly involved with D.O., as a Senior Fellow in the ‘80s?
HM: Yes, yes, and that when was Angeliki Laiou was Director; and I think there was a feeling that they needed some kind of art history presence. So, what I basically did was to advise on matters of art history and read manuscripts or select books for the library and participate in seminars, and this kind of thing – and to some extent, to do some of my work
EM: That was when you were the Art History Adviser, you mean, which was different from when you were the Senior Fellow.
HM: Oh yes, that was when I was on the board of Senior Fellows, but that’s a different…
CW: That was the Senior Research Associate?
HM: Well when I was at Dumbarton Oaks for that year, I was Senior Research Associate but I was also on the board of Senior Fellows, which means that we visited three times a year just for a day or two for meetings; but I wasn’t in residence.
CW: Right, but you were for that year.
HM: For that year, yes.
CW: So you had been there at the end of the ‘70s, when the faculty…the permanent faculty, were disbanded?
HM: Well, I wouldn’t say that they were exactly disbanded. They dwindled away. Under Giles Constable, they sort of dwindled. Then there was something of a revival under Laiou because she brought people in to work on various projects – but not with faculty status, but as research associates. So, the end of the faculty status, I suppose, would have been under Giles Constable; because, before his time, the Directors of Studies and many of the other people involved had the status of professors at Harvard University. And this, I think, actually was a fundamental change, especially as far as the Directors of Studies were concerned, because now the position of Director of Studies is a non-tenured position – it’s for five years, which may be renewable. So, in effect, what that means is that you are not going to get anyone applying who already has tenure, unless they can make some sort of deal with their university to release them.
EM: And let them come back.
HM: And let them come back, which is what happened in my case, when I was Director of Studies – that I was able to get five years release from the University of Illinois; but it means that, for one thing, that person is unable to stay for more than five years, because no university is going to let you go for ten years, so. And, also, not all universities will do it; I mean, Harvard, for instance, won’t let you go away for more than two years without losing your tenure. So effectively it means that now that candidates are restricted to people at the ends of their career – if they have five years left in their career, they spend it at Dumbarton Oaks – or younger scholars who maybe were unable to get tenure somewhere or are in some sort of unusual position where they don’t have tenure; but it excludes, sort of people who are kind of in the most active portions of their career, who have tenure somewhere, unless they can make a sort of deal to leave short-term. So, it has very much weakened the position of Director of Studies, and it makes the Director of Studies much less active; because his position vis-à-vis – or her position vis-à-vis – the Director is much less strong than it would be if he or she had had tenure, so; but that was a major change.
EM: Had tenure at D.O., you mean?
HM: Well, at Harvard it would have been, effectively, because they had their tenure at Harvard, they were tenured professors. So, Kitzinger, for example, Loerke, were tenured Harvard professors.
ABF: Can you tell us about the publication of the Cypriot fieldwork that Alice Murray mentioned this to me at some point?
HM: Yes. Well, when I arrived as Director of Studies, I found all these unpublished projects, manly relating to fieldwork in Cyprus; and one of my, sort of, ambitions was to revive the fieldwork aspect of Dumbarton Oaks, and I thought this would be one way to do it. Because, one of the reasons that fieldwork had been abandoned was precisely because there was so much that hadn’t been published, and so it was seen as sort of wasteful extravagance to do this fieldwork and not have it appear in print. So, that was my main motivation – and perhaps also because I’d visited many of these places in Cyprus and was interested in them. And it was mainly a matter of kind of fanning the embers of these various projects. I think the authors had become discouraged, and they received no encouragement from Dumbarton Oaks. It was just sort of finding ways to facilitate their taking up the projects again, finishing them; which sometimes meant bringing them physically to Dumbarton Oaks or sometimes it was just providing general encouragement and saying, “We really want to publish them.” And, as you know, Alice-Mary has carried this on.
CW: So that was part of your agenda as Director?
HM: It was one part of it, yes. I think what I wanted to do as Director of Studies was to open the place up, because it had the reputation of being rather enclosed and elitist. So, I tried to bring more activity into the Byzantine area, which was also what Angeliki Laiou wanted to do – for the Byzantine Center to have a more active, as opposed to a passive role. So, the fieldwork was part of this; and I was able to institute one or two projects associated with fieldwork; for example, the materials analysis of Byzantine ceramics, where we had some of the ceramics at the Walters and at Dumbarton Oaks tested and then we had a small colloquium devoted to the subject. But I wasn’t successful in starting any sort of major new fieldwork projects outside of the United States, and this was one of my regrets, I suppose. If I have one regret about my period as Director of Studies, is that we weren’t able to sort of reestablish active fieldwork. All we did was we would give grants, small grants, to people. So, people would come to us and say they wanted to do X, and we would give them 5000 dollars; but we didn’t initiate anything ourselves. And I think this is sort of a missed opportunity, considering what D.O. had done in the past. Actually, after I left Dumbarton Oaks, actually, I did do a project on the mosaics in Porec which was funded by the Kress and the University of Illinois; it’s the kind of thing that I think should probably have been done by Dumbarton Oaks. But, that aside, there were various other ways that, umm, I tried to be more active. I introduced a museum fellowship. So, we would have someone come for a year and sort of plan a small exhibition. I think that was a valuable way to sort of bring together the Byzantine Studies Center and the collection and also to bring some variety into the collection, so it wasn’t just a static display, but there was some change in the exhibitions in it. So, I think that was, on the whole, a success; and we tried to have colloquia and symposia that would interest, sort of, people in western medieval history and art, and even Renaissance and ancient. We tried to sort of integrate Byzantine topics into sort of a wider frame. For example, we had a colloquium on women’s space in Byzantium and in the West. So, I suppose, efforts of that kind – also the fieldwork archives, I tried to get them properly looked after. And, I was even involved in sort of excavating Dumbarton Oaks itself. In the boiler room, we discovered these rolled up canvases which were the paintings of the frescos at the Kariye Camii – perhaps you’ve seen them. But they were exhibited, umm…
EM: At Columbia
HM: At Columbia, yes and then in Istanbul; but we found them sort of rolled up and shoved under the boilers. So we took them out, and then they were eventually restored at great expense and insured for thousands and thousands of dollars before they were sent off to Istanbul. But I think that Angeliki Laiou as Director – she was certainly able to kind of revivify the Byzantine area and make it more interesting and active than it had been before. I think it had slightly fallen into the doldrums before she arrived.
EM: Well, her encouraging you to set up both colloquia in areas that hadn’t been explored before, such as the Byzantine gardens and her own intellectual interests extended the dialogues and the range of scholars who came, to some extent; because I don’t remember very much before her on Byzantine economics as an aspect of cultural history or Byzantine law in relation also to the culture. And those were things that she continued to not only encourage herself with her own work but to bring scholars to present their work – that really opened up the fields for others who hadn’t really thought about these areas, I think.
HM: Another thing we did was introduce the short-term graduate residencies. Now, as you may know, anyone who is working on their dissertation or general exams can apply to spend two weeks at Dumbarton Oaks, free of charge, to use the library. And that’s been very popular.
EM: What about the summer fellowships? Did you start those?
HM: No, I think it was Giles who started that. After he’d air-conditioned the building, he started the summer fellowships, yes.
CW: The colloquium on Byzantine garden culture has been cited on several occasions as an example – perhaps the sole example – of interdisciplinary academic activity at D.O.; but it seems to have a positive enclave in there.
HM: Well, that was due to a number of factors coming together. One was Joachim who had a genuine interest in Byzantine culture and gardens. And the other factor, I suppose, is a sort of change in the nature of Byzantine archeology and art history; because, in the old days – in the days of empiricism – there was virtually nothing to say about Byzantine gardens, because none exist and none have been excavated. So, it was a sort of non-topic; but there are a lot of descriptions of real and imaginary gardens. So, once you move into the area of reception – etiology – there’s quite a lot to say about Byzantine garden culture; and also you can make connections, then, with other fields of garden culture. So I think that helped make it possible.
EM: It was also under Joachim’s directorship as Director of Studies for the Garden Center that Irene Vaslef proposed, successfully, that I do that inter-departmental exhibition, which I think was the first inter-departmental exhibition (though it was a library exhibition) called Roman Constantinople, with rare, illustrated books from the Garden Library and the Byzantine Library. And, then, in the process of working on that, I found and was able to display the Fossati prints of Hagia Sophia, which had been transferred for some reason, maybe because it was such a rare book. They were wonderful, large lithographs in full color of the interior of Hagia Sophia, published in, I can’t remember what…was it the ‘60s or ‘70s of the nineteenth century? They had been transferred to the Garden Library and totally lost track of – there was no record that they existed anymore. The people researching in the Garden Library had no particular reason to be interested in them, and the Byzantinists didn’t know they were there. So, I guess in a way, this was a kind of, in more ways than one, a groundbreaking collaboration, to mine the resources and bring them together. It was certainly very enjoyable, and well-received I think. One of the former Byzantine librarians at Dumbarton Oaks was then a librarian for the National Gallery, and she wanted to have the exhibition or another version of it there; and Irene got a grant for it, but somehow the three of us never had time to make that happen, unfortunately. But it shows you how Dumabrton Oaks collection – both book and other collections – and combined resources can really have an outreach; and Dumbarton Oaks has been able, while the collection was waiting for its new reinstallation, to lend things to exhibitions, as you know, in Georgia and here at The Walters, which I think had a great impact on not only Byzantinists but other people who saw them in those places, people who might not have visited Dumbarton Oaks to see the collections there. So, all that outreach is something that is still happening, I think, but started, sort of in the ‘80s or ‘90s – the ‘90s probably – so it’s relatively recent. I can’t remember what year that was. It must have been the early ‘90s.
CW: You’ve already – you’ve talked a little about Constable and Laiou, but do you have any other impressions of other Directors you’ve seen.
HM: Well, umm, when I was first arrived as Junior Fellow, Tyler was the Director, and he struck me very much as being a gentleman of the old school – very popular with the staff. Well, I remember, he gave a sort of interview with each of the Junior Fellows when they first arrived and he explained a little bit to me about the legacy of the Blisses. He said, “Well, they were wealthy, but not really very wealthy.” It wasn’t really very kind, but I think probably Dumbarton Oaks was beginning to feel the limits of its endowment; and there were, I think, some financial problems that were another reason, I should have mentioned, why Harvard may have wanted to move the operations north – you know, have them more closely supervised. But yes, he was a courtly gentleman. And then there was Giles Constable, who was really very controversial. And then Thomson, who – Robert Thomson, who kept a – steadied the ship and was a fiscal conservative Scotsman –
EM: – and a good listener, I think.
HM: And a good listener, yes, but he sort of calmed down under his tenure; and then Laiou, I said was active. And I see her tenure as a kind of second golden age almost for the Byzantine Center at Dumbarton Oaks. And that’s really the extent of my personal experience with the directors of Dumbarton Oaks.
ABF: In summing up, if you could give us some general thoughts about how Dumabrton Oaks has changed, and how it’s been important to you, and ultimately how you think it’s changed the field, or responded to changes in the field.
HM: Okay, well that’s a lot of questions [laughter]. So, first of all, how it has changed…I mean, in the old days, speaking of the Byzantine Center…was very much the dominant center at Dumbarton Oaks, and there were virtually no Fellows at all in Landscape Architecture or Pre-Columbian; and, on the other hand, in the ‘50s, I think there might have been up to eight permanent staff members in the Byzantine Center, many of whom would have been Harvard faculty. And over the years, there’s been something approaching parity between the three programs; and the staff of the Byzantine program has really dwindled to the Director of Studies, in effect – and, of course, there are also the people associated with the Museum and the Archives. So, it’s become much smaller. As far as the Library’s concerned, because of the sort of huge expansion in the number of books being published, the Library’s become much more focused. So, again, even when Eunice and I arrived there, as Eunice said, they were collecting book on western medieval art. Now, it’s very much focused on Byzantium. So, it’s become narrow in its focus. Finally, I would say that it’s become much more passive, as opposed to the early days, when it was much more active. So, there are no fieldwork programs, at the moment I think there are very few projects. It’s really a library, a place where people find fellowships, and a collection; but it’s not a sort of center that actively promotes the field. So, I would see those as the main changes over the course of time. As far as the relationships with Harvard are concerned, I would say they are much closer now then they were. I mean, it was founded as an independent project of a wealthy couple; but, over the years, its ties with Harvard have become closer and closer: there are the three Harvard professors who are in Cambridge, not at Dumbarton Oaks; I believe there are some fellowships that are earmarked for Harvard students; the library catalog is integrated with HOLLIS. So, it’s much more tightly bound to Harvard than it used to be. The Directors always come from Harvard. As far as its impact in the field is concerned, obviously it’s much smaller. It was, you know, very important, in the early days. Now, you know, except as a place to go and find books or to have a fellowship or to look at some very important pieces, it’s no more important than any number of other places where there are books and fellowships and some objects you could look it. So, it doesn’t have that special importance it used to have. One way in which it probably still can have a very positive impact in the field in America is through joint appointments; which have been a little bit controversial, because sometimes the joint appointments don’t work out. These are the appointments where they appoint a junior person, an Assistant Professor, at some university, and Dumbarton Oaks pays half of the salary for the first five or six years until that person gets tenure. And, in the past, this has been a very good way to persuade universities to take on Byzantinists, where otherwise, they might go for some other field. They haven’t always worked out, because the person doesn’t always get tenure; but, in those cases when it does work out (which may be about fifty percent of them), it’s obviously very important, because a large number of the people who now have tenured positions in Byzantine Studies started out on these joint appointments. So, that’s one way D.O. could continue to be every important in the field of Byzantine Studies here in America. Then as far as my own work is concerned, it’s really been fundamental, you know, because, at all stages, I’ve been able to benefit from the library and from meeting people there. It’s just a wonderful place for meeting other scholars and sort of getting ideas or exchanging ideas – especially, I would say, I’m afraid, more in the old days than now, when there were more people around, when it was more active, and there were more people to meet. But, you know, it’s still a beautiful place, and still, especially for those of us who live in this area, it’s a wonderful library to use.
EM: Well, there’s still an active program of informal talks, which I’m sure are important for those who can give them and attend them; and that was another thing that was new, I think, in the ‘90s – which was very good, I think. And, unfortunately, because, as you see, it takes up a fair chunk of your day just to get between Washington and Baltimore, even though they’re on the map very close, it hasn’t been possible for us to attend those since we’ve been in Baltimore. So, maybe that sense of intellectual exchange is more present still than we’ve been able to appreciate since we’ve been here.
HM: Could be, could be, yes; and they certainly still have the symposia and colloquia, which are –
EM: – very good
HM: Very good, yes. I don’t suppose it’s possible, really, for the old days to return, because it was dependent on the largesse, in the first place, of the Blisses; and when the Blisses were no longer alive, obviously that font of fonts dried up, and D.O. had to live strictly within its means.
CW: It seems to be doing well for itself.
ABF: Yeah, financially, I think it’s very stable, from what I understand.
HM: Well, I imagine with the sort of general decrease in the value of the Harvard endowment, Dumbarton Oaks has a prospect with that.
ABF: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
HM: No, just to thank you for coming and hearing our impressions of the past.
ABF: It was a pleasure.
CW: Yeah, thank you for having us. We’re happy to hear them.
EM: We hope before you go, you’ll tell us a little about yourselves.
ABF: Sure, we’ll turn this off.