JC: I’m James Carder, and I’m here with Margaret Mullett in the Dumbarton Oaks Guest House on December 6th, 2012, to interview Ioli Kalavrezou. Ioli was a Junior Fellow at Dumbarton Oaks, and she is a long-standing member of the Byzantine Studies Senior Fellows, and she is currently Visiting Professor at Dumbarton Oaks from Harvard University. She is also the Dumbarton Oaks named Professor of Byzantine Art History at Harvard University. Welcome Ioli, thank you for doing this interview.
IK: Thank you, also, for having me here.
JC: Our pleasure.
IK: Actually, we decided to call this sort of semester where a faculty member from Harvard comes down here as the Harvard Professor in Residence, or something like that, to remind us a little bit of the old times when there were faculty members here, residing at Harvard, so that’s a little bit—sort of a memory blast, I guess.
IK: So, I came here, yes, as you said, as a Junior Fellow, in the year ’74–’75. It was a year when we were quite a number of Fellows, and we all sat together, which was very, very nice, in the old building, or the Main Building, as we call it, in the reading room upstairs, a beautiful room with a lot of sunlight, books all around, beautiful woods surrounding us, you know, a place where you could sort of feel like you were becoming a scholar from being a graduate student somewhere at a university. So there was a very nice atmosphere. And we all got to know each other, we could look at each other across the room, having questions we could exchange with each other, so it was very pleasant, I thought, to study in a room with other people – not tight, you know, next to each other, but far apart. We had our own desks, lights, beautiful tables. Anyway, it was a very nice – nice time. I always remember how I was figuring out things, you know, getting all excited, and then having someone sitting behind me, and going back and telling them what I found, what I read, you know, so there were nice moments of discovery most of the time.
JC: What people do you remember from your Junior Fellowship here?
IK: Well actually I remember you. We had Kathleen Shelton; Lowell Clucas – those unfortunately are people we lost in subsequent years – Kenneth Snipe? Snipes?; Paul Magdalino; a very tall fellow from Michigan, which I have a hard time remembering his name, who was doing visiting Islamic connections; Stephen Hill from New Castle; Tom Brown, also from England. So we were quite a mixed group of Fellows, quite a number, actually, from overseas – Ruth Kolarik from Harvard. And you know, interestingly enough, when I was told about this Fellowship that existed for Junior Fellows in the Byzantine field, by my advisor, who was David Wright in Berkeley – at that time I had as a co-advisor Paul Alexander in the history department in Berkley – and so he [David Wright] said to me, “Go and ask Paul to write the letter of recommendation for you,” and so I went to Paul Alexander – you know, he knew me and so on – and I said, “I would like to get a letter from you, if possible, because I would like to apply to Dumbarton Oaks,” and he said to me, “Oh, you know, I’ll write the letter for you, but don’t hope you’re ever going to get a Fellowship there, because this is the place where graduate students from Harvard go down, and they’re the ones who get the Fellowships.” And, to my surprise, first of all I got the Fellowship, but also to my surprise: it was that that particular year there were very few people from Harvard. Most of the people were from England, from other places, which was very nice. So this perception of Dumbarton Oaks being just a sort of deposit for the graduate students from Harvard no longer was true, at least not then. So I was very happy to be part of this new group, at least, that was there? And there were very many different American universities, plus the Europeans that had come. So that was very nice.
JC: You were working on Byzantine steatites at that time, right? For your dissertation?
IK: I had wanted to work on ivories, but I was told that perhaps that was not a wise move at the time, because that would sort of mean shaking up some things, if I wanted to have a different way of looking at them, so the closest to ivories was the steatite material, which was carving, again, icons, small, for private use, and they had not been studied, not this whole group of sort of a medium, individually. Some of them are in Russia and so Alice Bank had published a few of them. So, it took a long time to get the material together, to find out where it is, or – wrote a lot of museums and so on, and got photographs from them. So that was the first year that I had started my dissertation doing the research in Berkeley. But then I came here with almost not knowing yet what this dissertation was going to be about, or how I am going to develop the whole topic. And all of that was done here, which gave me a fantastic library to work with, right away from the beginning of my dissertation, so the actual research, not just gathering the material but to be able to sort of read, you know, private devotion, popular sayings, all kinds of other things that needed to be sort of worked with, to figure out how these things were going to date or how they’re going to – not just the iconography and the style but also, you know, the context, this kind of thing. And so, I think any person who starts a dissertation should come to Dumbarton Oaks early on in their dissertation research, because it makes it much faster and more complete, I would say, in terms of research. You can spend less time, you know, going to libraries, not finding some, getting books from other libraries sent to you, and perhaps you don’t ever find everything. Here, the shelves at that time were also above the reading room, which was really nice, you know. We could go immediately find something and then, once you looked at the shelves, they were so close, thematically organized, you could find other things right next to it. So, it was almost like, you had one book in your hand; with that you could go to the right, to the left, and figure out other things you might not have run across in a bibliography, you know, that were on the shelves. So that was a very nice, sort of a fast way of uncovering things.
JC: Were there Senior Scholars here, and, if so, were they helpful to you?
IK: Oh yes, it was – Hugo Buchthal was here visiting that year. I think he was here for the whole year, if I’m not mistaken. And Otto Demus used to come at that time to work on the St. Mark material. So every spring semester Demus would come and occupy one of the big offices up on the top floor. And they were very good with us, you know. We could go always with questions, and I remember Hugo Buchthal was always – he knew everybody’s dissertation. He was very involved with all of that. And he had us very often for dinner, in this low, tiny cottage in the Fellows Building, the East Cottage, which was not as big as the West Cottage. And I remember the stove being in the corridor or something, and poor Mrs. Buchthal would cook right there, you know, and we had very nice discussions at these dinners. They were fun. Very exciting for all of us to be part of that sort of group, to go and talk to him.
JC: Carlo Bertelli was here at some point…
IK: Yeah, he was! He came for a month or so, perhaps even longer, I’m not sure, but he came for the symposium, which, I have to admit, I don’t remember exactly which symposium it was then, but it used to be also that the main contributors to the symposium would visit at least a week or ten days or so before, so people got to know each other, that are participating in the symposium that was organized by the symposiarc, so he might have been the symposiarc, I’m not sure, but he was around, and he – it was a completely different sort of atmosphere, in the whole way Italian, I guess, and very sort of fun. He had brought also his companion with him, which was – remember? – a nice woman that he would bring around. He was fun. Yeah, so we had a lot of activity. At the same time, people say nowadays that there is a lot of activities, but we had also ours, perhaps not as structured, but a lot of events. And we had very nice sort of gatherings in this particular room here, for coffee after lunch. Coffee was served in this room and not at the tables, when you eat and you get your mug and sit in the same place, so people mixed after lunch, you know, and exchanged some ideas. We also had sherry Tuesdays. Every Tuesday we had sherry before lunch. So it meant that the Tuesday afternoons were probably not the most productive ones for the Junior Fellows.
MM: And that was in here?
IK: It was also in this room, yes. Gathering here and then everyone would go and sit and eat afterwards, yes. We took walks, usually on Tuesdays, down to M Street and up again, you know, just to wear off the sherry – a little bit.
JC: Margaret has remarked that that period in the ‘70s was sort of a transitional period between the less structured way of doing things and the, maybe, more Harvard way of doing things, once Giles Constable became Director, and I think the sherry was the last stage of that old guard’s style.
IK: That’s right, and coffee’s also in the room now that is called the – what is it called nowadays? the room at the end of the –
JC and MM: Founders Room.
IK: – the Founders Room. But we used to call it something different.
MM: The Outside Readers’ Room.
IK :Outside Read – no, no, no, that was an in-between. We had there still the furniture, the big white couches, remember? that you sat in, sank in them, and we had coffee in the afternoon there. So it was part of this lifestyle that Dumbarton Oaks had from the earlier sort of decades. Yes. That was part of that. So things did change, but when Giles became Director I wasn’t actually here anymore, you know. So I was here before with Tyler, the last sort of family-connected director. He was a nephew, I think, of Mrs. Bliss.
IK: Godson, oh, godson. Not related, huh? Let’s see…
JC: The son of her very close friend Royall Tyler.
IK: Royall Tyler, who published quite a number of the objects that are in the collection, yes – some of the ivories that I was interested in. Yes, so he was there, and he was not very much sort of – he wasn’t very visible. He had his study, which is the study that we now have our meetings, and there was this oval room, the one that you enter from the corridor, sort of. And this secret door that opens with the books. And then you could go and visit him, in his office. So he had a kind of processional entry, you know, to a big office, which was – yeah. So these were times that cannot exist nowadays, obviously, you know, so I’m not trying to say that we have to have the past here. It’s just that these are nice memories to have of the period that had to go, you know.
JC: Do you remember going to Seka Allen’s house and dressing up as Byzantine emperors and empresses?
IK: Yes. Seka Allen had a fantastic collection of, I would say probably, Islamic sort of robes and garments, beautiful silks and brocades, you know, and a lot of wonderful things like that. And so she wanted to have them photographed one time, right? And so she had asked us all, all the Fellows, the Junior Fellows, and we came, and everyone wore something, and then there was photography, and we dressed up and pretended to be these royal figures. It was very, very nice. But she was another person at Dumbarton Oaks that added sort of another dimension of what is – I don’t know how I would call it – perhaps court-life of the past, or something like that, you know. She was an aristocrat, a Serbian aristocrat. She had certain ways, you know, of talking to you, inviting you and various things. She had another sort of lifestyle, too, that sort of belonged in this past world. And I know I’ve seen photographs in this room of dressing up as Theodore Metochites and Theodora and Justinian, and parties of the previous faculty that was here: Underwood, I remember, with this big hat. I’ve seen the pictures, you know. They must be in some archive here. But they were all in this room. But the library in general, and I think Seka being one of the people that had to do with the publications and all of that, had a group of people working there from, I thought at least, various parts of the world to deal with different languages that were needed for the cataloguing, because at that time we did not have – Dumbarton Oaks had its own cataloguing system. It did not have the Library of Congress one, so it needed specialized people to understand exactly where the books had to go. And so there was a German woman, I forget her name now, who was coming and – so, since I had lived also in Germany and so on, I always liked to go and talk to her in German. It was nice. Then there was Seka. There were various people. But also the – Fanny Bonajuto, Italian, working in the publications department, was another sort of European old school figure that was around.
JC: She was a stickler, as I remember, for footnotes in those publications –
IK: Yes, yes!
JC: – if you didn’t research your own, she would research for you.
IK: Yes, she would research them and point out to you, you know, what you missed, the page number, you know, or date…oh yes. They really went through all of this very, very carefully. Mm?
MM: You published very early.
IK: Yes, yes. I submitted my Masters thesis at that time to Loerke, and he sent it – I don’t what they did at that time for the publications. Anyway, so that was, you know, I really liked what I had done with it, so I thought I’ll try it. And they sent it to Julia Warner and Fanny, and here was this beginning graduate student trying to write a dissertation, trying to publish in the Dumbarton Oaks papers. That was not so agreeable to their mind, I think, so they sent me off to prove everything I was saying in this, everything! Every day I had to bring something else to show that this is it. But anyway –
JC: It got published.
IK: It got published, and I was very happy, you know. It was very nice, yes. And you know, I’ve gotten quite a lot of responses on this article, and a lot of people say, when they teach, that they use that as an example. It’s nice, yeah.
JC: So, when you were here, there was a Director of Byzantine Studies, William Loerke, but when –
IK: When Giles came, as far as I remember, Loerke retired, and so Giles had supervision as the Director of Dumbarton Oaks, for the whole of Dumbarton Oaks, but also of the Byzantine part, or segment, which at that time started also not to be the only one that had Fellows. I mean, they had started already to have some garden scholars, pre-Columbian – I thought there was Elizabeth –
IK: Benson, yes, with a young woman who was her assistant. These were the two, actually, the first year, that we were here, because, you see, my Fellowship was also renewed for a second year. This option existed then, so when I’m talking it’s a longer time I spent here, not just one year. So then the pre-Columbian Fellows started to come. So, it started to grow, and I think, you know, the Director took – Giles, decided to have in his sort of responsibility the Byzantine field, but then the other ones were growing on their own, separately. And when Robert Thomson took over afterwards, he decided that he did want to have someone in that position, and specifically for art history, because at that time, at least, many art historians were part of the Fellows that were at Dumbarton Oaks, more than history or philologists. So, he said he wanted to have someone, and so he asked me if I wanted to do that for a year – then it was only for a year. It would rotate, because you can’t get too many years off a university, and you have to be part of it. And then we had Nancy Sevcenko the next year, and the third year – I can’t remember now. Perhaps – who would be the other person? Perhaps Alice-Mary, then. Or is that possible?
JC: It may have been Alice-Mary.
IK: Yeah, so it was not an art historian anymore, but then, yeah, so it was Alice-Mary. And perhaps when Thomson retired, because I don’t think he stayed too many years as Director of Dumbarton –
IK: Five? Well, the first he did on his own, then there were these three years with someone, and then perhaps Alice-Mary stayed. I don’t know how it happened afterwards. And then I think Angeliki followed after that, right? So many, many changes. The Director’s House has become the dining hall or dining space. I don’t like to call it the Refectory, I have to admit, because it reminds me of monasteries, and it – we shouldn’t be identified with that around here.
MM: Giles Constable made a lot of changes, too, in the space – the use of space. Can you talk about that?
IK: Yes, but I’m not sure I can recall exactly what he did, you know. His office was changed; was it, possibly?
MM: So, the study became a seminar room.
IK: Yes, that’s what the office would have been, yes. He moved to what used to be the dining room, where the regular Fellows used to have their desks, because I remember there Danny –
IK: Curcic was in there one time.
MM: Judy Siggins, was she there?
IK: Perhaps not when I was there, but probably at – Tony Cutler were there one time, as a Fellow. I mean, there were four desks, so that’s the grown-ups, we thought. Yes.
MM: Mango and Sevenko had both gone…
IK: Yeah, gone. When we arrived they were no longer here – but Oxford for the one and Harvard for Ševčenko. But Ševčenko used to come once in a while down here, you know, for short periods. And then Alexander Kazhdan came. Yeah.
JC: Kitzinger was here for a while, and wasn’t he still considered a Professor at Dumbarton Oaks?
IK: Well, the same way that also Ihor Ševčenko was considered a Professor.
JC: But once he went to Harvard Ševčenko eventually became a Dumbarton Oaks Professor there, if I remember correctly.
IK: So, there was a distinction between Kitzinger, you mean, and Ihor Ševčenko?
JC: Well, once the professorships ceased here there were named Dumbarton Oaks Professors at Harvard. But earlier there had been Dumbarton Oaks Professors here.
IK: Yes, like Der Nersessian, who was here. And I don’t know about Father Dvornik, who I don’t think was a Professor, who was here too.
JC: Certainly Mango and Ševčenko.
IK: Mango and Ševčenko. But they were all not around except as visiting, sort of coming at times here, and not Mango, though. It was only Kitzinger and Ihor, who were up at Harvard. So…
JC: So it was the last gasp of that era.
IK: Yes, and when Alexander came, he had a different title. He was like an Associate or something like this, a Dumbarton Research Associate, I think, of Dumbarton Oaks, yes. This was a nice time when new projects were begun: the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, which was a big project under his supervision. We’re all very happy to have contributed to that, and saw it being published.
IK: Hagiography. Typika. So these are big projects, and most useful for all Byzantinists, but even for Western Medievalists, I think, they can look now to Typika and see what it’s all about.
JC: Can you think of anything about fieldwork or archaeology?
IK: Oh yes, I do remember the years when I was a Junior Fellow here, Robert Van Nice here with his staff. He would come to the lunches, and we all loved to hear about all of his years at Hagia Sophia. He had so much to tell us, very exciting. So I liked to always go and sit at the table if I could find, you know, a place, because he spent twenty-seven years, if I’m not mistaken, there.
MM: And Dumbarton Oaks had an apartment there.
IK: For him.
MM: Before him?
IK: No, for him, right? Yeah. But twenty-seven years, and he had his daughter also. During the summers his daughter would go and help him out, and so one of the projects he gave to his daughter was to record all the graffiti in Hagia Sophia, so she went over the whole building for a whole summer doing, you know, – what you call it? with the –
IK: Rubbing, yeah. Rubbings. And we have an archive of all of these graffiti. And one year when – now I have a blank – Oh! Dimitri Obolensky was here. He wanted to look through it, and we found one thing that had a bit of an art-historical interest, and so we published one of these little graffiti. But they also did a lot with latex, the big ones, you know, bigger letters and deeper indentations, so all of that is there. So, it was his daughter, though, who did it, which was nice. Yes, and so that group of architects and designers and I don’t know exactly who all these people were, but they were working all in the basement of the Main House, big tables, I remember, with drawings and maps and things. It was nice to go and look what they were doing. And that big folio was published afterwards. Unfortunately, not quite complete – the text is not quite there. But he recorded just about everything that you can record, even how the floor has been slightly dented in certain areas in Hagia Sophia, what nails exist, big whole nails, smaller ones, you know, where they are – everything has been taken and recorded. Do you know the unfortunate thing is, two years ago, perhaps – this has nothing to do with Dumbarton Oaks, but – it’s sad in that I went there, tried to find the graffito that I had published, and it’s gone, because everything was nicely stripped and cleaned, down to the base of the column or whatever, so it’s no longer there. It’s no longer there. So, the archive that we have is quite important. Yes. With a lot of other things that are here, like the Weitzman Archive that came, and the films, the negatives, that are now all being digitized slowly, perhaps not exactly that right now, but to digitize all of this visual material is another big project that Dumbarton Oaks now has time to take. So, it’s becoming sort of a more up-to-date institution, you know, with all of the modern facilities, and so…
MM: How many other excavators came through at that time?
IK: You know, actually I don’t remember other people. I never met any of the other ones, that we had on Cypress, you know, yeah…
MM: Megaw and Richard Anderson?
IK: But they were not physically here. They were actually where they were. So, I don’t think I’ve met them. Demus is the one, if you call it an archive, you know, a field project. And Irina Andreescu, his assistant was here, you know, actively sort of making sure that things get done. That was during the years when we were Junior Fellows, right? Yeah. And who else was around? Scholars that came through – well, Kitzinger was coming, as I said, and Ihor was coming down. Weitzmann was here to give some lectures. For example, he gave a big lecture when the icon of St. Peter was acquired. Remember that big, big lecture he gave in the music room introducing that icon? It was a very nice event. But he didn’t come here very often, himself.
JC: He was down when the first Met exhibition –
IK: Oh yes, the ’77 one, yes. That’s right.
JC: He was down periodically to talk to the catalogue writers. Otherwise, I don’t remember him either.
IK: Yeah that’s right, so, I’m trying to think of other scholars that were coming in as, you know – I remember the Dean of Harvard came down once for lunch. We were all quite, you know, proper, when informed that the Dean was coming. Even the President came one time. Bok came for lunch right here in the Fellows Building. And then we had various exchanges with the Hellenic Center where they would come – every week there was somebody else coming, visiting, and we would go and eat there, so that was a nice exchange also. And from the National Gallery, I remember sometimes people visiting, art historians, or some – that was nice. It was before CASVA existed as a research center. I feel this was a thing developed afterwards. Perhaps that’s why they were coming, to find how research institutes like this and fellowships work.
JC: In the late ’80s you became a Senior Fellow.
IK: Yes, late late ‘80’s. Fall of ’89. It’s really the end. It’s the academic year ‘89-‘90 when I was hired at Harvard. So, this goes along with that particular post – that position. So I was chosen because I became a Dumbarton Oaks Professor at Harvard. And Angeliki Laiou was still here the director at the time. Ihor, though, was, now that I think of it, not on the board of Senior Fellows. Not at the time. So, I’ve been, you know, with quite a lot of individuals, famous people from famous universities, here, from Europe, and the very nice meetings, especially the ones where you select the Fellows.
JC: Has there been any change in that procedure or any difference – ?
IK : Yes, I think perhaps it was Giles who – I’m not sure, because that happened before – I have to just think for a second. When the interviews were introduced – the interviews were introduced I think during Giles’s directorship. So, I don’t know of a different system, but I know when I was a Junior Fellow there were no interviews, so there’s a difference there. The interviews, in my opinion, have changed slightly. What I was talking about earlier: the level of the PhD candidate or student who comes here – and I know that also Alice-Mary at one point discussed it with me because she said to me, “They come here and they spend most of their time writing applications for jobs or other fellowships,” which takes a lot of time because you have to write a project of work, you have to – so a lot of their time is not really spent doing research in the library, but sort of writing applications. Perhaps it’s no longer quite the same, I don’t know. It varies probably from year to year. But there have been years where half of their time they go to job talks, preparing, you know. So, if it is their final year. And that happens because during the interview, if you ask people, the best answers are given by people who are very far along in their dissertation. They know the subject, they can make it more interesting. They have answers to the questions. So, obviously they do much better than someone who is starting and doesn’t exactly know how to proceed or answer. That’s why it has shifted to the further-along graduate students, where I felt – and that’s a very personal opinion at least – I felt I gained a lot by being here the first years of the real research, not finding out what I was going to work with. That I could do before because I had to travel, I had to write letters, do all of that gathering stuff. So people should come for their second year, or whenever that year is that they start to do serious research. That’s my feeling.
MM: Would you change it in a way that Fellows are selected by years or have that taken into account?
IK: From these twenty-something years that I’ve been on the Board, there have been fewer art-historical fellowships given and that – you know I’m an art historian. Perhaps I didn’t fight enough with them, I’m not sure. I think it has to do with the composition of the board and it’s interesting in that we all read, or used to read, all of the applications. So musicology, philology, everybody read. But we art historians are used to reading history and other things because we needed to be able to do our interpretations. But people from these other fields, and that perhaps is a slight criticism here to the fields, perhaps not so much of philology – the historians started to look at art, but most of them are not looking at art-historical papers. They don’t read it. They don’t really read them. They’re not knowledgeable too much about the art. People that are not in art history, I’m talking about. They would always in the discussion say, “I’m not an art historian. I can’t judge.” So with that, the evaluations I think a lot of times didn’t go very well. Because if the art historian wouldn’t fight – and I’m not a fighter, really – perhaps its my fault that I didn’t push so much. I don’t know. I’ve changed lately. I speak more out loud what I think. It might help to give the art-historical fellowships back into the lot instead of dropping out. I mean, that’s what I felt, very often. Not saying negative things about other people. It’s a general feeling, not particular people. I’m not talking about that.
JC: In your time at Dumbarton Oaks, that is between now and when you were a Junior Fellow in the ‘70s, the museum has changed a good amount.
IK: Yes, that is right. We had the new enclosure under Robert Thomson. The museum first of all changed in terms of size, physical space too – the Byzantine one – so that was very nice to get. I regret the courtyard – it was so beautiful – had to be closed in. But at least for the museum, it gave it opportunities to display things much better. I really enjoy the new ways of displaying things, the colors that were added. So, it was a little pale – I don’t know how to put it – before, with the heavy wooden cases. Now it’s much lighter. The objects show better. That helps.
JC: As an art historian, I know you used the collection occasionally for teaching purposes.
IK: Yeah, I do come down here. It is very nice to bring students from Harvard down here.
JC: And you think it serves that purpose well? It’s representative enough?
IK: Yes, it does. I’ve had the chance to ask for certain things and they’ve taken them out of the cases specifically for us when we come down to take a look at them. We usually work with the objects right at a table where we can gather around and have them pass around. It’s a great chance for students. I take all the medievalists, not just the Byzantinists, but the medievalist students come here too, and Jeffery Hamburger, my colleague, accompanies us. Together we figure out what we want to do. Just about the last four years or so I’ve done it, which has been really a very nice experience for them. They remember it afterwards. Most young people don’t touch anymore works of art. They don’t know if you hold something in your hand how heavy it is. That even is important to realize the little piece of ivory is actually heavy, not just a light thing. That is a great experience. With Jan’s directorship here, it’s been very generous to bring students down. They put us wherever they have space, even in the hotel.
JC: It works well with this new January Term, I suppose.
IK: Oh, no. I don’t think – and I don’t know what they’re going to do, but I’m not for it at all. This is a time where we had reading time for the students and another week of a break, and so on, which now people are being asked to do things. I’m not going to bring students during the mid-sections of January. I’m not going to do that. I’ll do it during the semester. Because I’ve always felt this was the good time we had to do some work between one semester and the next. This new system doesn’t quite do it.
MM: How about the library? You were here at a time when there was a realization that they were running out of space.
IK: Yes, it was under Robert Thomson, and when I was here, it was that one particular year that the plans were made to have the underground library building, which took some complicated digging and working because Dumbarton Oaks didn’t close. They were working underneath the building that everyone was on top. So it was quite a bit of a distraction: noise, vibrations, and all of that. They put these stacks, these compact stacks down in the basement and a cage for the rare books, I remember, and that gave it a lot of space, I believe. I don’t know when it was decided that that was not good enough anymore.
MM: Were there thoughts of moving the library and everything up to Cambridge?
IK: Yes, but that was during Giles Constable’s time, if I remember correctly, and if it’s true or not I don’t know, but we at that time were quite upset about all of this, and we heard things like they are measuring shelf spaces in the Widener, you know, how much of that library it would fit, but these are sort of rumors that perhaps were not quite true.
MM: Where were you then?
IK: I was here – well, I was here, though I don’t know as what. I used to come for the symposia and various things like that, so there were times where we – and I remember, for example, some big meeting that Constable had in the Music Room. Were you there for that?
JC: I was.
IK: He called everybody, everybody. It was all the staff, from the gardeners to the Junior Fellows, and he talked about Harvard and the new policies and democratization and equality. It became a kind of – I don’t know what to call it – a new air about Dumbarton Oaks. This old hierarchical, possibly, lifestyle in the Main House, with the nice couches and the tea-serving sort of things were going to be –
JC: It was the time when the staff were allowed to come to this building then called the Fellows Building to have lunch.
IK: Yes, but that was introduced after that big speech about equality for everyone at Dumbarton Oaks and democracy and, you know, openness. Perhaps that word was not popular then. There were other words, but this is more modern: “openness.”
MM: Giles spoke of a tradeoff, and this is in his annual report just after the time you were here as a Junior Fellow – a tradeoff between openness and intimacy, and that the second might have to be sacrificed for the first.
IK: Intimacy was lost? Yes – well, we never had intimacy. Friendship? I don’t know what to call it. Perhaps intimacy is too tight a word. A feeling of being welcome, being part of a group of people that had much to exchange and speak – I mean, I’m talking about the staff, the librarians; everybody was becoming a big family. I don’t like that word, but anyway, that’s the idea. You felt you had something in common – common interest, common ideas, and we all participated in that. That, I think, is not there so much anymore. That’s a bit sad. It has to do, I think, possibly with everyone being in their cubicles, separate. We hardly talk to each other, or very few times, unless we get a Byzantinist like Margaret who in the mornings on Tuesday or Wednesday, whenever it is, gets people to discuss topics together, either from a talk that was given or something else that is there. That doesn’t come so automatically as it used to. And it’s not the numbers. I don’t think it has to do with the numbers of Fellows. There were quite a lot of us, you know. And still that feeling was there.
MM: Architecture in the new library?
IK: Architecture. I think the physical space divided people, separated people more.
JC: Earlier you mentioned the Reading Room –
IK: Yes. I love the Reading Room.
JC: – which was open and communal.
IK: Yes. You can exchange glances with another person without having to talk. You can show your enthusiasm about something or depression or whatever it was, and they felt with you. There was a kind of understanding. I remember Clucas, you know – he didn’t like the Washington water, for example. You remember this? And he had this case of water bottles that he had bought, and he had it under his table in the reading room. Little secrets like that, no one should know. Very, very sort of family ideas – sort of together. And I remember Tyler invited me for Thanksgiving because I didn’t have – Thanksgiving is not a traditional feast for me and I didn’t have family around here, so Tyler invited Lowell Clucas and me to the Cosmos Club for Thanksgiving, which was very nice of him. He was, I think, a nephew of his – Lowell – I think he was a relative. If not a relative, Lowell’s father was an ambassador, or some diplomatic connection, possibly.
JC: Let me ask you a couple of global questions. Do you think Dumbarton Oaks has contributed to furthering interest in Byzantine studies and bettered the landscape in your profession?
IK: Well, Dumbarton Oaks is probably nowadays more known to the outside world than when I was here as a Junior Fellow, for example, I think. When you mention that you are at this research institute in Washington, any person who has to do with the Middle Ages or art history knows about the museum, also the pre-Columbian museum, that has also added to the knowledge, you know, of Dumbarton Oaks becoming known outside. And then the publications that are coming out of Dumbarton Oaks clearly, clearly have done what one expects of this kind of thing. The Dumbarton Oaks Papers are everywhere to be found, but obviously, in libraries where this kind of research is done. It’s not in every place as a periodical. Why should they, you know? Now with these new translations that perhaps – the texts that are being now produced, not only the one that Jan has started, the new library, but I mean the Dumbarton Oaks ones. These kind of publications are the ones that are going to help, I think more, the knowledge of what Byzantium is about. Because the Germans early on, when they were doing their publications, they were never translated. Theirs were just these careful editions with careful notes and all of that, but there were not any translations with the publications, so they still remained inaccessible to art historians, for example, whose Greek…. So, art history is a field that has changed in its way of looking at art, not just only stylistic or iconographic discussions and doing contextual studies where you need these texts. Art historians are really looking for these kinds of publications and I think we see that happening. I would say anything like that would help further. But also, you know, the exhibitions that have taken place since the ’77 one in the Met with the early Christian material, then the ’97 one, and then Paris, London, all of these together have done a great job. The visual material really does promote the culture. The texts are fine once you know a little bit about that culture, so you read more and you can understand. But the visual is the first sort of approach to get to know something. The museum hopefully – that’s there, but it would be nice to see more of these exhibitions that they did, for example, that are more topic specific. There was processional crosses, I remember one; something with textiles was another small one, but still. And now somewhere people get interested – or the crosses that we had more recently.
JC: Do you think there is something that Dumbarton Oaks could do differently or could expand the field of Byzantine studies?
IK: That’s a big question to answer. A good one, but I don’t really know how much more one can do. Dumbarton Oaks has done this fantastic thing that I’m profiting from, to give these three positions at Harvard, to make sure the Byzantine field is taught. With three people in place so that you have literature, history, and art so someone can understand the whole culture. Also, with these support of positions in the neighborhood with the various universities – giving them the chance to have someone who can teach that. And we have tried it over the years in various combinations even further away, and people have to – but it probably was not the best for the people who had to move out in Minnesota – I remember that was one of them – and then come here for another year or so, so it was a little difficult for their own life, their own everyday life for themselves. For the field, perhaps, it was very good, but I don’t know what happened with all of these positions. Not always necessarily successful.
JC: They rarely led to tenure.
IK: Yeah, even Columbia didn’t do it. What Robert Thomson did, now that I think of it, is he sent people out to lecture – what the Onassis Foundation does nowadays. The Onassis Foundation sends people out, but Dumbarton Oaks did the same thing. You could send an art historian or philologist or somebody to talk to some university, but it had to be to different groups of people, not just university people, so that they made known more of the field, that it exists, or the culture, to a broader audience. I went to Kansas City – for four days? I can’t remember how many days – but they had to find a sponsor over there, a sponsor meaning not money-wise, but someone who would organize it. There was a person there who was interested in Byzantium, and he picked me up. I gave seven different talks which were very interesting. One was at the university, Okay. So, that’s the more normal one. Another one was at a luncheon of businessmen. Now, this was at a hotel. A big hall where they were having lunch, and there was this big table and I talked about Byzantium. I don’t remember my lecture at this point, but it was a lecture for people who had never heard what Byzantium is about. I had slides also, obviously, behind me. Then I gave another talk, which I really liked, to parents who teach their children at home, so not elementary school, but homeschooling. And they brought their children there too. So, I talked to them about architecture, about building, about culture, about religion, about a lot of things. These kids were sitting all in front, different ages, little ones, big ones. They were drawing with the slides. At the end, they gave me gifts of the things they had got excited about. To me, this was one of the best ways of communicating. These parents wouldn’t let me go at the end. They would ask questions. They would want more. What books, what things? So, if you have a lecture that can capture their interest that was very good. Then I talked on the radio for half an hour or an hour – I can’t remember – the interview was at the studio. Then to a Russian church group and the lecture was in a beautiful Russian church and one of my carousels tipped and I lost all the slides on the floor and I had to tell them I have to put them back – anyway, they all waited nicely. They all wanted to find out. These were all groups of people that were interested in hearing about Byzantium. I don’t know what other people did, but my experience was very exciting to me, because you had people listening to you because – it’s like when you have graduate students that come, or students in general that are slightly older, and they want to know. You had that feeling of not just sitting there because you have to lecture, but that they wanted to know more. And that sense from trying to get Byzantium across to Kansas City – I don’t know if they have anything Byzantine in their museum or not. I don’t even know that. It was very exciting. I don’t know what happened, right? But at least the word “Byzantium” went out, the Byzantine culture, some slides. They might remember things like that. This was something I felt was a good start at least.
JC: Do you know how many years that continued, by any chance?
IK: Perhaps all the time that Thomson – perhaps three years. People were sending – not to Harvard to lecture, not to places like that. They were sent to places where you knew possibly very few people had any idea of what this is. I had totally forgotten it. But this interview made me think of it. Very nice. Oh, I get all excited when I speak about it. Because I remember these parents, you know, discovering a new area that they wanted to get interested in. So, I don’t know what other things Dumbarton Oaks can do as an institution. It’s very difficult, very difficult to promote a settled place, when you have a library here, you have everything here. Just make sure that people come here and have the opportunity to spend some time here, to do whatever it is they want to look up or get to know other people. And it has opened up to many more – many more students come here before their exams or the final stages of a dissertation or something that they need to do. So, Dumbarton Oaks has opened up their doors for all types of people, whereas, before, you know, when I was told you couldn’t even get there because you’re not a Harvard student. So it’s a completely different place.
JC: The web has helped in that. A lot of our –
IK: Yes, and these exhibits that they put on now, with the coins going up on the web that just went up – the Byzantine coins; the seals, the project of the seals.
JC: And that’s just the beginning probably. So that will grow – not that it will be popular, necessarily, but at least more available.
JC: Margaret, do you have any additional questions?
MM: I don’t think so. It’s a treat.
IK: Well, good. It was fun, actually. Thank you. No, I enjoyed it too. I didn’t know exactly what was coming when I – Thanks very much.
JC: Thank you very much!