Natalia Teteriatnikov (DOA Interview)
Natalia Teteriatnikov was also interviewed by the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA) on June 25, 2013. For more information, see ICFA Oral History Initiative: Natalia Teteriatnikov.
JWC: My name is James Curtin, and I’m here with Joshua Wilson, and we have the great pleasure of interviewing Natalia Teteriatnikov, on June 24th, about her relationships with Dumbarton Oaks over the years. So, our understanding is that the first time you came to Dumbarton was when you were a Junior Fellow in 1982. Is that correct?
NT: Yes, it was 1982 and ’83, and it was the time when, I think, Margaret Mullet was here as a Fellow too, so it is even more enjoyable to remember that time. I got the fellowship and I worked on the subject of apse decoration of Cappadocian churches. And I received the letter, I remember, from Madame Thierry from Paris, that her student works on this subject, and imagine my surprise when I’m supposed to give a paper at Dumbarton Oaks, and I had completely changed my subject. So, I change it to the liturgical plane of Byzantine churches in Cappadocia. And at that time, Dumbarton Oaks had wonderful staff, and I was able to get an idea—the people like Joan Thomas, who worked on private foundations, private ecclesiastical foundations, was especially important for me, and chatting with Mike McCormick, and many other people were absolutely wonderful. So, this time, of course, was different from the way it is now, because Dumbarton Oaks was more formal, but less regulated. I’m saying more formal—I mean that, for example, Joan Aston who was in charge of the House Collection, and she was also in charge of the concerts, did not allow men without tie to enter the concert. So, this was different time, and the time changed gradually. I remember the lunch we had—I think, the last lunch, formal lunch at the symposium— where we enjoyed to have flower bouquets over the chocolate mousse. This was of course discontinued with a limited budget, and after that we had lunchboxes. But I think Dumbarton Oaks’ atmosphere, then and now, was always welcoming, focused on research, but also paying attention to people. And I think that people need my personal time, and I’m sure many of my colleagues memorable. So, I’m a positive person and I always remember good times.
JWC: Was Dumbarton Oaks something that you had heard a lot about while you were still in school before you came here, or how did you come to first hear about it?
NT: Well, I studied at the Institute of Fine Arts, and Thomas Matthews was my advisor, who obviously suggested to me to come for one of the Dumbarton Oaks symposia. And when I was there, of course, like everybody else, the physical setting and the library and the scholarly atmosphere was very, very attractive. So, Dumbarton Oaks was a dream, it was not just a—I mean, it was a legend that, in name, we did know about. We just dreamed that we may be a part of it one day, and for me, I was very grateful that this happened.
JWC: So, when you first came to Dumbarton Oaks, you must have known Giles Constable as the Director, and also Judy Siggins. Can you say anything about how that administration facilitated research for yourself and other Fellows that were there at the time?
NT: I think extraordinary good of Giles Constable. I think he even had a nickname as “the abbot in the monastery.” He was one of those people who sort of try to democratize—right?—Dumbarton Oaks and make it more open. My personal account was especially his discussions. So, I remember with Mike McCormick, he was so excited about the monastic beards, the fashion of wearing a beard in monastic setting. So, many other things: he was a very stimulated person, very encouraging. As for Judy Siggins, she was wonderful. She helped me a lot when—I’ll tell you later about the various projects, and especially the grant I wrote for the Weitzmann Archive—but she was a person during my fellowship here—she entertained in her house, which was of course not her house, but it was the left part of the cottage house in Dumbarton Oaks. She entertained Fellows and staff. She organized wonderful Halloween parties, which we enjoyed, and people used to come in great costumes, like, for example, Elizabeth Boone was dressed up as the Statue of Liberty; it was spectacular—I remember it—as it was. Again, she organized parties for us and many other things. So, she was a very generous person. But, professionally, she was extremely helpful and efficient, so I couldn’t say more about it.
JWC: It’s funny you mention the Halloween parties. Someone else also spoke about that. Was that the same year that Giles Constable dressed as the Grim Reaper and scared everybody, or was that maybe a different Halloween party?
NT: It was a different Halloween party.
JWC: Alright. So, I have one other question about your early time here and then we’ll transition to your professional work with the image archives, and that was that, during the time you were here, you knew Curcic personally, right? Is that correct?
NT: Yes, yes. Slobodan Curcic, from Princeton.
JWC: That’s correct. And he went on to later become a Senior Fellow here as well. Now, to what degree would you say that men like him and other Senior Fellows interacted with the Junior Fellows and—I guess the question I’m getting at: do you think there was contact between the Junior Fellows and the Senior Fellows such that they sort of shared what they knew with the younger generation of scholars?
NT: Yes, it definitely was. I certainly consulted with Slobodan on my work because I dealt with architecture of Cappadocia and he was a great specialist and great scholar. And, later on, when, after I finished my dissertation, I went to work at Princeton as a Research Assistant in the Princeton Index, I worked with him on the exhibition Byzantium at Princeton where I wrote on the manuscript collection of Princeton. And he was actually organizer for the exhibition. He advised me to work on this collection, and I was so surprised that I was able to work on manuscripts which were discussed previously by Professor Weitzmann himself and by other people—so it was really encouraging for him to give me this project, and I am very grateful that it was published in his catalogue.
JWC: Very good. So, as I said – to transition to the photo archive: first, what was the name of it when you came? Now it’s the ICFA.
NT: It was the archive called Visual Resources. And when I came in 1996, it actually had only black-and-white collection, and that’s it. So, when I came, there was no one in the department except Amy Heidelberg, very nice person who was an assistant, and who was supposed to leave in about two weeks; so I was fortunate that I knew Charlotte Burke, the previous curator, who was a very nice person and also contributed to the archives, especially from an archival point of view. So, she explained to me how to type the labels and, you know, a little bit about the stuff, about the supplies. At that time, this was a very important part of the department, because all the photographs were mounted on boards, and labels were typed and dry-mounted. And this was a tedious process. So, I needed to know these details in order to further deal with the archive. Anyway, Charlotte was very, very helpful. And then I simply analyzed the archive, and I realized that it actually full of photographs of general views, basically, and some details, because scholars at that time interested in style, and therefore they photographed faces, hands, sometimes the figure or occasionally a scene. But it was difficult to have an idea of the decorative program; or even the interior of the architecture was difficult to understand from these photographs. So, dealing with Cappadocian churches, where I myself photographed a great number of churches, I focus on the detailed photographs of the interior, on the full covering of monuments. And that’s what I taught scholars from whom I order photographs for the archive. When I came, there was a decision to add the Princeton Index to the Archives, and that was, I think, a wise decision. The idea came from Herb Kessler, who was an advisor at that time, and he was a wonderful advisor, and he, of course, was a student of Weitzmann at Princeton, and he knew Weitzmann. So, his suggestion was good, and I wrote a grant, with the help of Robert Thomson, who was very much encouraging of the project, and Judy Siggins, and applied for a grant and received $94,000. It was one of the largest amounts of money Dumbarton Oaks received at that time. Of course, I had to justify why this archive was important for Dumbarton Oaks, because the original was at Princeton. So, I had to analyze the Weitzmann Archive, and fortunately I knew him personally from Princeton. I felt that this archive was extremely important since Dumbarton Oaks was a center of Byzantine studies, and scholars would have an easy access to the archive, but also it was an advantage—if we had an archive and also the negatives, our scholars will be provided with the photographs, which very hard to get. So, the project was so difficult because I had to hire a photographer who had to live at Princeton for three months, to find an apartment, to get along with Weitzmann, and to photograph the entire archive. So, all this has been done, and he moved back to Washington. So, the second part—another part of the project becomes he started to print the photographs; and the photographs should be on the fiber-based paper, because we’re required to have high-quality paper. But the equipment for fiber-based paper was old, and, at that time, there was a change in the use of paper. RC paper become popular on the market, and all the equipment for drying photographs, for drying the fiber-based paper, was not available. So, his equipment collapsed. And I received hundreds of emails from Angeliki Laiou, who was the Director at that time, who really even wanted to stop the project, because she was really responsible for its completion. And I certainly put the pressure on the photographer, so miraculously he was able to pick up the equipment in some second-hand store, and the project was finished. As a result, we had 17,000 photographs, all of which were catalogued by the person I hired for this archive. I certainly had to check every photograph with folio number and so on, to make sure that it is properly organized. In addition, we had to organize the negatives and provide the cross-references between the negatives and photographs, because we provided photographs from this archive to scholarly community. So, we finished this archive – this project – in time, but this was a really difficult project. The next step was – I just did want to add a little about the Princeton Index. So, when I got the Princeton Index, I was – I didn’t say anything about the Princeton Index here, right?
JWC: You said a little bit, but –
NT: A little bit, yeah –
JWC: – tell us more.
NT: Now, the Princeton Index was added to the department, but, for me, the importance was that we could use the Princeton Index as an authority for object names and for the subject names, for the cataloguing of the entire collection, because, when I look at the collection, I realize that the same subject called different names, and so on and so forth. So, the Princeton Index was, at the beginning, an authority file. Later on, of course, the Getty is standard for art and architectural terms – was online; and the Library of Congress National Geographic standard for geographic names of countries and cities was also online. So, we used these resources, but I wrote, in addition, a glossary, and I’m sure that Rona probably saw it. I wrote two glossaries of architectural terms, with a description and object type terms, with a description for the cataloguers, because I hope that these standards will help to improve the collection. When I came in our collection, there were some monuments called three different names, and filed in three different locations. For example, there was the Lavra in Mt. Athos, the Monastery of Lavra. It’s called Lavra, it’s called the Great Lavra, and the Monastery of St. Athanasius; and all the materials were filed in three different locations in alphabetical order. So, that was the reason I was trying to establish the standards and establish the way things should be catalogued. I also created the lists when I did my acquisitions. When I received the photographs, I would prepare the detailed list for the cataloguers with a bibliography and identifications. I also checked all the information after things were catalogued, dry-mounted, and so on, because it was necessary to make sure that everything was fine, because of the difficulty of the materials. Now, again, when I came, we had lots of transparencies and slides and color transparencies were not in the cold storage in those days, and they continued to deteriorate, and I was trying to get the refrigerators. And in 1990, I first got two refrigerators, and I put five thousand slides in these refrigerators and all archival fieldwork films, which were in the department when I came, and I put them also in these refrigerators. In 1993, Robert Thomson asked me whether I would like to get the fieldwork archives, and especially the Van Nice Archives, and some Byzantine Institute materials, and I certainly was excited about it. These materials were located in the library somewhere not far from the office of Irene Vaslef, so she showed me these materials, and I certainly welcomed them to our collection, although we had very little space. These materials were – partially, it was not clear for me at the beginning when I received everything what belonged to – which archive is the Byzantine collection, which archive belonged to Van Nice, and so on and so forth. So, there were tubes and Van Nice materials. I had a brief meeting with Van Nice at that time, and he asked me one thing, just to keep all the materials together, so I tried as I could, but later on when I properly arranged these materials. Now, I started first to deal with the drawings, and before re-housing the drawings and storing them, because they were stored in very rusty metal cabinets – actually, map cases. There were three map cases: two small map cases and one very large one. So, I went to Harvard, because Harvard at that time received three hundred thousand dollar grant, to restore and install, actually, Richardson’s drawings, and it was publicized in the Harvard newspaper. So, I went there and learned about the installation of these archives and the materials. So, it was certainly helpful, and here in Washington I went to the National Gallery and to the National Archives and looked at their display and arrangement of all the drawings, and, sure enough, they were in the metal, modern map cases, archival folders, and so on and so forth. So, I used the materials – I bought two map cases. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough space and archival materials such as folders, paper, tissue paper, and so on and so forth. And I started to sort of access them, to catalogue them, on EmbARK, and then, in the year 2000, when we began digitization project, I digitized all of these drawings. That is why, right now, the current staff could easily put them on the Web. Now, we – there was, of course, much more to the discussion of the fieldwork archives, and hopefully I will talk about it tomorrow, but I just want to add that some of the materials – other materials came later, in several installments. When we were about to move to the new library, in 2005, the – I think the Assistant of the Director brought me some boxes from the archive – it was from the Byzantine Institute archive – and large number of materials came from James Carder. These were in folders, some were just loose materials and photographs, which I later identified. For example, I can tell you – an interesting example: we have now a wonderful exhibition of Diaghilev called, “Ballets Russes,” which is in the National Gallery. I don’t know whether you saw it, but I advise you to see it. It’s a wonderful exhibition. And when working on this archive, I saw a tiny little – I think it’s a water-color – color image, a color image of an oriental man, and there was a little inscription in Russian called Скороход which is a runner. Well, I immediately recognized that this image belongs to the theatrical part of the Diaghilev Ballet, and it was from, probably, the costume design. And Whittemore, who certainly knew everybody in Europe in those days, in the 1920s and ‘30s, when Ballets Russes was so popular in Europe and in Paris, particularly. He certainly knew the artists who did this particular image, and probably from, I think, the ballet of Scheherazade. Anyway, this is just a little thing which is a memory for me, which I hope may be even published, which I connected with the exhibition, which is right now in the National Gallery, and you can see similar images there. Anyway – so, all these materials, I organized. I didn’t have a chance to work on the Van Nice paper materials, but I did work on the Byzantine Institute and Thomas Whittemore materials on the conservation of Hagia Sophia and on conservation of Kariye Djami and many other archives. I added some of the archives as well, and I wrote a very detailed manual of all the archives – very detailed descriptions, which I think was used as a basis by current staff. And I think what I’ve heard that it’s probably some – some changes were made, technical changes were made, but it was put on the Web, because it was basically complete in its content and the description. So, I certainly learned a lot dealing with this archive and I continue to use this archive in my publication. I’m really grateful that I had this unique opportunity. In the year 2000, we started digitization, and that was a very difficult project. For this, we established standards, of the city names, country names. As you know, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, countries changed, and cities, which belonged to one country belonged to another country; and our collection reflected all of this. So, after all this situation with the countries settled – I waited for several years – then we started. All staff worked on that: on the city, the names of the city. We used, of course, the Library of Congress standards for the geographic names. Even our volunteers worked on this project. So, we had to shift the entire collection, photograph collection and slide collection, in the photograph collection, which changed all the names of the countries, shifted all materials which belonged to each city and so on. It was incredible project because things should be retyped, the names should be retyped and applied to each photograph. The same should be done for the slides, because in the slides we didn’t use full name of the country but we used the abbreviations, and the abbreviations also came from the system of abbreviations of the Library of Congress. Now, during the project on EmbARK, I think the entire Dumbarton Oaks was involved. I had two choices: either to choose the library program for computerization, or to choose the EmbARK. And my choice was with EmbARK, because at least we will be able to have and retrieve materials together with the Byzantine Collection, because we had similar objects. But I went and I saw Harvard’s project, and I gave advice at that time to obtain this program, but unfortunately at that time the decision was different. So, we had no other choice. Now, there was a sort of two programs which were going on simultaneously: the EmbARK program and digitization program. So, we digitized almost all our slides, large format, color transparencies, and the drawings, Van Nice drawings, and the Byzantine Institute drawings, and this was a very difficult project because we dealt with the Image Delivery System company, and they constantly redo the images, either because they were placed upside down or backwards and so on, and it was so difficult that finally, in about 2004, the project was discontinued. Even some of the incorrect images are still on EmbARK – I know that, because we were not able to change them, because we no longer dealt with the company. So, the project was stopped because we were supposed to move to a new library. Now, with the EmbARK project, there was also lots of work on the object names, on the monument names, and I’m sure that all department created this list, but this list should be constantly updated because, if you introduce one monument, that means the city and the name of the monument can also be added to the list. So EmbARK was really continuous project, and everybody dealt with that: my staff at that time, myself, and Katherine Hill, Smiljka Soretić. Before Katherine, Michelle Savant worked on the project as well. So, it was a big project, and not always enjoyable, but, as a result, we did digitize – how many? probably close to fifty thousand images for a very short time, for four years. And that means all images had to be processed. I checked myself every image many times, because you have to check how it was done, the color corrections we did constantly, and so on and so forth. And the color corrections were necessary because many color transparencies lost their color. For example, Underwood – when he photographed Kariye Djami, he had small budget. I read about it in his archive. And he didn’t have the money to buy really good, new film, so he bought often expired film, and that’s why there was a considerable change of color. So, we tried very hard to somehow restore the images. The images were very important, I can tell you know that. If you go to Kariye Djami, the image of the Virgin in the knave lost the right eye. Therefore, Underwood’s material is very important. For example, the Archangel Michael image in the Parekklesion. I just recently found my own image – digital image – which I photographed several years ago in Kariye Djami, and I noticed that the inscription – the monograph of Michael was barely visible, but it is very well visible in the Underwood picture, published in his two volumes. I’m sorry; three volumes. The fourth volume was published later. So, that is – I’m just telling you this to show how valuable these archival materials and photographs are. Now, there was also lots of work on the restoration of the color copies. The one which you see here, as the centerpiece of the Anastasis, is one of the fourteen color reproductions which were made by the Byzantine Institute. Some belonged to the images of Hagia Sophia. This one and others were reproductions of images from Kariye Djami. These reproductions of Kariye Djami were done by Phillip Thompson. I discovered that he did it. He was a British painter who worked for Underwood. Earlier reproductions were done by the Byzantine Institute, but I found these – some of these reproductions, for example, of the Anastasis were in rolls and stored in the boiler room. For me, the task was to restore all of them and to exhibit them, but how? Dumbarton Oaks didn’t have the money. The first big exhibition we did in 1998, Dumbarton Oaks gave the money for conservation of three big panels. So, we did a wonderful exhibition on the restoration of St. Sophia mosaics, and we were able to exhibit these panels and other materials from the archive, and my book on the Fossati restoration and the Byzantine Institute was published by Dumbarton Oaks. The second time when we restored them was in 2004 when Holger Klein, a professor of Columbia University, suggested me to do the exhibition of Kariye Djami and to take some of our materials. I actually suggested him to apply for a grant to restore color reproduction. There was one trick I knew to apply for grant from the Kress Foundation because it was Kress Foundation who gave money for the restoration of Kariye Djami and publication of Underwood three volumes. So, all of this was beneficial for our color reproductions. When Van Nice passed away in 2004, I organized our first exhibition in the hallway of Dumbarton Oaks to honor his survey – architectural survey – of Hagia Sophia. Van Nice was extraordinary person. I was fortunate that I was able to talk to him when I was a Fellow. I remember when we were sitting in the Fellows Building at lunchtime; one scholar, who’s name I will not mention, was passing by and said, “Hi, Bob. Are you still doing Hagia Sophia?” And Van Nice always had a sense of humor and he said, “Of course. Is there anything else?” And when I went through his drawings, of course I knew him so well, near one minaret of Hagia Sophia, which was drawn very carefully in small details, there was a curse. I found a curse, which it said, “In millions of years, don’t draw this minaret. We had ten exhibitions after that, and Alice-Mary Talbot, who was really supportive in making this exhibition – she was personally involved, and I must say very enthusiastic. I’m very grateful for her and for her help and support. I did mention – can I come back a little bit?
JWC: Yeah, yeah.
NT: I should mention that after the exhibition was opened in 2004, after our color reproductions were restored, we sent them for an exhibition to the Columbia University gallery. It was really a great success. The exhibition was opened at that time there was a great exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum, “Faith and Power.” And then this exhibition traveled to the Krannert Art Gallery at Urbana-Champaign in Illinois, where I worked with Bob Ousterhout who worked on the installation of this exhibition, and that was really fun to work also with Bob at that time. I traveled together with Stephen Zwirn from the Byzantine Collection. It was even more pleasant to have scholarly interactions and discussions. The next trip was to Istanbul to a Koç Museum, where another exhibition on Kariye Djami took place in 2007, where the catalogue was also published. There were two catalogues. One, Restoring Byzantium in 2004, and in 2007 a catalogue called Kariye organized by Holger Klein and Bob Ousterhout . I wrote an article for both of them on the Byzantine Institute and the restoration of Kariye Djami, where I published many photographs, some drawings, and so on and so forth. Also, we were able to publish albums which I found just by occasion in our department just before – during our first move to the new space. We had also moved at the end of the – during the early 1990s we got new space, which previously was occupied by the library. So, at that time, we were cleaning up all kinds of materials and there were albums which were stored above the supply cabinet, which was in a passageway through which everyone in Dumbarton Oaks used to pass through. The albums were behind the door. The door was always open, so you were practically not able to see them. So, when I opened the door, I saw the album. When I started to look through, I realized that one was a piece called “Byzantina” but the second one contained photographs of yacht and people. And then, I slowly start to recognize an image of Thomas Whittemore and then his friend and then I identified this album. He’s actually – it was records of his trip on this yacht to Greece and Turkey. So, the album was included in this exhibition on Kariye Djami in the Koç Museum. So, there are many other things, perhaps some things you would like to ask me.
JWC: Yeah, I know we had heard a few stories about the Kariye Djami. Is it true you found that initial set of prints – you said in the boiler room – you were doing a walk through with Henry Maguire. Is that correct? He pointed them out? Is that a story you could tell?
NT: I was told, yes, by Henry Maguire that there were – it was a while away. I don’t want to misrepresent what I am saying. But, I learned probably from Henry, but also from the staff of the boiler room that the copies were there. My fear was that I open – and because it’s very dry there, I was afraid that it would be a really serious restoration. Fortunately, the canvas was in a pretty good condition. I found, when I found the conservator – his name is Arthur Page – when I went to his studio on 7th street, we discussed the way these panels should be laid out. For example, if we wanted to exhibit Anastasis in three panels – because it is an apse decoration and the surface is curved, but the painter of course did a flat surface. So, we did it on three panels. It was my decision because I thought it will really show the authenticity the way artists work. I choose the material for the backing of the panels, because I thought it would be easier to display them, as you can see now. A few panels which were not restored are still in the archives and I think they are still on the rolls. There was another exhibition in the Prince George Community College, organized by Svetlana Popović. She also asked me whether we can give our copies for this exhibition, and I certainly was happy about it. Two of our images were included in the exhibition and in your little booklet. I wrote a paper which is unpublished yet, but I hope I will be able to publish it, on the color reproductions from Dumbarton Oaks, and I gave a lecture because she organized a series of lectures, and she invited different scholars to talk. The subject I spoke on was of color reproductions – Dumbarton Oaks copies. That was practically beneficial. What can I say? Those are sort of things which we did there – many more are still to come. Of course, during the years I had great opportunity to deal with people and to have many friends, who either lived at Dumbarton Oaks, like Alexander Kazhdan and his wife Musja, were my close friends. I always want to remember them, because they were very hospitable to scholars. Lots of people have the chance to be in this house. Have chance to eat dinner, or sometimes breakfast. They were always hospitable. They had one secret, which I wanted to tell you. They liked to serve quince jam. Kazhdan always admired Dumbarton Oaks – the gardens. And he, walking through the garden, he discovered two quince trees. He also discovered when the fruits are ripe, they fell down and squirrels come and eat them. So, he knew the time when the fruits were about to fall and he was checking the fruits and tried to get them first before the squirrels come. So, he bring it to Musja, and they make a display before all the friends come and enjoy the scenery, and they later on enjoy the jam. So, this is a Dumbarton Oaks hidden story [laughs].
JWC: Everyone has a story either about parties they went to at his house or his hospitality.
NT: Right. He also had a very welcoming office in the library where he had little card catalogue with tiny little cards which he brought from Russia. And he made them very small because that way he was able to bring them through the custom border. And then he continued to use the tiny little card. Whenever you come to ask him for a bibliographic reference, he – with his very thick eyeglasses would start to look through those tiny little cards, and would always find the solution to your problem or question.
JWC: In another interview, someone mentioned the cards. You know, when he came here, he was really supposed to be going to Israel, right? But he came to the United States instead. And he shipped all of his books and especially this card catalogue here. They thought that may tip off the government that he was actually coming here, but he needed to have his card catalogue.
NT: [Laughs] I understand.
JWC: So, you have laid out the whole history of the image collection from the time everything was still in boxes in the boiler room until now, which is digitalized and available online, in part. How has that changed the way that scholars who are coming in to use the collections interact with it? Do they – I’m sure they come in less now because there are things online – what is the shift in the dynamic?
NT: Yes, it’s a good question. I was happy to have the Princeton Index, the photograph collection, and the fieldwork archives, because that, as you pointed out, changed the dynamics of the department. Whenever I gave an introduction or whenever individual scholars come and I learn about their project, I was trying to help. For example, not just simply explain how to use Princeton Index but how to explore it for scholarly research. Even now the Princeton Index is online and you can use it to retrieve some information, but I knew at that time that even the physical presence of the drawers and cards in the Princeton Index can provide important information. Even for myself when there was a jubilee of the Princeton Index, the director asked me to write an article for the visual resources file. I wrote on the subject “The 'Gift Giving' Image” the adoration – the case of the adoration of the Magi. And the reason I wrote on this subject, I just opened the draws. I just opened several draws and I saw a numerous number of the subject used. Because the Princeton Index reflects what is in the monuments. How much, how often, this subject was used throughout history. And I asked the question, why? So it was interesting for me to go through the sources and through the visual images and to understand that the image – the adoration of the Magi who brought silver and gold to Christ – were actually used as an advertisement, you know. The priests used this image in their ceremonies, like an advertisement. Please donate money for the church like the Magi did. That is what the Princeton Index actually encouraged me to do. Because the idea I got from the Princeton Index and I tried to actually help scholars always to find the information. Also, to use the information together with the photograph collection, because the images which were in the photograph collection were very high quality. For example, when I just came and I saw huge drawers with the photographs from the Byzantine Institute secondary file. And Charlotte Burke told me, “Well, these are the photographs which we use for sale.” You can sort of resell them when the requests come, and I look at them and I said, “No. We will keep them.” And I think I was right, because these were done on the fiber based paper, which give a really good depth and quality of the image. It is hard right now – virtually impossible – to produce such images. So we have some seconds. That is good.
JWC: That’s pretty comprehensive. Can you talk more about the digitalization? You mentioned some of the difficulties in updating it and putting them in the computer.
NT: Yes. I can tell you more about the difficulty. The difficulty was, for example, to digitize the slide collection. Because we had to take the film from each slide, rehouse it in a different frame, number it to provide orientation, create the list, and give it to the image collection – the company called – when we got the slides back, we had to put them again in archival frames, print new labels, provide all the new catalogue number, and so on. So, it was absolutely incredible job, as you imagine. Fifty thousand slides rehoused twice, practically, to create constant lists and so on, and to create the records, and file after that. Fortunately, when we moved to a new library, it was big planning of course, we planned to get the new refrigerators, which include most of our important slides and color transparences and we did, but we had to take them out several times because there was flood. We put slides on the lower level, than we move them. Then there was flood, you know. Those things happen quite often. We had several floods during my time. For example, when I just acquired the new fieldwork archive tubes and put them in the folders, we had terrible flood and some of the drawings got wet. So, me, Astrid Williams, we came at that time, it was Saturday or Sunday. We rescue them. We just open everything and spread them all out. So, then we have to put everything back. These accidents, of course, happened I’m sure elsewhere in the building. The building was old and we had to deal with that quite often, but because of that the collection suffered. When we already prepared the black and white collection for moving to a new space in the new library, another flood happened. Lots of people from the building came to the rescue and helped us to open up all the boxes and to spread the photographs on boards. So, there was a mixture of everything. Even until now, I think there were probably some mixed somewhere but hopefully one day everything will be straightened out. We straightened out, but it was a big job. Now, when we moved to a new library, I had to create a new system of displaying of these materials. And I have to tell you an important fact that the collection was always open to scholars. At the beginning, it was open any time. Even if I work late, scholars were able to still work there. But when I came, the collection was completely open and there was no security at all. All the doors, even my office, were all opened for many, many days. And I tried very hard to make the collection closed and to get keys and everything. Finally, this happened. Of course, it was not in my favor because people got used to having easy access and actually take things. Not because they really wanted to steal, no, but they get used to take some negatives, maybe bring them back, maybe they will forget. But I notice of course that many things were missing. This was a time the collection continued to be open for scholars and used. When we closed the doors, scholars were able to come and work by themselves on the collection. Open the door to take any board with a photograph or a slide. But they had – the only rule was to put the replacement card. When we moved to a new library, I was told that it will be a similar system. I had to organize the collection and archive in such a way that scholars would be able to work by themselves. I created the system of labels. I bought the new boxes with the plastic sleeves and typed the labels and inserted them in the sleeve. The labels give information about media, country, city, and so on and so forth and the catalogue number. That way, if we added new materials to the collection, we can always shift the collection, print new labels, and insert – not retype – but insert in the sleeves. So, that was an easy way – an easier way – of doing that. Of course, perhaps it was – I actually went to the Getty archive and I saw that in a similar way materials were displayed there, only some materials were stored in special storages and were taken when scholars had a special request. But practically scholars had a self-service. Of course, this was my time and I hope that materials we provided, and at least some system which I introduced were useful for the new staff who, of course, introduced new archival system of the cataloguing, perhaps useful for and it should probably provide consistency with other archives. From the point of view of content of archives and shape of the archive, I hope that during my time myself and my staff were able to contribute to Dumbarton Oaks and to scholars who used it.
JWC: Do you have any stories about individual scholars who would come in and use it? Maybe some of the bigger, more important – either catalogues or exhibitions that were made using the Dumbarton Oaks material that maybe wouldn’t have gotten done if the collection hadn’t been organized the way it was?
NT: Well, I think that a lot – in my time, we had a lot of scholars. Of course, Internet was not available at the beginning. And I remember scholars like Doula Mouriki, she was a very famous Greek scholar who used to come here on a regular basis. She would stay in the collection until ten at night. I’m sorry – I stay in and work on my own things, but I let her work because I understood how important it was for her to have these materials. And she worked on the mosaics of Naouminea at that time and published two volumes – wonderful two volumes. Well, I’m sure every book you open includes materials from Dumbarton Oaks. Just recently, I just check one book in my own library written by John Meyendorff. It’s about imperial unity during Justinianic times. And the book all illustrated from Dumbarton Oaks. Of course he thanked me for the illustrations, but they were Dumbarton Oaks. It’s so funny because it was so long ago. It was early 1990s and most of the photographs just came from Dumbarton Oaks. For me, it was very pleasant to see such great photographs. At the beginning, I just look at the photographs, but when I saw them, I say “oh, what wonderful photographs,” but when I look at the credit I realize that these are our photographs, so that is really beneficial for me. And I must say I am also grateful for the current staff because whenever I come, people are very helpful. When I come for the – although I knew of course the fieldwork archive, but you need to go many times if you work for different projects. I was able to get more materials for the article I submitted to Dumbarton Oaks, which will be published next year – in a year – on the south vestibule of Hagia Sophia. I’m working on the book on Hagia Sophia. I’m just polishing it. I got most of my materials from Dumbarton Oaks, from the – the staff was very helpful to me. The Byzantine Collection; the samples, you know some of the materials are in the Byzantine Collection – the samples of mosaic, tesserae, and the plaster. They are there. I work on them, and that is extraordinary material, without this material I would not be able to do, I would say, complete work for what I am doing now.
JWC: Outside of the other Princeton Index sites, are there any other collections that you know of that are as comprehensive where you can do the same type of work?
NT: Yes. Well, there are other collections which I included, actually, in the manual for the fieldwork archives. I went to study the archives at Harvard: the Bliss Collection, also, the Whittemore collection. There are sixty-seven boxes of the Bliss Collection. Of course, we have the basis. They have more historical secondary materials. Very important for Dumbarton Oaks? Not specifically, but I learned a lot about the background, the role of Harvard, and the role of some individuals with whom the Blisses were in touch. Actually, when I look at the website on Dumbarton Oaks on Wikipedia, I noticed a wonderful article about Dumbarton Oaks, about the Blisses actually. But one important thing was missing. It was the Blisses roles in their help to restore Christian monuments in Istanbul. Also they gave money for exploration and restoration elsewhere. They help the Red Cross in Europe in 1915. That’s how they met Whittemore, who actually went to Europe to help refugees, and Whittemore went to Russia and so on and met people. So, the role of Blisses is enormous because they understood the significance of – it was not just simply a charity, they understood the significance. Of course, they helped people. They were very helpful, but also they work also to restore important monuments – and Kariye Djami and Hagia Sophia the monuments which you can find in any book. I think their role in this is very important. And also Dumbarton Oaks’s role in this was extraordinarily important because Dumbarton Oaks after Thomas Whittemore died in 1950, Dumbarton Oaks took over the project and continued to restore both Hagia Sophia and Kariye Djami. There were other projects, but this site is not actually – is omitted from the article like I read, and this was one of the important parts, and the Blisses’, of course, role of helping people. I’ve found some notes, in Harvard archives, that lots of people came, especially during the war and asked for money and they always gave $50, $25, you know. Just for people who came to them asking for help.
JWC: That about does it for me. If there are any other important things you think we haven’t covered or if there are any other questions?
NT: Well, I will think about it and will probably will tell Rona tomorrow.
JWC: Well, thank you very much for coming in today. We appreciate it.
NT: My pleasure. Thank you.