Peter Jacobs

Oral History phone interview with Peter Jacobs, undertaken by telephone by Veronica Koven-Matasy on August 12, 2010. At Dumbarton Oaks, Peter Jacobs was a member of the Board of Senior Fellows of the Garden and Landscape Studies Program (1998–2005). He was also the first Beatrix Farrand Distinguished Fellow in Garden and Landscape Studies (spring 2008).

VKM: Hello, my name is Veronica Koven-Matasy. It is August 12, 2010, and I am at the Main House of Dumbarton Oaks to conduct a phone interview with Professor Peter Jacobs about his time at Dumbarton Oaks. And I believe you're joining me from Montreal.

PJ: That is correct.

VKM: All right. Thank you for agreeing to speak with me. According to our records, you joined the board of Senior Fellows in Garden and Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks in 1999, is that correct?

PJ: No. 1998 to 2004.

VKM: All right.

PJ: And I received a letter from Harvard University to that effect on July 14, 1998.

VKM: Okay. So how did you first come to be involved with Dumbarton Oaks? Just, they sent you a letter?

PJ: The network of people involved with Landscape and Garden Studies is not extensive; most of us know each other. I happened to be good friends with John Dixon Hunt and subsequently with Michel Conan, mostly from my academic and professional environment. They of course were both Directors at one point or another in Landscape and Garden Studies and it was through that connection, I believe, that I was invited to become a Senior Fellow. Previously, I have both a Masters in Architecture and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from Harvard University, and subsequently taught there on two or three occasions. So I have a nice link, if you will, between the Graduate School of Design, Dumbarton Oaks, and the field of Landscape and Garden Studies.

VKM: OK. When you first came to Dumbarton Oaks, what were your initial impressions?

PJ: My initial impressions of Dumbarton Oaks actually preceded my being a member of the Senior Fellows. On a number of occasions, both as a graduate student and then as a professor in the School of Landscape Architecture at Harvard, I had traveled to Washington on various missions and had made it a point to drop into Dumbarton Oaks on a number of occasions to visit the library that they had at that point on landscape and garden history. I was well received although then, as now, there's a certain kind of hierarchical atmosphere that pervades Dumbarton Oaks. And as a student I was perhaps less warmly welcomed than as a professor, and I must say that the only thing that's changed, let's say from the ’70s to the current situation, is that security has become an overwhelming issue at Dumbarton Oaks. I felt much freer when I was there initially than as time progressed. That's something that of course is an administrative nightmare, I'm sure, but as a user and as a member of the community of Fellows, I found that the security issues interrupted a fair amount of the normal comings and goings and interactions amongst people at Dumbarton Oaks. But that's perhaps more extensive a comment than you wanted at this point.

VKM: Not at all. Can I ask, we have some records about your serving as a Fellow in spring of 2008, but not a lot.

PJ: OK. After I left as a Senior Fellow – I left in 2004 – I subsequently was invited to participate in the Symposium on Contemporary Landscape Design in 2005, and thereafter I kept in contact with Michel Conan. And he, I believe, talked to Ned Keenan about appointing me as the first Beatrix Farrand Distinguished Senior Fellow. There aren't too many records on that particular era – I'm not quite sure why – but the essential research that I was involved with at that time was on the transformative impacts of large-scale development infrastructure on the landscape. Examples that you would be familiar with in the States would be the TVA project in Tennessee, across the border the Saint Lawrence Seaway Project, and further north in Canada the James Bay Hydroelectric Project, all of which transformed the landscapes in which they were introduced, and I was doing research on those impacts. I only spent about four or five months as Distinguished Fellow in the winter and spring of 2008.

VKM: OK. And you were living at Dumbarton Oaks while you were doing that?

PJ: My wife and I – who I’ve been married to for 43 years – lived in one room upstairs in the old Fellows Building, and it was sort of like being in camp all over again. We have a very nice home in Montreal with a big backyard. We garden and do all sorts of things. And I must say living in one room upstairs was quite a challenge, and the fact that we're still married indicates that we might still get along fairly well!

VKM: Sounds like college all over again

PJ: You got it. Your college roommate however is not necessarily your wife! That's how we spent that particular period of our stay at Dumbarton Oaks. My wife, as well, was on sabbatical leave – she's also a professor – so we managed to actually enjoy ourselves very much in Washington.

VKM: I'm glad to hear it! Throughout your tenure at Dumbarton Oaks, were there any particularly memorable projects that you worked on?

PJ: Well, there were quite a number of activities that were happening during the time I was there. Certainly the beginning of the contemporary landscape focus was something that I personally was very much involved with and very supportive of, the preposition– proposition; a preposition is not the kind of thing you want to end a sentence with. But I was nonetheless very supportive of that initiative and got involved with the symposium and published a paper on Fernando Chacel's work in Brazil. I really believe that Dumbarton Oaks needs to expand its fairly substantial reputation as a center of history of landscape architecture to include contemporary work as well, and certainly Michel Conan, who was Director at the time, devoted a great deal of energy to that. I think we initiated something, which may or may not continue with the current Director of Studies. I'm not sure whether John Beardsley is that keen on continuing that initiative, but that certainly was one of the more interesting ones. I also was involved, not anywhere near as directly, with the initiative on garden archaeology, and one of the activities I was involved with was a symposium on Bernard Lassus's landscape approach, which I thought was particularly interesting; a book's been published on that work. What else – I was also involved in giving a Dumbarton Oaks public lecture on an aspect of landscape that I think is particularly interesting, and that's linking folklore and, let's say, the other side of a scientific approach to landscape conservation. The other side being more that of the artistic and folklore-type of background to why people relate to the landscape the way they do. I gave a public lecture on that, and it was actually quite well received. I was quite pleased with its reception. So I would say basically the workshops, the symposia, and the seminars that we were involved with for well over six years, and then that very nice four or five-month stint as a Distinguished Senior Fellow was really a highlight of my activities with Dumbarton Oaks.

VKM: At some points in the past, there has been tension between Harvard and Dumbarton Oaks over a lot of issues, but often financial. Did you ever get a sense of the prevailing feeling towards Harvard at Dumbarton Oaks while you were there?

PJ: Well, of course I'm one of the few people that may have some insight not only on the feeling of Dumbarton Oaks towards Harvard but let's say, Harvard towards Dumbarton Oaks, but it would be limited to the Landscape and Garden Studies domain. The Graduate School of Design – where I mentioned I graduated from it and taught there – never related to Dumbarton Oaks in any viable fashion. I believe the split between the profession and the professional education somehow or other never really linked clearly with Dumbarton Oaks, which was a center of historical research at that time. And somehow or other Harvard didn't really have much to do with Dumbarton Oaks, and Dumbarton Oaks frankly didn't have that much to do with Harvard in the Graduate School of Design. The metaphor that I use was it was like very young children engaged in parallel play in the same sandbox. They were doing their thing side by side but not really communicating in any way whatsoever. The issue of money, frankly I think that was much more a relationship of Dumbarton Oaks to Harvard as an institution more than the Graduate School of Design because I don't believe there was very much competition between the Graduate School of Design for funds from Harvard and Dumbarton Oaks for funds from Harvard. But there is little question in my mind that of the three centers of studies, Landscape and Garden Studies is – to be generous – the younger of the three children, and certainly the less well supported. That's a whole other issue. I think both Ned Keenan and Jan have been quite supportive of the Landscape and Garden Studies, but when it comes down the nitty-gritty of how many Fellows there are, how many Junior Fellows, how much money is available to each one of the sectors, etc, historically much more energy has been devoted to Pre-Columbian Studies and the Byzantine world than Landscape and Garden Studies. I think some of it is our fault, "our" being the collective group of people involved in Landscape and Garden Studies. We haven't managed to link the profession and the researchers together in any coherent way. Certainly the initiatives that John Dixon Hunt and Michel Conan attempted were an attempt to pique the interest of the academic professional community, and the Contemporary Design Collection was both Michel’s and my idea of a way of linking that community into Dumbarton Oaks in a more substantial manner. I still think it's the way to go. I have no idea whether or not that will be the way it goes, but until the Landscape and Garden Studies can link and attract a larger community of professionals and academics that are interested in the work that was being and is being generated at Dumbarton Oaks, I'm afraid it will always be the third wheel on the tricycle.

VKM: That's very interesting, actually. I'm going to move on a little bit to the social side of Dumbarton Oaks. Was there any attempt to encourage socialization among the scholars? I mean both the junior scholars and the senior scholars.

PJ: Well, again, as a Senior Fellow, we visited Dumbarton Oaks two or three times a year. We listened to the presentations of the Junior Fellows and the Fellows I think once a year to give them a reality check, if you will, or to encourage them with respect to the work they were doing. But as a Senior Fellow we weren't around that much to have a sense of the socialization process. What I can say, however, is this, that the idea that everybody had lunch together I think created a good atmosphere amongst the Fellows of the particular study groups. The landscape people would eat with the landscape people, and the Byzantines would eat with their group, and the pre-Columbians with theirs, and I suspect that certainly did contribute to a sense of community. When I was there as the Distinguished Senior Fellow, I was living there, and I was amazed at the lack of flow amongst the three groups. Certainly there are commonalities amongst the Landscape and Pre-Columbian Studies; there's no question about it. I guess I spent a fair amount of time trying to encourage that cross-fertilization when I was living there. And to some extent I think I was successful, but it takes a lot of animation because people are more inclined to focus on their own particular research and to work in silos, as the universities are now structured. They're basically trained to deal with the people that are dealing with the subjects that they're interested in. So the cross-fertilization I don't think is high. It does require nurturing and animation and I would say that it's a goal that Dumbarton Oaks should consider a little more carefully. But in the long run I must say that the scholars that are selected are generally selected because of their project proposals and are primarily focused on those project proposals, so it's understandable that taking a risk in trying to see what links between Pre-Columbian and Landscape and Garden Studies might exist requires a fair amount of energy and a fair amount of self-confidence on the part of the people involved to say, "hey, I'll take a look at this and maybe it'll produce something." It's not an easy situation for a young scholar to have to be confronted with, if you will. On the more senior level, I think that there was a great deal of interest in interacting, and that would be amongst the scholars and the directors of studies, incidentally, who really did spend a fair amount of time talking to each other. It may just be an age-related thing or where you happen to be in your career path that would define perhaps the willingness or lack thereof to interact with other fields. Sorry; that was a fairly long and a convoluted explanation, but it's a complicated issue.

VKM: Yeah. Do you think the garden archaeology initiative is related to that desire in the Senior Fellows to have more interaction between the departments?

PJ: I think that it's a kind of an activity, which was generated largely by Michel Conan. But Michel had a former student, Aicha Malek, who worked with Wilhelmina Jashemski, and it was a very powerful sort of two people. Aicha was just really, really very bright, and Wilhelmina recognized it and had not only no problem with it, but was very supportive. Michel basically added a lot of the administrative and intellectual push behind that, and I think it was an attempt to reach beyond the common borders that usually define what Landscape and Garden Studies are, but he did that in a number of other areas as well. There was a gentleman named James Dickie, who was an interesting researcher – I believe he was British by birth – who had spent a great deal of time in and around the Alhambra, understood and read and wrote Arabic beautifully, and was one of the first to be encouraged to start looking at the linguistic properties of the decorations of the Alhambra, and to try and relate the landscape structure with the semiotic, if you will, messages that occur throughout the Alhambra. And that was the first time, I believe, that that initiative was taken. So there are quite a number of interesting intellectual stories that have occurred, generated primarily by the Director of Studies, not exclusively but primarily, and in the time that I was there certainly strongly supported and improved, if that's the right word but elaborated perhaps is a better word, by the Senior Fellows.

VKM: Did you ever attend the symposia and talks for Byzantine and Pre-Columbian Studies, or the concerts by the Friends of Music program?

PJ: Well, when Ellen and I were living there, we attended the concerts with enormous pleasure. It's an unbelievable privilege to be seated in what's called the Music Room, let's say about 30 feet away from some of the best musicians in the world. You sort of feel like they have been invited into your living room. It was a marvelous experience. In terms of the symposia, as a Fellow I went to all of the symposia that were given by Landscape, Byzantine and Pre-Columbian Fellows or Junior Fellows. I'm not quite sure which was which, when I was there, and actually believe that I contributed a fair amount of comments from my perspective, particularly in the Pre-Columbian context because much of what they were doing was situated in landscape settings that I suggested had an impact on why they were where they were, why they were oriented the way they were oriented, etc., etc. And I really enjoyed very, very much listening to the presentations of the Fellows in fields that weren't my own. So yes, I was very much involved in all three.

VKM: You were also at Dumbarton Oaks during the construction of the new library, right?

PJ: Yeah

VKM: Can you give me a sense of your reaction to that project, and that of your colleagues?

PJ: Well, I was involved with Ned Keenan at the very, very beginning, when the first proposal was made, which created an enormous storm of protest. The initial proposal was to put the library underneath the grass lawn in front of the main building, extending towards the ravine. And it was to be an underground library, no visibility, etc., etc., and all sorts of people had all sorts of problems with that particular proposal – myself included, incidentally. And then, because of my background, I guess, I was asked and offered some advice with respect to what alternatives might be available, and whether or not it was or wasn't viable to proceed with the first proposal. The second proposal, which is the one that was generated towards the end of my tenure as chair of the Senior Fellows, seemed to be more consistent with a campus type of approach to developing the property, and when I came back and used the library and lived in the Fellows Building, I must say that it was, I think, very successful as a way of developing the property without having any really significant visual impact at all. So I think that was quite successful. I think the way the buildings function is a little bit less successful, but that's a whole other issue.

VKM: Did you use the library collection much, either before or during or after the construction?

PJ: I used it very much after the construction, and again while I was resident. I believe that the library has a really amazing collection of books. Once again the books are segregated by the study centers, and because I had the time, I found that there were quite a number of books upstairs in the Pre-Columbian area that I found most interesting. I must say that the librarians, plural, were very, very helpful and supportive in terms of saying, "OK, why don't you go to the Library of Congress, why don't you go here, why don't you go there," for particular things that I was looking for that were not available in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection. But by and large I think the library is really an amazing resource. I have really, really serious issues with respect to security and how it operates, and how it relates to people as people. I think it is in desperate need of some more humanizing aspects. I'm not an expert in security; I have absolutely no problem with making certain that things are not stolen, etc., etc., but I think the approach towards the individuals that use the environment is frankly off-putting.

VKM: Yeah, it is a bit.

PJ: I'm being extraordinarily gentle. When I was there, a young lady who I assume is approximately your age – we've never met so I'm guessing, but she was not an elderly lady – forgot her card with the color-coded thing, and they wouldn't let her in. They knew exactly who she was, etc., etc., and she said, "Look, I just have to go to my desk and get my book and come back," whatever the story was, and they just wouldn't. And she just broke down and almost had a nervous breakdown, because the whole approach was, "you're guilty, now prove you're innocent." It's not very scholarly, let's put it that way.

VKM: Is it all right for me to move on to talking about the Board of Senior Fellows now? You were a member of the Board of Senior Fellows in Garden and Landscape Studies for six years. What would you consider to be the major responsibilities of the Board while you were there?

PJ: I would say the formal major responsibility is to choose the Fellows for each new year, the Fellows and the Junior Fellows, to help shape the annual symposia, to chair sessions at the annual symposia, to suggest and support new initiatives for the Landscape Garden Studies component of Dumbarton Oaks, but the informal and probably most important activity of the Senior Fellows is to support and be critical of the Director of Studies, and to support the Director of Studies and the Landscape and Garden Studies component itself vis-à-vis the Director of Dumbarton Oaks. Basically to make the case for the new initiative and for the need for more support if such is necessary. And I would say that there's an awful lot that is critical in terms of the interpersonal relationships between the Senior Fellows, the Director of Studies and the Director of Dumbarton Oaks, which is virtually impossible to put down on paper in any formal way.

VKM: You were also chairman of the Board. Did that have any special responsibilities attached to it?

PJ: Well, I have a very good relationship both with Michel Conan, who's the Director of Studies, and with Ned Keenan, whom I liked a lot and I know he liked me a lot so it wasn't difficult for me to bring up issues with him. I was asked to help with my advice on the building project, which really almost more than anything else characterized the time that he was there. I know professionally that the number of meetings that Ned Keenan must have had with the myriad groups, both public and citizen groups, that were concerned with the development of Dumbarton Oaks – he must have had a thousand meetings over a three or four year period. And I was happy to help him with whatever advice I could give on that particular issue, and generally to make his life as pleasant as possible for the modest amount of time that I spent there as a Senior Fellow.

VKM: All right. Did you work closely with any of the other members of the Board?

PJ: Well, again, the Senior Fellows meet twice a year – sometimes three times, but usually twice a year – so it is much more a network of people than it is a working colleague relationship. I certainly did review a number of papers that were written by members of the Senior Fellows, supported a book proposal by one of them. You know, you do that kind of thing, but it's not usually the kind of thing where you develop a working colleague relationship and you're working on the same project together. The Senior Fellows basically come from all over North America and Europe, and in my case, there was even a Senior Fellow from Latin America, South America in fact. So no, you keep in touch through emails and through short notes and things of that nature, but I would say that it's more a networking procedure than it is a working relationship.

VKM: You said that mostly you just heard the presentations from the Junior Fellows and that was it. Were there any that you did work with?

PJ: Well, certainly not as a Senior Fellow, because as I said, our time is three days twice a year, so you can't really develop a working relationship with a Junior Fellow, other than if you might have known them before, and in one or two cases the Junior Fellows may have been students of Senior Fellows. I can't think of any specific examples, but that wouldn't surprise me. I know John Dixon Hunt sent a number of people from the University of Pennsylvania to Dumbarton Oaks, but I don't think he was Director of Studies at that point. So, we would know who they were, we'd be supportive of them, but we didn't really have a working relationship.

VKM: OK. One thing that I noticed when I was reading over the minutes of the Senior Fellows Board meetings was that you were often pushing to make things available online.

PJ: Yes.

VKM: How do you think Dumbarton Oaks handled the expanding importance of the Internet and Internet technology?

PJ: Boy, well, I will be frank. They handled it in the typical Dumbarton Oaks manner, which is, I would say, to look at the whole issue very thoroughly. I would say it was more a dramatic opera approach than, let's say, like jazz. They tend to crush problems to death, and in the development of a website, I would say that they've come a long way. I think they could be a lot further along, and I think it's a question once again of thinking a little bit further outside the box than they have a tendency to do. Now, having said that, I'm not really super aware of all the constraints that they're operating under. I know they have serious questions of protecting copyrights on materials that they have, etc., etc., so I guess my sense of getting involved with the Internet and everything that it represents – I would have hoped that it would have evolved a little bit more than it has, but I am sympathetic to the fact that there may be some serious constraints of which I am not that aware.

VKM: I listened to an interview, I think with John Duffy, where he said that Ned Keenan was someone who was also really pushing to have Dumbarton Oaks adopt new technology faster. Do you think that's also true?

PJ: Absolutely. I think Ned Keenan was, if I'm not mistaken, and I don't think I am, I think he was a consultant to the Library of Congress because of his expertise with respect to digital and digitalizing, if you will, materials. And there are a lot of problems associated with such a procedure. But he was definitely literate, if not extremely literate, with respect to electronic media and with respect to the whole electronic world. I think he was frustrated by the processes that he had to deal with at Dumbarton Oaks, and Lord knows that if he had trouble with it then there must have been some really serious constraints, because he was the boss!

VKM: This is a really general question, but what you would consider the greatest accomplishments of the Board while you were a member?

PJ: I would say there were three things. The support that was given by the Board for a contemporary landscape initiative, I think that was extremely important. It was well supported and, as I said, I'm not aware of how far down the line it's gone. That was certainly, I think, one of the more important things. I think the other thing was the support we gave the Director of Studies, Michel Conan, with respect to thinking outside the box, garden ecology being one issue, but there were others. I think that was important. By and large I would say the Board was relatively – actually, quite successful with Ned Keenan in terms of encouraging him to provide better and more support to Landscape Studies. I think Jan was not involved when I was – I left I think at the same time as Ned Keenan, so the only relationship I had with Jan was essentially when I came back as the Distinguished Senior fellow, and my relationship with him on a personal basis, both with he and his wife, was excellent. I'm not sure how much he has or hasn't provided support to Landscape Studies. I'm not in that loop anywhere as much as I used to be.

VKM: Was there anything you would consider a failure on the part of the Board?

PJ: Yes, I think our failure – and it's been a failure for a while; I don't think I would limit it to me or my contemporary colleagues – we have not been successful in interesting the profession and interesting the academics in more than a really tangential manner, interesting them in the work that Dumbarton Oaks Fellows are doing, the papers they're generating, etc. And I think that's a serious problem. Just to give you a little bit more background, I am a Fellow of the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects and the American Society of Landscape Architects. I was president of the Canadian Society, I write frequently for Landscape Architecture Magazine, and know the professionals very well. So I'm really linked in to the professional component, but somehow or other I just haven't been able to generate any kind of flow between Dumbarton Oaks and the profession, either in Canada or the States. So those that are linked in to Dumbarton Oaks are linked in through symposia, the occasional workshop or seminar, but it's a fleeting kind of relationship. It's not a very permanent one. And that's a failure.

VKM: That actually segues very nicely into discussing Garden and Landscape Studies as a field, because you're certainly not the only person to talk about that as a problem at Dumbarton Oaks. Are there any other really systemic issues in the way Dumbarton Oaks interacts with the field of Garden and Landscape Studies?

PJ: Dumbarton Oaks, I think, is largely centered around supporting researchers to do research that they want to do. And they select the researchers through the use of the Senior Fellows. So the process is basically quite inward looking. There isn't really, for instance, a program to develop research in contemporary landscape architecture, and therefore by a “thing” that you may or may not select as a Fellow. So each year we get a package of about forty, or let's say forty or fifty candidates, who are asking for Dumbarton Oaks's support of their research interests, and we pick the six, eight or ten ones that seem to us to be the most interesting and useful. Not useful, the most interesting intellectually. Obviously, of that group, I would say the majority would probably not be of any direct interest to the profession. And that's where the disconnect occurs, and I'm not sure it occurs anywhere nearly as severely, let's say with Pre-Columbian, where the academic, professional, and research communities are more tightly knit, better integrated, than they are in Landscape Studies.

VKM: Do you think the Garden and Landscape Studies Center here is doing anything to address that?

PJ: Well, I think one of the things Jan did by selecting the current Director of Studies is to say, "Well, first of all we've got to get a better link with the Graduate School of Design, and second of all we've got to get someone in here who knows more about the general professional field." This is not a knock on John Dixon Hunt and not a knock on Michel Conan, but neither one nor the other was particularly linked in to the profession. And unfortunately, although both have sparkling academic backgrounds and careers, and both are good friends, and I have a huge amount of respect for both, they just didn't create the link with the profession that they hoped to. I think Jan's choice of Beardsley was basically to try and increase the opportunities to make that link. It's going to be a long row to hoe because Dumbarton Oaks has established a kind of standoffish relationship with the academic and professional community, which makes this attempt to establish better relationships a little more difficult. I don't think it's a one-way problem, incidentally; I would not in any way whatsoever say, "Well, all of the problem is because of Dumbarton Oaks;" that's simply not true.

VKM: What do you think were some of the major changes in Garden and Landscape Studies during your time at Dumbarton Oaks?

PJ: I think the most important change was to divest the program of its Euro-centric focus. The introduction of a preoccupation with Japanese, Chinese, Persian, Indian, and Latin-American landscapes, and in my case also perhaps the Northern landscapes, Arctic landscapes, really moved Garden and Landscape Studies away from the Italian villa, the French château, and the English country garden, and expanded that kind of paradigm to a much, much broader focus on landscape. I think that's extremely significant. Again, it requires much more support than is available at Dumbarton Oaks. There's no question in my mind that the program is undernourished, and I think that the most significant change has been that shift away from what I guess you would call classical historical studies of garden and landscape to a much broader focus.

VKM: OK. Do you remember any important collaborations with other institutions in Garden and Landscape Studies?

PJ: And Dumbarton Oaks?

VKM: Yeah

PJ: No. There has not in my mind been a specific collaboration between Dumbarton Oaks and, let's say, the University of Illinois. What there has been is an attempt, through workshops and symposia, to bring together a number of professors of landscape architecture and Dumbarton Oaks to see whether or not it was possible to create a more supportive environment, if you will, between the academic community and Dumbarton Oaks. But in terms of specific institutions, other than, for instance, the University of Pennsylvania because John Dixon Hunt was at one point the Director of Studies and then became a professor at the University of Pennsylvania – obviously there's a link but it certainly wasn't a formal one.

VKM: How would you view the place of Dumbarton Oaks in the larger context of the Garden and Landscape Studies field?

PJ: It really does depend on how large you want to think of Garden and Landscape Studies. In terms of a research center, amongst committed historians and researchers, there's no question that it is one of the key centers of that kind of work. There are at least three that I know of in China that are comparable, they've been around longer, have many more staff, etc., etc., certainly one in Japan. So, it would be incorrect to say that Dumbarton Oaks is the only center of this kind of study, but I would say that it's certainly one of the most important for the production that it has supported of research and for its own publications, which is a whole other issue. The publications field is something where Dumbarton Oaks really was very much in the forefront at the beginning of the seventies and the eighties, by the nineties it was rolling along on its own steam. And then when Michel Conan arrived, instituted symposia, published the symposia proceedings in a fairly regular manner, these documents became available to, I think, a larger community, but it's still a modest impact. The website, and here Ned Keenan really did have an impact, the number of so-called "hits" on the website for the material that comes out of Garden and Landscape Studies really has increased substantially, and I think that's very much a question of the website initiative taken at the time I was there.

VKM: Do you think that there's any sort of obligation on the part of Dumbarton Oaks to the field in terms of shaping the direction of research, or I guess setting new trends in the field, because of its stature?

PJ: I think its stature is exaggerated. I think that in the same way that I sometimes actually giggle when they assume that Harvard is the best university in America – you know, it's nice, it feels good, I'm a graduate so that makes me very important because I went to the best university in America. All of this of course is nonsense. I think that Dumbarton Oaks has an obligation to respect its mandate, and I really believe it does respect its mandate, which is to be supportive of research, which is the generation of new knowledge, in the three fields for which it is endowed. I think that it has broken the mold when it started, and certainly across a number of Directors of Study. I think Michel Conan definitely expanded the so-called field of Garden and Landscape Studies into areas that it hadn't yet been associated with, and I think that is the role of a place like Dumbarton Oaks. I think it's fulfilled that role very well, but once again, I have to caution, I'm on the inside looking out, and when I'm on the outside looking in, I'm not sure that Dumbarton Oaks has had as much impact as it ought to have had, given what it's done. That may be a question of marketing, and marketing is an area in which I have zero expertise, but I suspect that Dumbarton Oaks has done its job well, thoroughly and properly. But I also suspect that the impact has not been as large as it might be.

VKM: So, if I start wrapping up now, do you have any memories, positive or negative, that stick out in your mind about Dumbarton Oaks?

PJ: Well, the only negative memory I have, and it's sort of silly, is the enormously hierarchical issues with respect to security and everything else. I would say that's a pain in the butt, if you will excuse the expression. But for the most part I would say the physical environment is exceptional, the social environment for me was extremely positive, I was happy to meet many of the colleagues as Senior Fellows that I had not known before. I think there's a wealth of interesting people at Dumbarton Oaks that people never get to meet, and that can be the Director of Buildings and Grounds, which turned out to be a person living in the Senior Fellows Building with me when I was there the last time, who's a bright, incredibly interesting person, as were many of the other staff of Dumbarton Oaks – and of course by and large the scholars and the staff don't mix. And that's too bad, because there are a whole lot of people in both communities that are really exceptional people. I would say the physical setting, the people, the museum, the music, the library – it's a little bit of a paradise. In fact, it's probably an environment that's so interesting that I'm not sure it would be a productive place to be for a long time. It's sort of like the Princeton Center of Advanced Studies, where people just sit and think. There isn't too much tension with respect to students aggravating you and colleagues fighting over how much toilet paper ought to be distributed in the bathrooms, that kind of stuff. No, the many times that I did spend at Dumbarton Oaks over probably a twenty year period I have to say were very positive, very fond memories.

VKM: Is there anything that I've left out that you would like to add?

PJ: I doubt it.

VKM: Well, good!

PJ: I guess I have two stories for you and then I'll stop. One is that I got so aggravated with the color-coding of the lanyard for security that my wife beaded me a lanyard in which all of the different colors were put on the lanyard, and I could pass myself off as a Junior Fellow, a Senior Fellow, a distinguished this, an undistinguished that, so that was one story. And the other story was when Michel Conan resigned – not resigned, I mean, I don't know what he did, but at the end of ten years, I think he resigned, yeah, as Director of Studies; he was Director of Studies for ten years, which is a long time – we had a wonderful small little party for him amongst the Fellows and Senior Fellows, and we gave him a garden gnome. We inscribed it and then hid it in the garden; I have no idea if it's ever been discovered, but somewhere in Dumbarton Oaks there is a garden gnome that's dedicated to Michel Conan, and I hope we hid it well enough for it to remain hidden for quite a while.

VKM: I'll ask the gardeners if they've seen it.

PJ: OK! Anyway, that pretty much is a good summary of my time at Dumbarton Oaks.

VKM: Thank you very much!

Document Actions