Rebecca Rollins Stone
AD: Good morning. I’m Alyce de Carteret. It is Tuesday, August 10, 2010, and I have the pleasure of speaking with Rebecca Rollins Stone, currently an Associate Professor of Art History at Emory University, and formerly a Senior and Junior Fellow in Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks. Thank you so much for joining me today.
RRS: Thank you.
AD: So, just to begin, how did you come to know about Dumbarton Oaks and what were your initial impressions of the institution?
RRS: Well, my first week at graduate school at Yale we were at a party for welcoming the new graduate students, and Mary Miller burst in in her inimitable fashion, with lots of energy, and she said she had just come back from Dumbarton Oaks, and I didn’t know what that was. But I just kept my mouth shut because I was so new at all of this, and I hadn’t studied pre-Columbian art before, and I wasn’t even sure whether I was going to do pre-Columbian or African. So, gradually I figured out that she had just come from a beautiful, wonderful, perfect year of writing her dissertation there – she was just finishing it my first year – and she just – I remember her being very bubbly and just effusive about it and how wonderful it was. And then I pieced together what it was, and that it was the center of the universe for us. And she assumed and vowed that I would go there too, that she would get me in or she would help me, and that’s where I needed to be to write my dissertation. So, I was programmed from the beginning to do Dumbarton Oaks and to go to the symposia and just try to insinuate myself there. And I have to admit that it was frightening at first. It’s always been a little daunting to have all of the experts who come together, and you have to really be on your game when you’re at Dumbarton Oaks. And at the beginning when I really didn’t know, I was taking courses from George Kubler. I was his last official student and Mary Miller’s first official student, so I was right in between those generations. And in my first classes with him I just took notes, just wrote down everything he said and figured I would figure it out – and I did figure it out in about three years – so it was all very new to me. But it was kind of magical. It was a place where you sort of went in the front door and then you were in its own little world with the gardens and the swimming pool and the books everywhere, because this was all in the original house, it was way before the fancy new things were built. So, it was a very intense and exciting and daunting place for me as a graduate student. Then I got to know Don Rice when I was there as a Junior Fellow and he invited me to give a paper in the Horizon Style conference, which was also very – quite a prestigious thing. I didn’t realize at the time that graduate students almost never give papers there. So, I just said, “Yes, of course,” and wrote my paper. And I guess this jumps to the – my story jumps to the, “What were the symposia like?” I don’t know whether you want to –
AD: Sure, go ahead.
RRS: Okay. Well, the interesting part of being in that symposium when I was a graduate student was that, because I was maybe a little bit outside of the field, not really knowing the importance of all the different people, I decided to concentrate in my paper on how chronological charts, our idealized stratigraphic chronologies – like, looking like a perfect stratigraphy – and I was criticizing how archaeologists present time as changing, the phases changing, and that there’s some sort of absolute change and it’s like a beautiful stratigraphy. And so I used Gordon Willey’s chart that he had in the 1971 intro, and he was sitting in the front row while I was giving the paper and I sort of realized that – he was the Bowditch Chair at Harvard – and I sort of realized that as I was speaking, and I just was like, “Okay, just keep going.” And so afterwards he came up to me and I sort of was blanching and I went, “I hope I didn’t offend you.” And he said, “No, I thought it was great. You’re absolutely right.” So, I was like, “Oh, whew.” In a way, my approach to Dumbarton Oaks has always been you have to really just get yourself really up and strong and say what you mean and take the consequences. So, when I ended up giving a paper in ’97 on the Inca royal tunic in the collection – and I did a lot of research and I focused, I spent a lot of time working on that paper, and wrote it up word for word. I mean, Dumbarton Oaks is the only place that I read something word for word. I was taught at Yale not to read texts, and I never have except there. And then when I was giving that paper – and it caused some controversy. Some people stood up and Esther Pasztory didn’t like me using the word chaos and, “You can’t say chaos and nuh-nuh-nuh.” And Ann Rowe said, “You don’t have any proof for anything you just said,” because it was art history. But the art historians loved it, and Joanne Pillsbury has talked about me giving it again sometime up there. So, I think it’s the most stimulating and challenging environment. It can also be really frustrating. Some of the conferences have just frustrated me very much. The one about communication where they had the Andes and Mesoamerica, and sitting in the audience can sometimes be really kind of frustrating. And the conversations, the question periods afterwards can be – you know, they have a real – people are really strongly attached to their positions. And as an Andeanist I have always felt a little bit of the underdog, as is Andean. But one of your questions is the Andean balance – is there a good balance? – and I think when I was on the Senior Fellows Board that was probably our – I think it was one of our main goals was to make sure that the Andean was not eclipsed, even knowing that many of the proposals from the Mesoamericanists are quote, unquote “further along” because there are many more people to stand on the shoulders of. But we were committed to that balance. And when I was there the majority of the committee was Andeanist, especially when it switched to Jeffrey Quilter. So, it was Jeffrey Quilter and then it was Joanne Pillsbury, so it’s continued, this Andean element to it, which was very good. And our other goal, I think, was to try to get more fellowships, to have the balance between Byzantine and Pre-Columbian better. And sometimes I think that the committee didn’t get that. We were having a meeting where Ned was willing to have more fellowships for the Pre-Columbianists and we were arguing about different people and everybody was doing their academic criticisms. “Well, he could’ve done this,” and, “I don’t like that footnote.” And then during a break I pulled some of these people over and I said, “You know what, we need to show that every one of these things is so good and worthy that we can’t decide between them, because if you want Ned to give us more positions, that’s what our goal is.” I was being very straightforward with these people. And then after that they were like, “Oh!” And it was funny. I would say those were the two main goals, and I felt like that was a really good situation. I interacted with – in your director’s question – I interacted with Robert Thomson when I was there as a Junior Fellow, and I also had a position – Oh, actually what we should add is that my first job in 1987–88 was a joint position between Dumbarton Oaks and Johns Hopkins. It was a research associate I think it was called. I was the second one to have it. There had been one, Dorie Reents-Budet had had it and then she had quit. And then there had been a hiatus and then I took it and I actually quit. And it was all because of Johns Hopkins. It was all because of the Johns Hopkins side, it was not the Pre-Columbian side. It was a soft-money job, and I felt bad about it, but I just told Elizabeth Boone and everyone that it was impossible working at Johns Hopkins.Professor Stone explained further via e-mail: “The job was a soft money 3 year grant to bridge Anthropology and Art History and be "Non-Western." The Anthro people cared nothing for art, the art history ones were entirely Euro-centric so it was basically an idea that no one really wanted there. The dept. was very difficult personally, the commuting back and forth to Baltimore every couple of days but not being paid enough to have two places – I chose DC – made the logistics difficult. Just a bad arrangement. Dorie Reents-Budet had had the position two years before and she had quit it as well, so it was a doomed job. It was also the year they were doing massive renovations at DO and it was generators, cutting mosaics, fumes, noise, and horror the whole time! Yikes.” So anyway, I don’t know, that just reminded me. Anyway, Robert Thomson –
AD: Before we get into the directors, if I could bring it back to the discussion of symposia and publications, you mentioned that, particular, in some cases some of the symposia were more frustrating than others, and I was wondering if you thought they were frustrating because they tried to encompass both Andeanist and Mesoamericanist scholars?
RRS: No, I’m very committed to that. I mean, I feel like we have to have that. And one of the more interesting ones also had the Southwest. I forget which one that was. Was it Pilgrimage or – ? I know there was some paper about the Southwest. Even though the rest of us don’t know much about it, it still was really – I think we should be as broad as possible between the two. It’s just the – I mean, part of it is just people’s personalities. And I also worked with Michael Coe at Yale, and I know him and I am fond of him and I understand his personality. He stood up and said, “Well, you know, the Maya are better because they can write a sentence. End of story.” And that was just like, “Ahh!” I just wanted to scream. So, a lot of it is – but I think it’s hard. I think it’s a very difficult thing that the Blisses put together, where archaeologists and art historians and people doing the Andes, Meso- and Central America – my second specialty after Peru is Central America, Costa Rica – and except for the intermediate area there’s been a few, you know, there’s been the Gold, Wealth, and Power one. But, you know, there just really aren’t all that many people in that. So, I’m totally committed to having everybody, everything be represented but it’s just one of those fields in which where there’s more archaeologists and there’s more Mesoamericanists, and so you’re constantly in a position of having a dominant voice and a dominant approach and what evidence is. And it’s really almost like combining – the way in academia sociology and anthropology used to be in the same department. And they’re not the same thing, so they can’t really be in the same department. I mean, I think we absolutely need one another, but the two are such different thinkers. Archaeologists are literal and that’s what they’re good at, and they follow a wall until it ends and they’re dogged and patient and it’s hard for them sometimes to interpret more widely. And art historians are the opposite. So, you need both of them. We’re absolutely complementary to each other, and yet it’s like a marriage of opposites. So, I think it always – and I think the people who are – it’s still not a mainstream field so that the people that are in it are very intense individuals, and so they hold their opinions very strongly. And that’s good, that’s good for debate. And I think as I’ve gotten older and more secure as a scholar then Dumbarton Oaks – I can enjoy it and it’s not as overwhelming as it was when I was younger. And the conferences that we had outside – they were doing the building, they were building the new library, and so we couldn’t have the conference – and renovating the mansion – and so we couldn’t have the conference on site so there was one in Peru, there was one in Mexico City I couldn’t go to, but I went to the one in Lima, and those were wonderful. I mean, that was really a – those were great experiences. And I think having it in Latin America every few years is a really, really good idea.
AD: So we were talking earlier, then, about your time on the Senior Fellows committee, and I was wondering if you could speak a little bit about what your responsibilities were as a Senior Fellow and how you would describe the atmosphere of those meetings.
RRS: Okay. Well, because of the time when I was on the committee, a lot of it had to do with hearing what was happening with the building project, and we didn’t have much responsibility. It had a lot of getting permits and running into problems and delays and the usual stressful – and how were things going to be moved, so that was a lot of the news that we would be informed of. Mainly we were trying to hear where were each of the publications and what should we do, for example, about the Inca one that was dragging so badly. I mean, Craig Morris died in the middle of it. I mean, it’s almost like – that’s not something you can anticipate and that doesn’t work. But having three editors is a problem and we were trying to get more rules I think. We were saying, “Well, if someone doesn’t meet the deadline, then they’re out of the volume, and we have to just really be stricter. We can’t let all these people be a herd of cats.” And so we would kind of give permission to the director to be stricter and more hardnosed about that, which I think is good. And there were other struggles: trying to get the re-publication of the entire collection and who was going to do the Mesoamerican one and so on. So, we wrestled with these publication issues. We proposed topics and we reviewed topics for the symposia and tried to suggest, well, we need another art historian, usually. Who can we get? Should we include the Southwest? And so there were some good philosophical issues that we took on. And then mainly that would be the fall where we were dealing with those kinds of things, and then in the spring, in January, February, somewhere in there – it was always around inauguration, when George Bush was inaugurated, one of the low points – we would have read all of the applications over Christmas break and then we’d get together and wrangle over them. There was a wonderful collegiality. I really enjoyed staying in the Fellows’ Building and coming down for breakfast and going out to eat around the corner in the restaurants together and share a glass of wine. And I really liked meeting the people that I met. I wouldn’t have met Louise Paradis or Barbara Stark. Those were people that had never come into my circle. I’m good friends with Tom Cummins and Gary Urton, and that was all just really fun. And Jeffrey Quilter’s fantastic and Joanne is marvelous. So, it was a wonderful group even as it changed. I think there was always an undercurrent of Harvard dominating and if someone were a Harvard professor then basically it was understood that their students would have some priority. And I could make my peace with that, although I wanted to make sure that it was not just an elite club, and I was constantly saying, “Okay, can we let this person in? Can we let this person in? Let’s not make it an old boy club, please.” And we heard way too much about Harvard politics – especially from Ned Keenan – long, long, long stories with all this name-dropping and all these people that I don’t know who they are and all the ins and outs of Harvard, and that was just – I just knew that was going to be, and that was just the way it was. And people kind of just put up with it, they were just sort of patient with it. I don’t think there were any abuses. I certainly wouldn’t say that anybody got in who shouldn’t have a fellowship. I think pretty much ninety percent of the fellowships that are proposed would be absolutely worthy of one, and that was the frustration. That was, I think, the hardest part was to say there’s thirty of these. We want to help people from Latin America, we want to help people from lesser schools, we want to help the really incredible students from the great programs, and this measly three and a half fellowships is just not fair. And it always felt unfair that the Byzantinists never had to beat the bushes to get enough people. That was our feeling, I don’t know if it’s true, but that was our feeling, that they could beat the bushes to get anybody and give them a fellowship and we were turning away wonderful candidates. And so, there was always some kind of bitterness. And that’s when Ned was open to expanding, and that was really a wonderful sense of change and sense of having done a little bit of something to make a difference. So, I think that those meetings were exhausting. They were kind of a forced march. The chairs were extremely uncomfortable in the old – we would meet in that open library. So, they were a challenge. But I really liked doing it and being part of it and being able to go to Washington and see the collection for myself and run down to the Smithsonian or wherever, to the National Gallery, and to have an excuse to be in D.C. So it was a good gig and I really liked it.
AD: Now, while you were on the board, did the issue of repatriation or acquisition of new objects ever come up?
RRS: I’m trying to remember.
AD: Or was that an issue that you ever heard talked about while at Dumbarton Oaks?
RRS: It doesn’t loom large. It doesn’t loom large in my memory. I know that it’s something that we’re all concerned with, but the problem with the Yale stuff hadn’t really surfaced much by 2006 that I recall. It’s not something that I remember talking about very much. I remember getting some papers and archives and photographs and things like that, but I don’t remember much about objects coming in.
AD: And so let’s return, finally, back to your interaction with some of the directors of Dumbarton Oaks, like Robert Thomson and Ned Keenan, if you could, maybe, characterize their respective directorships.
RRS: Robert Thomson was a very upright, somewhat rigid person and it felt like the rules were all important under his reign and there was not a lot of leeway. And this was the way it was done, especially at Harvard. And there really wasn’t any room for change, which I felt was unfortunate. I understood it, he was a perfectly nice person, but he was not a warm or friendly or particularly open person, very formal. Ned Keenan was a very talkative person, long stories, liked to hear himself speak, very welcoming. I liked his wife. His wife was very liberal and political in causes and they were – we had nice lunches up there, beautiful delicious lunches. I think Ned was – he had all the same sort of trappings of being a traditionalist, and yet somehow he was more open-minded and so he was able to see that pre-Columbian needed a little more parity. And he was very thoughtful, and if he could just forestall the twenty-minute talk about something else, then – I enjoyed having him at the meetings to hear the deliberations and I respected him doing that with his time. So, both of them were very elegant and eloquent men who could stand up and do the Dumbarton Oaks toasts and the introductory speeches and very confident, but just somewhat different. And as I said I did not know Angeliki, so I can’t comment on her.
AD: Well, Ned Keenan was responsible for a lot of the reconstruction projects and for the building of the new library. What were your – and you worked with the old library when you were a Junior Fellow here – what were your thoughts –
RRS: [Overlapping] Yes, down in the basement.
AD: I’m sorry.
RRS: I was down in the basement in just a cubicle, down in the dark, windowless basement. I was grateful. I mean, I had been turned down for the Met, I had been turned down for different big grants because what I did was very strange. No one had ever heard of a Wari tunic before, so – and I was turned down the first time by Dumbarton Oaks. They said it wasn’t the right year, but they encouraged me to reapply. And then my year we had Bill Isbell and Anita Cook, so it was a Wari enclave. So, working down there in that basement was depressing. It was, I think, difficult to – it felt like putting your head in a bag, just in terms of the environment. In terms of being down there where all the books were, they were all down there and you could just run around the corner and grab one of fifteen thousand books. It was like a kid in a candy shop. And this is still me coming from Yale that had at the time six and a half million books. So, I wasn’t starving, but Dumbarton Oaks was like a feast. And I got a lot done. I got the majority of my dissertation written, I finished it the next year. I did the revisions in the fall and got it in in March of the next year. And I hadn’t really analyzed my data either, so I did the analysis and an entire draft while I was there. So, one was very productive because it was a gift not to be squandered. And it was fun, I liked being there as a Junior Fellow. We called it the golden leash, because there was having to go to the sherries and having to listen to the Byzantinists’ talks and the landscape talks. The landscape talks were interesting. The Byzantinist talks were very boring and kind of annoying because when they would come to our talks they would say, “Well, you don’t have any evidence.” I would show them fifty-six tunics of a staff-bearing figure and talk about something that was true of all of them and they would say, “Well, you don’t have any evidence because there’s nothing written.” And then we’d go to a talk of theirs where literally it was on the second half of a sentence, that’s all they had. And they said that that was, sort of, a superior type and amount of evidence. And so, it was a joke, you know. But the Byzantine talks, they never gave an introduction to who the Visigoths or the Ostrogoths or any of the Goths were, and we had to introduce – “This is Peru. This is South America, and this is Peru.” So, I mean, it was just sort of understood. And we also had Margaret MacLean that year who was the first – or one of the only ones, I don’t know if she was the first – but, to be both in Pre-Columbian and in landscape because she was doing Machu Picchu. So, we were – it was a pretty tight-knit group and that was fun. There was a woman from Germany and there was Peter Heather in Byzantine who teaches at Oxford. It was great. It could be a little distracting. You had to really buckle down because you knew you had to go to a talk or something at three or four, whenever it was, and you had to have these lunches, had to go to lunch. So, you had to really get your work in in the morning and then a chunk in the afternoon and keep your nose to the grindstone.
AD: So, between these different fields it seems academically they’re very different, but once you got outside of these talks, outside of the academic atmosphere, was there much social interaction between the different groups?
RRS: Mmhmm. Certainly the Junior Fellows. We socialized. We all lived up the hill, and there was another building way up Wisconsin that we had to walk to, about a mile straight up the hill.
AD: Oh, wow.
RRS: And it was kind of a depressing place with cockroaches. And I had a cockroach in my bed one night. But it was my own little apartment and I got to put up yellow curtains and it was – I was really grateful for that too. I was next door to Emily Umberger who was wonderful. And actually, you know, I’d like to say that’s – we interacted I think across the groupings pretty well from Senior to Junior. But it was sort of a camaraderie. You know, you’re walking up the hill, and as a woman I never wanted to really walk by myself, so we would walk in a clump. Yes, I think socially I really enjoyed it. We played croquet outside in the spring. There were some really fun times. We got to meet everybody. I mean, you felt like everyone who was anyone was likely to come through and meet them at lunch and they would give you some bibliography or some something, and so you were constantly being stimulated.
AD: Now, I’ve heard from some other people who have been interviewed that this kind of collegial atmosphere, this social atmosphere was, as you said, a little distracting in that sometimes people would come and not even get any work done on their dissertation and end up working on another project.
RRS: No, it was – yeah, that was a problem, and I was aware of that, and I vowed that that wasn’t going to happen to me, and I didn’t let it. I always felt like I might have been able – at the time, every day I felt like I might have been able to do more. And that’s why it was the golden leash, because you kept getting sort of yanked away. But yes, I think some people in the group were more distracted than others but some of them finished their – I remember Peter Heather, he had one hundred thousand words and I remember the day that he got his one hundred thousand words, and that was it.
AD: And in your work at Dumbarton Oaks as a Junior Fellow, you got to work with the collections?
RRS: Yes, there were a few pieces that – yeah, they have a few Wari tunics, and so I got to study them and put them into my dissertation, so that was good. By then I had done it – I found two hundred seventy-five individual pieces which when reconstructed became about one hundred seventy-five original tunics because people have cut them up and sold them as pieces to different collections, so by then I had gone to forty-eight museums on three continents and I pretty much knew how to do my research. So, getting those last pieces just took a matter of hours of what I did with the measurements and the color chipping and all the photographs and stuff. But at the same time I was also finishing up getting my data from the Textile Museum, so I would go over on Tuesdays and study their tunics, but that was another one of the wonderful things about being in Washington, D.C., was the access to that collection.
AD: And what were your impressions of the pieces in the Dumbarton Oaks collection?
RRS: Oh, they’re stunning. They’re very important, what they call the harvest textile, very important in my dissertation. It has color anomalies and that’s one of the things I was concentrating on. And if I had gotten to iconography – I ended up just doing technique and form because I had spent four years on my dissertation, and Mary Miller said, “You’re going to finish.” And I said, “Well, then I can’t do iconography.” And she said, “Don’t do iconography.” And I said, “How can you not do iconography?” And she said, “Don’t do iconography.” So I didn’t. But if I had, that one would have been really crucial. Although, now in my work more recently I’m totally concentrated on shamanism for the last ten years or so, and I would have a completely different interpretation of that, of those textiles than I had at the time. But they’re beautiful, beautiful examples, and they keep wonderful care of them. And just – absolutely one of the perfect museums, but also not dedicated to keeping you away from their pieces like some places that I studied at. The Art Institute of Chicago, it took me two weeks to study like two tunics because they really didn’t want to help scholars out much at the time. I appreciated that Dumbarton Oaks was really open with it, especially textiles. People have to be very careful with textiles, but you have to let them be studied so that we can know more about them.
AD: Was Elizabeth Boone the one in charge of the collections at the time?
AD: And did you have much interaction with her while you were there?
RRS: Oh yeah. Oh, Elizabeth’s fantastic. She’s so funny. And she had a wonderful trick of – when we would be at the Byzantine talks especially she would sit up at the beginning and then she would fall asleep, very demurely and non-obtrusively, and then right at the end she would wake up. And then she would ask a question from the beginning of the talk that sounded very intelligent. Or one time, I think she did it in a – I don’t remember whether it was a Byzantine or a Pre-Columbian talk – and she woke up and she said, “Rebecca has a question.” And I was like, “Okay, that’s not fair. That’s not fair. You have to come up with your own question from the first five minutes before you fell asleep.” So, I don’t know whether this is a story that she would want, but she probably would laugh at herself over it. No, Elizabeth Boone was just – she was batty but she’s one of the smartest people I know, and I think she had a sense of humor about the place that I think you have to have. I mean, I think Dumbarton Oaks can wile way your sense of humor. It’s a very small world. And I think they were very unfair to Jeffrey Quilter. They kind of yanked the rug out from under him very suddenly. And it didn’t seem clear, it wasn’t completely clear that his contract was up or that he knew that he had a certain amount of time and that that was going to be up. I don’t remember the details and it’s not worth going into, but there was some rancor about that transition and the committee was trying to help and did help so that he was not left in the lurch at that point. Yeah, Elizabeth Boone was a staple. She was an institution in and of herself. Janet Berlo was also – she was filling in for her the actual year – I guess it was the year that I was the research associate. I can’t – I think it was that year that she was filling in. And she did a wonderful job too. I think they have had fantastic leaders. I mean, I wasn’t around when Betty Benson was, but she had just stopped being the director when I first got into pre-Columbian things in 1980. I don’t know exactly when this was –
AD: Yeah, 1980.
RRS: Yeah, so she was – still had a powerful voice, and she was still around. She would have parties at her house and those kinds of things. Very nice.
AD: So, you have a unique position of being both a Junior Fellow and a Senior Fellow over a couple of decades’ time. How has the field of pre-Columbian studies at Dumbarton Oaks and in general grown and changed since you first became involved with the institution?
RRS: Well, definitely Andean became not a stepchild, and definitely some of the autocratic kind of control that certain thinkers had – that kind of a small crowd of important men – that became dissipated, and many more women and many younger people, younger scholars, many more – it seemed to me – more Latin American. I think it just, it became less a Harvard club and more of what it really needed to be to represent the field. And I think the field has just – it’s mushroomed in a number of people. Although I think the financial situations more recently have meant that – it seemed like positions in Pre-Columbian and Latin American were growing because of the Hispanics in the United States and all that, and then I think that unfortunately has tapered a little bit so that there’s maybe a little narrowing of it again. It’s not quite the boom that it was like in the ’90s. But I feel like there’s been a steady growth and a steady – much more sophistication, and I think there’s not quite the – there’s always going to be people who are in different camps, scholars. Like, I’m in the shamanism camp and there’s still some anti-shamanism people, but it doesn’t seem quite so dogmatic maybe. It’s gotten a little more open and less dogmatic. And I’m proud of that and I’m glad of that. But it’s also hard to distinguish it from how I’ve changed as a scholar, and my confidence. And I haven’t given a paper there since ’97 so I don’t know how that would be for me again. But I think the field has changed in good ways and I think there’s more communication between the archaeologists and the art historians and I think there’s more understanding between the different fields. I think in Maya studies, they’re always going to be an esoteric subfield of their own. But I think that’s inevitable because of the epigraphy, because they’re so based on the hieroglyphs and because of the decoding of the hieroglyphs and that was a revolution and that revolution is still ringing out. But I do think there’s still room to expand. I think there’s more room to expand into Native North America and how it relates. I think there’s more room to – I think it wouldn’t be bad to give graduate students more of a voice in the symposia and I think it can be opened up more than it has been.
AD: Now this is a question that I was hoping to ask as well. When the Blisses established Dumbarton Oaks it was specifically Pre-Columbian and when they meant Pre-Columbian they meant sort of the high cultures: the Andes and Mesoamerica. And I was wondering what your opinion on the possibility of expanding that, not only to the early colonial period, but also geographically into the American Southwest was, and should Dumbarton Oaks do that?
RRS: I feel like it’s expanded into early colonial pretty – maybe not overtly, I don’t think there’s been a fully colonial symposium. I may be wrong. And I think there could be. There could easily be. I think that there’s – I think the field has shifted to where colonial is – when I first started in 1980 Mary Miller did offer a colonial course. It was one of – seemingly, felt like one of the very first ones and people didn’t even want to think about the conquest, didn’t want to talk about it, just because it was all the popular literature, which is still true, that everything starts out with the conquest as if the Americas didn’t exist until they were conquered, until they became losers. So, everyone is still – I think we all have a bit of a chip on our shoulder about that. And 1992 changed that a lot because the dialog really became both sides, kind of consciousness was raised there. So, I think colonial is definitely a growing portion, and I think it’s always been there because we’ve always used the chroniclers, but I think it could be foregrounded. I think the hesitation is when it’s colonial that concentrates on Christianity, Catholicism, the Hapsburgs. When it comes from the Europe perspective it doesn’t feel like it’s about what Dumbarton Oaks is, but I think it has to keep its foot in the Americas. I wouldn’t see a symposium on Spanish art, I don’t think we can go there, but I think we can go any place that keeps a foot into the relationship between the indigenous people and the outside.
AD: So, in a similar vein –
RRS: And Native North America. I mean, I don’t feel that they are the same thing, I think, of course they’re not, and I was never trained in Native North America. I’m now consulting for the AP, pushing the Advanced Placement art history course and exam towards being much more global and quote, unquote “non-western,” and I’ve been put in charge of Native North America as if it went with the Ancient Americas. And it’s a stretch for me, and it’s going to be a stretch and they shouldn’t be conflated, but I think that it’s a bit of a silo and that these silos really don’t – I think with certain themes, there would be fascinating symposia on certain themes to see the differences and similarities on almost any topic, sacred architecture or almost any of the topics that have been in symposia will relate because of the basic underpinnings of Amerindian culture. So, I think that that would be a good way to go. And I think that the Blisses – I mean, I feel like people establish things from their time period and at the time it was extremely radical for them to put Pre-Columbian – to choose the three things that they did were all radical and there still – none of them are in the center of the canon. So, I think that that desire they had to open up the canon and look at what was called the edges of art history or archaeology or history, I think we’re in the spirit of that and we would be going with our time and what the logical continuation is of their thought and their forward thinking at the time. But not to be arbitrarily limited by what in 1920, 1940, 1955 was the field, because I don’t think they could’ve conceived of where we’ve gotten to and what we’ve found and what we’ve thought about and what topics are possible. And I think they’d be very proud.
AD: So, along with this direction that Dumbarton Oaks is taking and that you’d like to see it take, is there any other role that you’d like to see Dumbarton Oaks take in the future of pre-Columbian studies?
AD: Or is it doing well the way it is?
RRS: Well, we had a long back and forth on the Senior – about establishing a professorship that was in Guatemala at that Universidad del Valle which didn’t end up working out, and we decided that it was more important to have more fellowships at Dumbarton Oaks. But I do think that if there – Dumbarton Oaks has a lot of resources and I think that sharing them outward in Latin America is still a very good idea. None of us wanted to give up that idea that we could go outward to places in Latin America. The logistics are very difficult, granted, but I do think that we – I think Dumbarton Oaks could still keep exploring being centrifugal instead of mainly centripetal. I think it has to be done carefully, and we didn’t want to rob what’s great about Dumbarton Oaks and without proper staffing and knowing how difficult Latin America is to organize things in, it’s cautious. But things like having the symposium in Lima, having it in Mexico City, having it in San Jose, Costa Rica, I think those would be really great ways to be outward, every five years or so where it’s the amount of organization that you can bear to do but it would just bring more scholars from Latin America and more of North Americans – both Mexicans and U.S. Americans – in contact with scholars in these different countries, and I think it would have a really energizing and dynamic effect when done in sort of a concerted fashion. But I think that there are still ways in which Dumbarton Oaks can use its generosity well. And here at Emory we began – just finances, when the economic downturn happened a couple years ago – we cut out catering just about any event here and saved literally ten million dollars a year. Emory was – they just fed us at every turn. They always would give you lunch and cookies and this and that and fancy spreads and wine and cheese and blah, blah, blah. And it’s kind of amazing how much – and this is – I’m not really comparing Dumbarton Oaks and Emory; Emory employs twenty thousand people when you count the hospital – but just the concept that if you want to pare down on some of these wonderful little perks that you can reallocate the money. It was a profound lesson here at Emory. It doesn’t mean that they didn’t also fire some people and it’s not great, but I do think that they’re – a place that has resources like Emory or like Dumbarton Oaks can be responsible about reallocating them away from some of the luxuries and towards something like reaching out more to the rest of the world. It’s just something to think about. It wasn’t – this is not a criticism of the lunch at Dumbarton Oaks or anything. It’s just something that is occurring to me as I’m thinking about how institutions decide what to do with what they’ve got.
AD: Well, I think you’ve answered just about all of the questions I have here. Is there anything else that you’d like to add or any other stories or memories of your time here that you’d like to share?
RRS: Let’s see. No. I mean, I think – no, I think that pretty much covers it. I mean, I think that Dumbarton Oaks is a magical place and I think it has a combination, and I think that it is the gardens and the swimming pool and the library – the new library’s fantastic. The new library’s stunning and the fact that everyone has their own office – I mean, I want to get back to Dumbarton Oaks. When my children are grown and I can take a year off I’m going to beat a path to getting a fellowship there because it’s academic summer camp with all the most beautiful benefits, and I think that the people there work really hard and I’m very grateful for it. And it has been good to me, three major times in my life it’s been very good to me, and I just want to express my thank you to everybody there.
AD: Alright, well thank you so much for your time.
RRS: Alright, okay. Thank you.
AD: Thank you.