You are here: Home / Library & Archives / Dumbarton Oaks Archives / Oral History Project / Richard Burger and Lucy Salazar

Richard Burger and Lucy Salazar

Oral History Interview with Richard Burger and Lucy Salazar, undertaken by Alyce de Carteret at the Dumbarton Oaks Guest House (Fellows’ Building) on August 16, 2010. At Dumbarton Oaks, Richard Burger was a Fellow in Pre-Columbian Studies between 1980 and 1981 and served as Chair of the Board of Senior Fellows in Pre-Columbian Studies between 1990 and 1996.

AdC: Good afternoon, I am Alyce de Carteret. Today is Monday August 16, 2010 and I have the pleasure of speaking with Richard Burger, the Charles J. MacCurdy Professor of Anthropology at Yale University, and his wife. Lucy Salazar is a curatorial affiliate in anthropology at Yale’s Peabody Museum. We are in the Guest House of Dumbarton Oaks today. Thanks for joining us. So, how did you first come to know about Dumbarton Oaks and what were your initial impressions of the institution?

LS: Before that maybe I should use my title.

RB: Yeah, okay.

AdC: Yeah, go head.

LS: Because instead of curatorial affiliate I’m a Research Associate at the Department of Anthropology.

AdC: Okay. Great.

RB: Okay. Got that?

AdC: Yes.

RB: Well, Dumbarton Oaks was fairly well known when I was an undergraduate. You know some of the main people involved in the creation of Dumbarton Oaks had very strong affiliations to Yale. Michael Coe and George Kubler were both there, and they were both very interested in, sort of, the interface between anthropology and archaeology and the pre-Columbian world as an academic subject. And I think Mike Coe was one of the consultants in the formation of the Pre-Columbian program, and they put out a series of very influential publications going all the way back to the ’60s; you know, things like the Dumbarton Oaks conference on the Olmec and the Dumbarton Oaks conference on Chavin and cult of the feline. So, I was an undergraduate at Yale, and Mike Coe and Kubler were my teachers, and we used some of those books. So, I was already aware of Dumbarton Oaks long before I was a graduate student even.

AdC: And when did you first come to Dumbarton Oaks?

RB: We came in 1980, is it?

LS: I don’t know.

RB: 1981?

LS: 1981.

RB: We came in 1981 then.

AdC: When you were a Fellow?

RB: When I was a Fellow. I guess I’d been here before that for conferences but I’d been in Peru for about –

LS: Two years.

RB: Two and a half years excavating in the Callejón de Huaylas, and then before that I’d been in Peru for a couple of years working at Chavin de Huantar, and I’d been back at Berkeley writing up my thesis, and then I went back to the Callejón. So, I came back to the United States and I’d already done this project after my dissertation but I hadn’t had any academic appointments and I was trying to find a way to write up some of the results of the research and find a way to stay in the game. And so, we applied, I applied for this Post Doc, for the fellowship here and was pleasantly surprised when I got it. And it allowed us to come back from California and come to Georgetown.

AdC: That’s great. And you talked a little bit about how publications were so valuable. Could you just characterize the experience of not only attending the symposia but also what the publications were like back in those days?

RB: Well, you know the publications back in those days were especially interesting, I thought, because they included the debates of the people who were at the meetings. The meetings were smaller and they included the back and forth between people’s differing views after each of the articles. So, that was unique at that point. So, that was important and the other thing that was very important was that in the days we’re talking about it was sort of the height of New Archaeology. So much of anthropological archaeology had become very materialistic in a reductionist sense and people like Lewis Binford were really dominating the field and the people from Michigan with their uni-linear evolutionary thinking were the powers in Mesoamerica. And for those of us who were outside of that particular world-view, Dumbarton Oaks was enormously important because it was more humanistic and it allowed consideration of art and ideology, aesthetics, it was just a much richer, broader kind of perspective. It also allowed for people to interact with scholars of similar interests outside of anthropology. So, at least for me back then Dumbarton Oaks was enormously important intellectually, not just for the specific contributions but because it had this very different focus than say American Antiquity did at the same time. At one point American Antiquity just looked like a series of formulas because they were trying to make everything as scientific as possible. So, they emphasized the ability to evaluate everything using numbers. So, Dumbarton Oaks was sort of a healthy alternative.

AdC: And you’d say the symposia also followed along those lines?

RB: It certainly went along those lines. But the Dumbarton Oaks symposia, to their credit, attracted people that weren’t only humanists. There are lots of people that who’d come here who are from New Archaeology. People like Barbara Price and Sanders –

LS: Bill Sanders.

RB: And Sanders and others would come. Webster – and some people still come who no longer hold the same views they did back then. But so, you’d have debates here between people of different schools, you know after the talks. Another thing which happened in this period is that because the field grew so quickly and so notably the Society for American Archaeology, where most of the anthropological archaeologists are members because they deal with the New World, the talks at those places became very short – like twenty minutes each, without discussion, so that at Dumbarton Oaks where you had half hour, forty minute talks –

LS: Forty minutes.

RB: And then you’d have debates. It was really a totally different kind of atmosphere.

LS: Yeah, so the settings for discussion and really the essence of everything discussed at that point – the researchers are dealing and discussing, showing new ideas, and discussing these ideas with other colleagues that you don’t have in any other moment now like the SAA or the American Anthropology Association either. In fifteen minutes you can say anything but people don’t discuss it anymore. So, Dumbarton Oaks is still holding in this kind of research institution, the main venue for really very thoughtful discussion on any subject.

RB: I mean here you have at one of these meetings just a few hundred people and they stay for more than two days so you really do have time to almost talk with everybody if you want to speak to them – during the breaks, or during the dinner or the reception. But at the Society for American Archaeology there might be 3,500 people so you’ll see someone who you want to talk to and since there’s no discussion anyway by the time the session’s over the crowds take over and you may never see them. So, this is really sort of a unique atmosphere.

AdC: Were there any of the symposia that you thought were particularly successful or fascinating or maybe unsuccessful?

LS: Well, like a memory, you’re always trying to remember the good ones, the ones that impacted you in some sort, for you the purpose of what you’re searching, like the Symposium on Early Ceremonial Centers, for example. For me it still is very vivid. Or the Symposium of the Inca Power that was held thirteen years ago where you for the first time have all the living people in Inca history, in Inca archaeology being together from different schools of thought, in different ways of people doing research on the Inca. And for me it still is like it was yesterday, having this big impact for Peruvian archaeology. And so for all these years those are the main symposia that have stayed with me in memory.

RB: And at that meeting they had John Rowe here, they had Zuidema, they had Murra and they had Rostoworowski, Craig Morris, they were all here together. I don’t think that group was ever together –

LS: Ever together.

RB: – in a single spot, and then you had people like Terry d'Altroy from sort of the UCLA side of things.

LS: And Chuck Stanish – UCLA.

RB: And Chip Stanish.

LS: The idea of having all these polarized aspects or polarized views of the Inca archaeology as John Rowe and the school of Terry d’Altroy – totally different visions of Inca archaeology getting together and discussing these ideas to advance Inca archaeology was fascinating.

RB: The Early Ceremonial Center was particularly important because a lot of that research had never been presented in the United States. Some of it had come out in Spanish in Peru but it was really sort of this whole wave of pre-Chavin archaeology that people were just trying to fit together and many people were unaware of it and there were radically different ways of thinking about it. It sort of broke it open at this place so that was a very exciting symposium. I mean there have been unsuccessful symposia too but I’d probably best not name them.

LS: Not to remember them.

RB: That’s right. Best to remember the really good ones, that’s right. But there’d be great ones. The Huari Administrative Architecture was a really good one too. I mean there’d be a lot of good ones. The one on the kingdoms of the North Coast was memorable.

LS: Or the Formative of Ecuador.

RB: And the Formative of Ecuador was good although it’s a much more esoteric subject for most people. But I thought it was very good because the literature on Ecuador is all over the place and it’s very hard to actually even fit together what different people are writing. That was an example of a conference that was highly structured, where people were asked to give no talks on their current work but rather talks on specific subjects that would all sort of line up with each other to give sort of a solid foundation for understanding the formative of Ecuador. I still think that as an experience, having seen the stuff, and also as a book it holds up very, very well. You know, the work in Ecuador really hasn’t progressed as quickly as the work in Mesoamerica or the Andes but it’s certainly an important tool in forwarding that particular research program.

AdC: And you organized that with Scott Raymond?

RB: With Scott Raymond, yes. Scott is really one of the great specialists of Formative Ecuador.

AdC: Yeah, I got to speak to him last week.

RB: Yeah, he was good. That was fun.

AdC: Yeah.

RB: And I got to antagonize all the Ecuadorianists.

AdC: Did you guys get to any of the off-site symposia at Lima or the West Coast Andes?

LS: In Lima with the Moche one, which was very successful too because –

RB: Oh yeah, that was great.

LS: – because for the first time you could see the impact of Dumbarton Oaks outside the U.S. and how you have a symposium of this quality in a place like Lima where you have many, many specialists in the Moche for the first gathering together. And that was important because sometimes it is very hard for people from those countries coming to the U.S. – many, many issues. For some people never reach the U.S., so to see all these specialists going to Lima to discuss that; it was very important for the Moche understanding at that moment. This symposium was like five years ago? No, more or less?

RB: More. They must have had four hundred, five hundred people. And it was huge. And they couldn’t fit everyone in.

LS: And still many people were left out so the success was wonderful. And the same as the one in Antigua.

RB: We went to the one in Antigua as well. That was wonderful too. It was great. For us that was a great experience because we’d never been to Guatemala or Honduras so –

LS: The traveling section was spectacular.

RB: We saw Copan.

LS: Well, visiting Copan for me, coming from the Andes, never been in to Central America and seeing for the first time a Maya city as Copan was overwhelming, it had completely changed my perception of Maya archaeology, of the Pre-Columbia world outside Peru. You have your own prejudices but this time Copan made a big impact on my entire life.

RB: Plus we got to meet all these colleagues that we didn’t know who are Mexican or Central American –  

LS: Mayanists.

RB: Mayanists that we hadn’t met in person but we’d seen their work. That was great.

LS: That was spectacular.

RB: And Antigua is such a beautiful city. 

AdC: That’s what I hear.

LS: Yeah, it’s beautiful.

RB: Almost as pretty as Cusco.

LS: Different, but as beautiful – each one is beautiful.

RB: Each one is beautiful.

AdC: So, you were, as we talked about, you were a Fellow here. How would you characterize that experience of being at Dumbarton Oaks? What were your social, academic –

RB: It was very different than it is now. It was much smaller.

LS: Very small.

RB: I was the only Fellow. I was the only Pre-Columbian Fellow. And Lucy and I would come in each day. And then last minute they got another Fellow named Richard Luxton who was sort of –

LS: A Mayanist.

RB: A Mayanist. But he was sort of an eccentric Mayanist who believed that the Mayans could still read the glyphs but wouldn’t tell us what they said. And he had a series of mystical views on antiquity that he wrote on I guess popular – no sort of popular accounts. So, he would come in and he would basically write these popular books, but he didn’t really use references or anything. He’d just write with a typewriter. And he’d come in and bang away at his typewriter for a couple hours and then he’d go swimming and play tennis and I was sort of agonizing over some more scholarly things. I’d need to write a couple of paragraphs and Lucy, you know, would write a couple of paragraphs.

LS: And then I did research on these stone plates that Dumbarton Oaks has from Peru that at that point had been regarded as fake pieces. For the first I sat down and spent hours looking at them. There were not many people there, and all the books that you can compare and finally became a good understanding that these pieces were not fake, they were real. So, they were done by a very – not to understand culture at that moment of the Cupisnique, so for me that was a real breakthrough being here. But like Richard said, we were very few people. Three people, basically.

RB: Elizabeth Boone was –

LS: Elizabeth Boone was the first year Director when we came so we all were new, completely new – a new assistant, a Yale graduate student named Carlos Arostegui, a student of Mike Coe was assistant to –

RB: The Librarian, he was like the librarian.

LS: He was the librarian of Dumbarton and that was the group. But we had others coming and talk to us like Elizabeth Benson, who was the previous Director before Elizabeth Boone.

RB: There were lots of Bynzantinists –

LS: The social life was really –

RB: It was really with the Bynzantinists –

LS: Interacting with the Byzantinists. That was great because they have different kind of vision, different history and we form a group of fifteen people with them. We were very close, neat group because we all lived next to each other’s doors.

RB: We all lived in the same apartment building on Wisconsin Avenue.

LS: Same apartment.

AcD: What was that called? Did it have a specific name?

LS: Wisconsin Apartments?

RB: Yeah –

LS: It was next to the Russian Embassy.

RB: Russian Embassy.

AcD: Oh, way up there.

LS: So, very nice.

RB: In those days it was still the Cold War so the Russians weren’t allowed out except in a bus. So, they used to walk their French poodles around and all the Byzantinists knew Russian and some of them were pretty wild, especially when they drank. They’re heavy drinkers. And one of them would shout out the windows at the Russian diplomats, they’d say come on up, we can play cards or have a drink. Come on up.

LS: Come up, come up.

RB: Break free, come on up.

LS: And usually that was part of our entertainment on Saturday nights. That we got together and the Byzantinists, being with the European tradition – they were very hard liquor drinking, more like scotch and vodka was the drinks of the moment.

RB: Yeah.

LS: Not too much beer.

RB: So, afterward the Russians paid the consequences from our indiscretions through the windows. And we used to all go out and have Afghanistani food because the chef of the embassy had asked for asylum in the U.S. The former chef of the embassy and he was like raising money for the forces that were fighting the Russians at the time, what are now the Taliban. So, you’d go to these Afghanistani restaurants on M Street and drink. It was great. They were a wonderful group. It was interesting at least back then – few of them were actually dyed-in-the-wool Byzantinists. They all thought of themselves as something else. So, one of them was like a specialist in Mongolia. Another was a specialist in Late Roman law. A third was a specialist in early Arabic Spanish. So, all of them sort of impinged on the Byzantine Empire but they weren’t really of it. Except for one guy who was British who came from an institute in England that also worked on Byzantine – he had a big beard.

LS: Oh, Anthony.

RB: Bryer.

LS: Bryer. Anthony Bryer.

RB: Yeah, another hard drinker.

LS: He was the hardest drinker. And he was the oldest. He was probably in his early 60s and we were early 20s.

RB: At one point they set their Christmas tree on fire.

LS: Yes.

RB: Because they had the tradition of putting candles in the tree but they were drinking so much so the thing just went up.

LS: So, Saturday nights we always got together and discussed ideas or the news and everybody present some paper or people just talk about poetry or whatever and drinking –

RB: And had all this caviar. They’d get these huge things of caviar.

LS: Yeah. You didn’t find caviar in the streets of Washington, you know, so somebody had to smuggle I guess, and then we were just confronted with a big can of caviar, this beluga. So, everybody was really banqueting so you could say that we were banqueting and feasting at Dumbarton Oaks.

RB: It was funny because in those days the Director of Dumbarton Oaks –

LS: It was a guy named Giles Constable –

RB: Giles Constable, was very, very – he looks like the guy who would play that role in an old English movie. He had this sort of fake English accent. I think it must have been an American boarding school accent trying to be British. And his wife Evie wore these fake pearls. And she was very tall and awkward looking. They just looked typecast for this. And they were very, very nice people but they were very, very straight. They looked like they’d stepped out – and all the Byzantinists were sort of hard drinking, they looked like they could all be spies in their spare time. They looked like they’d stepped out of Casablance movie. So, the poor Giles was always trying to maintain decorum –

LS: Order.

RB: Order. He wanted – Dumbarton Oaks in those days was much stodgier looking than it is now and not modern at all. It was sort of very shabby English in its décor and he put up these brass – all these Byzantinists were heavy smokers.

LS: The majority. Everybody.

RB: They’re all chain smokers –

LS: Everybody – women and men, everybody was big. O sea, these big smoking rooms, including apartments.

RB: So, Giles had these brass signs made saying do not – nonsmoking. This was at the very beginning of the anti-smoking movement and –

LS: The frontier.

RB: And he put them everywhere and one of our friends got drunk one night and he went and he took all of them, he stole them all. He collected them all.

LS: So, one Saturday somebody appeared with a packet filled with all these signs, with “don’t smoke.”

RB: And Giles pulled everyone together and demanded that they be returned, that there be respect for Dumbarton Oaks.

LS: In those years were no email so everybody received a formal letter saying that there’s going to be a meeting, an inquiry because they have disappeared, the don’t smoke signs from the library that’s very important for the study or whatever. So, everybody knew exactly what happened but nobody wanted to –

RB: Everybody except Giles.

LS: But he was saying, “I know you Fellows could not do such a thing.” He still was trying to maintain integrity, politeness at Dumbarton Oaks. They were not accusing the Fellows of getting the don’t smoke – and it was very nice because usually sometimes on Thursdays – or Fridays? We had the sherry time so we all went and have sherry.

RB: And when it got hot we went swimming in the pool.

LS: In the pool.

RB: It was – I think for a lot of people academia isn’t easy, it’s tough to break into and a lot of people, they were having trouble finding jobs or never found an actual paying job and to suddenly be put up at Dumbarton Oaks like you’re a member of some sort of aristocracy and swim in a pool with a mosaic. It was good for your spirits.

AdC: And so were there formal dinners or a lot of talks or things like that you had to attend when you were a Fellow?

LS: Yeah, we had formal dinners, or formal lunch.

RB: Yeah, they were more like formal lunches. And you’re expected – everyone was expected to give a talk on your research and everyone was expected to attend the talk of the other people’s research and discuss it. And everyone was expected to go to lunch. They were unforgiving.

LS: With a jacket.

RB: With a jacket, yeah. And they were unforgiving that you couldn’t just sort of go to once or twice –

LS: Drift around –

RB: Drift around. They expected you to be there each lunch time and they kept track. And the food was terrible. The food was just unbelievably greasy. It was like old English cooking, you know where they just cook it until the fat grows to the upper layer. What was her name, the woman who was in charge of it? Mrs. – a heavyset woman. [Bess Eversen]

LS: She was here forever.

RB: Yeah, she was here for thirty or forty years. I’m sure other people remember her. And she’s famous for her cooking but if you weren’t used to that kind of sort of old English cooking it was formidable to face that food everyday at lunch.

LS: It was basic food, like meat, potatoes and pasta. But everybody has to attend –

RB: Yeah, everybody has to be there.

LS: Because they maintained a very close reading of who came for lunch or who was skipping lunch, so the Fellows knew that they have to come to lunch because somebody is counting the names.

RB: In those days it was much looser in terms of security so that, I don’t know how it is now, but in those days very often we’d go home and have dinner and then come back and –

LS: Work ‘til midnight.

RB: Continue work ‘til midnight in the library. There wasn’t the sense of a nine to five day at all. Because most people do this stuff because they love it – it’s just a great opportunity and plus it was air conditioned and it was comfortable and you’re surrounded by all these books in one place that you want to read and we used to just work all the time.

LS: We always worked. Flexible.

RB: The weekends too.

LS: Flexible, including Friday, on Sunday you’d come.

RB: But we didn’t have an office. There were no offices but we had like basically a carrel in the middle of the library. So, just like a place to sit with –

LS: The typewriter.

RB: You know, a little desk for a typewriter. It wasn’t even a desk, it was more like a carrel and then you were surrounded by books. And then there were books in the hall but you didn’t have a space that was your own.

LS: I came three years later. By 1986, they started to – because there were more Fellows, before there were like two or three Fellows per year. So, the increase of Fellows –

RB: And they increased the size of Pre-Columbian to reach a kind of critical mass was really an important change, I think. Because the Pre-Columbian publications and symposia had always been very, very important, but the Fellows program hadn’t really kept up with that and so you didn’t really have people to talk to who knew anything about what you were doing. And especially if, you know, say in this case Elizabeth Boone was a Mesoamericanist and we were doing things in the Andes. You know, there were no other Andeanists. So, that was a really big change.

AdC: And you got a chance to work with the collections while you were here.

RB & LS: Yes.

AdC: Could you characterize what the collections were like or your impressions of the collection here at Dumbarton Oaks?

LS: Well, the collections were very small and very well cared and selected so they are, like in the case of Peru, every culture was represented with few pieces who were outstanding pieces. Pieces who Bliss wanted to have it because they were exquisite, they were beautiful. So, the sense they were not collections who were coming from an excavation. Totally different. It was art, pieces of art and into this Pre-Columbian setting. So, for that reason it was very important to study these pieces or what they represented – because basically they represented the elite of elite pieces in a collection. It was a very important group of pieces that until today are very – people search for them and to a certain degree are unique pieces who has been saved.

RB: And yeah, it’s unusual.

LS: It’s unusual.

RB: It’s unusual because most of the other collections that you think about are many times the size of Dumbarton Oaks’ collection and yet each of the pieces, like Lucy says, is iconic, famous –

LS: Iconic and famous –   

RB: And well-published and well-studied.

AdC: Okay, so let’s move ahead then to your time as a Senior Fellow and Chair of the Senior Fellows Committee. What were your responsibilities as a Senior Fellow and did you have any extra responsibilities as Chair?

RB: As I recall it was mainly to select the Fellows for the program and to choose the symposium topic and those were really the main responsibilities. At least what I tried to do when I was Chair was try to keep a good balance between archaeologists and art historians. I always thought that was one of the strengths of Dumbarton Oaks, that both should be adequately represented. And I also thought it was important to try to keep a balance between the different parts of the New World because there was always a danger of the Mesoamerican side became overbearing or overwhelming because there is a longer history of research in that area. I think both areas have important research programs going on and you want to make sure – most people are most aware of their own research and the research related to it. I think what a Chair is supposed to do is sort of have a broader view and guarantee the harmony and coherence of the programs. And the same thing goes for the symposia. I was anxious that the symposia didn’t focus solely on Mesoamerica or go into such detail that it would be of little interest to people outside of that particular specialty and try to keep everything broad and comparative. So, that was what I tried to do and the other things I remember as being important to me was trying to lobby for the resources that we needed to really make the Pre-Columbian program strong. At least back then one had the sense that there were sort of unlimited resources for the Byzantinists but very few resources for the Pre-Columbianists. And there should be at least enough resources for the Pre-Columbianists that were would be a critical mass of people as Fellows and for the publications and the other things. And so it grew, I think, in that period and that was healthy for everyone concerned. And what else happened back then? And at that time Elizabeth left and I thought she was a great director of the program. But she was hired away, given this shared professorship at Tulane and suddenly there was a problem that there wasn’t anything – I don’t really think there’s any sort of succession process that’s adequate and so, so much of this was dependent first on Betty Benson and then on Elizabeth Boone and they had this huge amount of personal knowledge of how it worked and all the people involved. It really was dependent on them and it was hard to make the transition to a new person. So Dick Diehl stepped in for a year as I remember to help us, give us time to pick someone. Then I was in charge of the committee along with Angeliki, who was the Director back then and we interviewed a whole series of people and there were a couple of good candidates and eventually Jeffrey Quilter was selected and he did a great job. So, that was a big relief because we really needed someone that would carry on that Elizabeth and Betty Benson had created. And Jeffrey was superb and now Joanne is doing a great job. The institution has really been fortunate in having really talented directors of studies.

AdC: That’s actually one of the questions I’d love for you to elaborate more on. Could you characterize Elizabeth Boone’s directorship and Jeffrey Quilter’s directorship and how did they impact the field of Pre-Columbian Studies, not only just at Dumbarton Oaks but in general?

RB: Well you know, Betty Benson’s background before that was very much – came out of the world of museums and she’d been critical in forming the collection and working with the Blisses. So, she’s sort of a historical figure in the very existence of the place and then Elizabeth was very much an art historian and unlike Betty, I mean her interest was really in early Colonial materials and the relationship of the pre-Columbian past with the post-Columbian past and so she brought in more ethnohistorians into it and more strongly art-historical, a more formalist art historic perspective because she’s much more a member, I think, of the art history academy than Betty Benson had been. Betty, I think, is more of the museum world and the world of objects and Elizabeth is more of the academic world. In some ways she gave a sort of more self-consciously academic feel to a lot of the symposia. A lot of the thematic symposia are very much Elizabeth’s creation and reflect her own academic interest. But in a way she was broadening it by doing that. And then Jeffrey is a field archaeologist as well as someone who has always been interested in art and the humanities. And he’d worked in Central America as well as the Andes so in some ways he reinforced the sort of non-Mesoamerican side of things by having more things on the Andes and Central America, and a lot of things related to ongoing fieldwork. But I think all of them in a way bent over backwards to make sure that areas that weren’t their specialty were well represented. I mean all of them were very selfless in doing it. They all, both Elizabeth and then Jeffrey and now Joanne, devoted huge amounts of time to helping organizers get these volumes out. A lot of, I think, Dumbarton Oaks’ impact comes through the publication of the conference volumes but very often the people who organize them are slow or have difficulty in actually finishing them off. So, very often even though their names don’t appear they’ve put in a lot of time. And they’re all excellent editors and they’re also all sort of – have a lot of social skills so they get along with people and are able to make sure the volumes come to fruition. Jeffrey increased the number of informal –

LS: Roundtables.

RB: Roundtables which in a way allows you to do more things because it’s so much work to do, you know, the one giant symposium per year. It’s nice to have some of these other things as well. I think that was a good addition and I think already under Elizabeth and even more under Jeffrey more Latin Americans began to come to the meetings and also participate in the symposia themselves.

LS: The participation of Latin Americans has been increasing.

RB: That’s very, very healthy.

LS: Very healthy.

RB: And in a way the move to have the meetings in Antigua and Lima and Mexico City reflects that trend.

LS: The integration of the scholars.

RB: So, it’s not just Americans and Europeans talking about Latin American archaeology between themselves.

LS: Between themselves. So, the integrations of Latin American people can hear the other voices and the Americans hear the Latin American voices. This is very healthy. And Dumbarton Oaks is pursuing more and more this kind of thing.

AdC: Is this something you hope would continue?

RB: Oh yes.

LS: Will continue, yes. Because this disruption, like everybody works for their own world in that same hub to they’re understanding if we really are then both groups really wanted to understand what the Maya are or what the Incas are, so we have to discuss with scholars of different traditions or different cultural backgrounds.

RB: You have situations where large projects go on either in Central America or the Andes. I’m talking about back thirty years ago and these would be large projects where many dissertations came out of them and yet none of those dissertations would ever be published in Spanish or even in summary articles of them in the country where the research was done. So, that if you were in those countries and you didn’t know English or even in some cases if you did know English you might not be able to find out what had been learned. And that’s enormously frustrating if it’s directly relevant to your own research. So, you have to eliminate those barriers, you have to break it down. By having people participating jointly meeting, it’s a big step in that direction.

AdC: I’ve heard of a similar project under Jeff Quilter bringing in dissertations written in Latin America to Dumbarton Oaks. Is that a project that you have heard anything about at all?

LS: No.

RB: I know at one point, for example, he was trying to publish Quique Vergara’s work on the decorated gourds but that sort of never made it through, I don’t think. He was going to bring out a bilingual version of that. I thought it was a great idea but I don’t know what happened to it. But certainly Jeffrey has encouraged that kind of thing.

AdC: If we could just pause for a second so I could switch the tapes.

LS: It was Elizabeth –

RB: It was between Betty and Elizabeth.

AdC: So, we were just talking about the early Fellows and you said Arthur Miller was a teacher of yours?

RB: At that time I think Yale was the first college to begin teaching Pre-Columbian art and George Kubler was the guy who sort of carved that out in art history. At the same time Michael Coe had a very active anthropology-oriented study of ancient Mesoamerica. And Floyd Lounsbury was very interested in the Maya glyphs and he was a linguistic anthropologist. So, there were a lot of people at Yale interested back in the ‘60s in these subjects and when – I think they were concerned who would take over for Kubler and they would bring in sort of younger art historians to teach for a year or a semester and Arthur Miller was one of the people that they brought in. I remember he was doing the mural painting in Teotihuacán and then in Tulum. So, he taught a class.

AdC: And another one of your advisers, John Rowe, was incredibly influential not only in Andeanist studies but also here at Dumbarton Oaks. I was wondering if you knew anything about his involvement here and what he worked on while he was here.

RB: Did he work here?

AdC: I think he might have been Chair of –

RB: Oh well, he could have easily been Chair because – I mean John Rowe was trained as a Classicist originally, and his father had been an Egyptologist and then ended up a museum director, and his mother worked at the Yale art museum –

LS: Art Gallery.

RB: Art Gallery in the textiles. So, I mean, John, he had this very, very broad view of archaeology. And when he did Andean it was an Andean archaeology that was informed by the humanistic tradition. But also in some ways he was protégée of Kroeber, who was sort of the great anthropologist of that time.

LS: Willey, no?

RB: In Berkeley. And so, he had both an anthropological perspective but one that included a sort of broader humanistic understanding of the past. And so, he wrote extensively on art, on Chavin art and Inca art and he saw it as a parcel of what you were expected to do. Of course, in that way he was totally out of step with New Archaeology. So, for those who were his students at the time it was a real cross to bear because we were branded as being sort of retrograde because we wouldn’t sign – he was also a Boasian and so he rejected completely the evolutionary perspective that the Michigan people were putting forward. I know all this must be seen as sort of arcane at this point but you couldn’t get a job, you couldn’t get an NSF [National Science Foundation] grant at that time unless you used evolutionary literature to justify your study. And if you were Rowe’s student it was difficult to do that because he was totally anti-evolutionary. So these were things that as graduate students we were concerned with. But in contrast it was totally compatible with Dumbarton Oaks, it’s a place where anthropologists and art historians could both work together and have a –

LS: Healthy discussion.

RB: – healthy discussion. In those days the worst thing if you were a New Archaeologist, you would insult people by calling them “historical particularists.” To say someone had an interest in history was to say that they were a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

AdC: So, you never heard any stories from him about him working here or what it was like here?

LS: Directly, no.

RB: No. He was of Puritan background and he was pretty closemouthed. He would never talk about a meeting that he had or anything.

AdC: We just touched on something that you talked about a little bit earlier. It was this balance between Mesoamericanists and Andeanists and art historians and archaeologists and that this was something that the Senior Fellows Committee tried to achieve. Was that something that you think Dumbarton Oaks was able to achieve and was it difficult to achieve that balance?

RB: I think it eventually achieved that balance. I mean there are other balances that one tries to achieve and that I tried and that may be in the process of being lost. I went out of my way to incorporate all the major centers that are teaching pre-Columbianists because when I was out in Berkeley one of the things I didn’t like was how partisan everything was becoming. You know, all the Berkeley people stuck together and all the Michigan people. It always struck me that Zuidema – and I might not agree with Zuidema who was at Illinois, but I admired many of Zuidema’s students who he was producing and in fact were quite different than Zuidema himself. So, I always tried to get students from all these different schools and conferences that would involve people from different schools. And Dumbarton Oaks, as I mentioned, had from the outset a very strong input form Yale and people like Mike Coe. And also Gordon Willey was a presence when we were here. And Gordon was enormously generous and supportive and also had this very broad view. And of course, Yale and Harvard had a long history of antagonism on the football field but you don’t want to be an idiot and think that it’s more meaningful than that – that in fact the schools are complimentary and close to each other. It always struck me that Dumbarton Oaks was sort of neutral ground and maybe a trustee for Harvard but it should really be thought of as a place that serves – it’s really unique in the whole country. There’s no other place like it. And it should be kept as a resource not just for one little institution, be it Harvard or Yale. I mean, if the Blisses left it as trustees for Harvard it was because they believed in their good judgment, not because they wanted Harvard to think of it as another couple of billion dollars in their pocket or whatever. But they were trusting in Harvard’s judgment. So, I was proud to work on behalf of that larger goal of making sure that it served the widest audience and as we’ve been saying, Lucy was saying before, the audience isn’t really even just in the U.S. If you’re really looking at pre-Columbian studies, the audience has got to be worldwide because you have all of Latin America, that is not only the subject, the object of study but you have many – a huge group of scholars who are studying this stuff. And then you have even people in Japan who have been very, very active and a long tradition in Europe –

LS: Germany.

RB: In Germany, in England, in France. And so you want to make sure that all those places feel comfortable that Dumbarton Oaks is open to them. And I think that really continues to be a challenge. You really want this sort of magnanimous perspective on how these resources are used. This humanistic and social science perspective, the fact that they’re both joined together here is enormously important and the fact that they’re joined with archaeology is enormously important. That’s why I always felt nervous that we didn’t want to pull Dumbarton Oaks too far in the direction of history. Because there are any number of institutions that support history in this country, it’s a huge discipline and it has huge resources but this is really the only place where you have pre-Columbian archaeology supported. I think it’s important that – and for example the School of American Research used to be the other one. And they’ve now opened it up to the point where I think it no longer fills that role. You know, they’re studying AIDS in Africa and demography in China and all those subjects are very, very important, but Ford Foundation, any number of places support those kinds of things. So, I think it’s important to sort of recognize why Dumbarton Oaks is so unique and ensure that it continue to broaden its role but not changing the foundations of what it actually represents, what it can do.

AdC: And you talked a little bit earlier about your relationship with some directors such as Angeliki Laiou and Giles, or Giles Constable?

RB: Giles, I always called him Giles.

LS: And Gordon.

RB: Well, Gordon was a consultant. He was sort of the advisor.

LS: Angeliki was in your time.

RB: Yeah.

AdC: So what were these different directors like and could you characterize their respective directorships?

RB: Well, I didn’t know Giles well but he always seemed very much figurehead-y, he sort of saw himself as embodying Dumbarton Oaks. He was good at giving speeches. All the directors here have always been Byzantinists. And so I think for Giles the pre-Columbian world was too far away, he just couldn’t get his arms around it so he was content to allow Elizabeth Boone to run it. And he liked Elizabeth.

LS: Or Judy Siggins.

RB: Or Judy Siggins was here who was the assistant –

LS: Assistant Director to Giles.

RB: – who was Assistant Director. He would delegate and she and Elizabeth were friends. And eventually Judy, even though she’s a Russian history specialist, ended up marrying one of the Fellows.

LS: An Andeanist.

RB: An Andean, Bill Isbell who’s at SUNY, Binghamton.

LS: Judy was here for like fifteen years like Assistant Director for many other directors but she fell in love with this Andeanist and left for SUNY Binghamton.

RB: Yeah, she abandoned Washington. It’s true.

LS: Abandoned Russian scholarship.

RB: And then Angeliki was different. In some ways I thought she was more of an intellectual. Well, I’m sure Giles was a great intellectual in his own right but she had broader interests. So, she was always impressed with the dynamism of pre-Columbian archaeology and art and how much progress we were making and how excited the people were about it and how heated the debates were. And she would come to the meetings and sort of sit in the back and watch it go by, and I think she realized that this was a new and growing field and sort of was willing to at least begrudgingly give more resources to it because she understood that a lot was going on and there was a challenge coping with all of it. So, I think she played an important role in this institution. And she was very much personally involved in it all and I remember when we had to choose the successor of Elizabeth Boone, she played a very important role in picking the person, went to all the interviews, read all the articles, had strong opinions on all the candidates. So, she didn’t delegate things in the same way that Giles had. She simply wasn’t alienated by it in the way – and also of course, she was Greek so she was very much a citizen of the world. She wasn’t quite as cloistered in Cambridge in the way that I think Giles spent his whole career at Harvard. Angeliki had been broader –

LS: Broader perspective –  

RB: Is that my daughter?

AdC: Let me go check. Yes.

RB: Sasha we’re just finishing up here but enjoy the air conditioning.

AdC: So, I wanted to ask, just given your experience with the Machu Picchu collection at Yale, what your stance was on Dumbarton Oaks’ issues with acquisitions and collections and the repatriation issue.

RB: Well, when I was in charge of the Senior Fellows there weren’t any requests for repatriation and I don’t think there was any money for acquisition, so it’s sort of the non-issue. The collections had been made back in the days of the Blisses. So, I don’t remember any of that ever coming up except I think there were some – we created a grant to help sites that were in danger of being destroyed and that seemed like a useful measure but it as a very limited amount of money in the way that the amount of money was out of scale with the problem. But at least it was sort of a nice gesture and it supported a few projects that occurred at crucial moments. So, that’s really the closest we came to dealing with issue of national patrimony, was that small grant to help archaeologists confront these problems of destruction.

AdC: And were there many applications for this new fund?

RB: As I remember there were usually a number of applications and we could only pick one out of the entire batch. And so many of them were worthwhile. It was in some ways very frustrating.

AdC: And those came from all over the Americas?

RB: From all over the Americas, yeah. I think they still have it, don’t they?

AdC: I think so, I’m not sure but I think it’s still –

RB: It was only a couple thousand dollars.

LS: And still people are willing, applying.

RB: And still people – we’d get thirty-five applications.

LS: They needed to get it.

AdC: So, how has the field of Pre-Columbian Studies changed since you first became involved with Dumbarton Oaks?

LS: That’s a huge –

AdC: You have to think way back.

LS: Go way back. Twenty-five years –  

RB: I mean it’s kind of much bigger. It’s gotten much bigger and it’s gotten much more international. I think the number of Latin Americans participating has increased enormously and the amount of publications in Latin America has increased enormously. I think the importance of Spanish as a language of both discussion and publication has risen continuously.

LS: It’s opening –

RB: In some ways that’s been abetted by the fact that some of the Europeans and Asians have begun to publish in Spanish rather than in German or in Japanese or French. They’ll bring their things out because they want to reach a larger audience and the quality of the publications in Latin America has risen. Luckily, there’s been commensurate changes in technology that allow desktop publishing. It’s easier to publish now and less expensive. And these kinds of technology have caught on in Latin America. Now you get in Peru, for example, Catolica and San Marco have really active publication programs. They probably put out more on Andean archaeology than anyone one university present in the U.S. Even say University of Texas.

AdC: And what role –

LS: Or Iowa.

RB: Or Iowa, which is –

LS: The main venue for Pre-Columbian.

AdC: What impact?

LS: A very important impact.

RB: Yeah, it’s had enormous impact.

LS: For the publications. Like Richard said, the increase of the publications in Latin America has doubled or tripled, it’s missing these years but the previous years. We’re talking about two decades ago basically Dumbarton Oaks publications were the only one holding both worlds, the Mesoamerican and the Andeanist for the total world. Basically, Dumbarton Oaks was the place to publish pre-Columbian material. These days, like Richard said, Mexico and Peru are publishing a generous amount.

RB: But I think Dumbarton Oaks still has a crucial role –

LS: But Dumbarton Oaks still has a crucial role –

RB: And the publications here are such high quality and also they’re so broad. The fact that it does have this overarching social science and humanistic perspective and it does bring broad swaths of people together that might not otherwise be in the same room. There’s the tendency in the U.S. for say a single project to all publish together so you get – when people organize conferences they, you know at the SAA’s and then they’d bring them out as books, very often they pick people of like minds. And Dumbarton Oaks is one of those few places where you get – try to mix everyone together.

LS: Try to mix the different perspectives together.

RB: So, I think it’s still crucial.

LS: It’s a crucial role.

AdC: Is there anything else that you think Dumbarton Oaks should try to do in the future, should its role stay the same, should it expand and cover more geographic area or temporal work?

RB: I think it should do what it does best, I think it should do what it’s doing. It would be good if it could put out more publications and it could put out the publications more quickly, and I think it’d be good if it could have more Fellows so there’d be more of a critical mass every year in both Mesoamerica and the Andes. I think if they would add another two Fellows or something like that it would be good, it would allow them to do that. I think it should make more of an effort to bring people from Latin America and that should be built into the structure as a way of integrating the different continents, different scholarly communities together so people get to know each other personally and in the meetings. I mean all these things have already begun but I think they could be just strengthened through more resources. But I don’t think anything it does should be cut out.

LS: That’s true.

AdC: Well, I think you’ve answered all the questions I have. Is there anything else you’d like to add or any stories you’d like to tell of your time here?

RB: Any story you want to add? They’re putting it on film so better not tell –

LS: There will be stories left.

AdC: Well, thank you so much.

LS: Thank you so much for your time too. 

Document Actions