LL: I am Lorena Lama. It is June 10, 2011, and I am here at the Guest House of Dumbarton Oaks with Richard Diehl, Professor Emeritus at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. Thank you for joining us today.
RD: A pleasure to be here.
LL: So, first question is how did you first hear about or become involved with Dumbarton Oaks?
RD: Okay. Excuse me, I’ve got a scratchy throat. I’ve got some throat lozenges but – my first connection with Dumbarton Oaks, my first knowledge of it was back in the 1960s. I excavated an Olmec site of San Lorenzo with Michael Coe of Yale University. I was a grad student at that time, this was 1966 and ’67 and that’s how I become involved in Olmec archaeology. It so happened at that time Dumbarton Oaks was just really beginning its life of Pre-Columbian Studies under the direction of Betty Benson, and Mike Coe was involved in sort of figuring out what Dumbarton Oaks was going to do, and one of the things they decided to do were symposia, what are now the fall symposia. The first one was on the Olmecs and I had been working with Mike at San Lorenzo and he and Betty were the organizers and they invited me to be a participant, a member of the audience. I did not give a presentation. At that point I was still Ab.D. I had finished my Ph.D. but had not written my dissertation. I was teaching at a place called California State College in California, Pennsylvania, south of Pittsburgh. I was very honored to have this invitation to sit in on this conference. I really didn’t know what to expect and it turned out to be one of the most marvelous experiences of my life because it was like sitting in one of my graduate school seminars, which for me were always a great experience. And here I was a young soon-to-be professional amongst all of these middle range and senior scholars, Mike Coe, Ignacio Bernal, Matthew Stirling, on and on, and Robert Heizer from Berkeley. And I was able to observe them in this sort of seminar-like setting. They were giving presentations, and then they’d argue back and forth, which many of the discussions were included in the publication. That was my first experience at Dumbarton Oaks, and the Pre-Columbian wing had just been inaugurated, which I found absolutely gorgeous. But I had come out of a tradition in anthropology, what we call cultural ecology, with William Sanders as my professor. And one of the tenants of cultural ecology is that art doesn’t matter worth a damn. It has nothing to do with Pre-Columbian and ancient civilizations, it was what Bill used to call epi-phenomena – it meant fluff. And I suppose I carried some of that prejudice with me although Mike Coe had rubbed off some of the rougher edges. But in any case, I really didn’t get back to Dumbarton Oaks for about 20 years after that for a variety of reasons. The following year I finished my dissertation, I went to University of Missouri in Columbia where I was a professor from 1967, excuse me 1968, until 1986. And it was about 1982 when Elizabeth Boone, who had just come in a few years before as director of Pre-Columbian Studies after whatever took place here between Harvard and Yale. And I’ve heard some versions of it but I don’t know the story. Anyway, Elizabeth Boone was here and I got a telephone call from her asking me if I would be interested in organizing a summer seminar on what we call the Epiclassic in Mesomerica, the time period after the collapse of Teotihuacán up to the emergence of Tula as a major center. And I had worked at Tula during the 1970s. I had a major field project at the University of Missouri. And so I discussed this with Elizabeth and got interested in it. It turned out that she and Gordon Willey had sort of come up with this idea. Dumbarton Oaks had had one previous summer seminar, which never resulted in a publication for reasons that I don’t understand. In the end I agreed to do it and put together a group of five scholars, three art historians and two archaeologists. By that time I’d reach a point where I could tolerate art historians, and I’d always had an interest in art actually. Bill Sanders didn’t really beat it out of me completely. And so we had two archaeologists and three art historians, and we spent the summer over in the basement of the old house, in what was the rare book room, sitting around these rather cramped quarters, studying various topics related to the overall theme of the Epiclassic. And I say we were very cramped. Nevertheless, it was still permissible to smoke in Dumbarton Oaks. I was a pipe smoker in those days and I smoked my pipe down there. I had to bring in a little smoke extractor, one of these little whirly-cakes with a fan in it that pulled the smoke through a filter. That was the only thing you had to do to be legitimate in terms of smoking. I told you I’m going to wander. My first experience here at Dumbarton Oaks – I was overwhelmed with the surroundings. I’m just this boy from the backcountry, Pennsylvania Dutch. And I come into these settings with the Byzantine mosaics and all of this. I was a cigarette smoker in those days. And at one point in the conference – you were allowed to smoke everywhere in the building back in those days – at one point I found myself stamping out a cigarette with my foot on the face of Jesus Christ on the mosaic in the hallway. I went – wait a minute, this is not real cool. But anyway I didn’t get back to Dumbarton Oaks, because my research in the late ‘60s and ‘70s kind of took me in different directions from what Dumbarton Oaks was doing, which under Betty and Mike was very much a synthesis of archaeology and art. And that’s not where my research was focused in those days. And I think that’s one of the reasons I didn’t – I was aware of the publications, I was buying quite a few of them, but I didn’t have any first hand experience until I came here to talk to Elizabeth about this Epiclassic summer seminar. So, we went ahead and did it. We spent nine weeks here and each person studying their own topic but we were in constant contact with each other and it was a great mix of people and ideas. We all lived in this building upstairs. At that time this was the refectory, the room over there was where everybody ate. The kitchen was back where the kitchen is today, but it was set up as a much larger kitchen to handle the number of people. Dumbarton Oaks was not nearly as big in those days as it is today so you didn’t have nearly as many people at lunch for example. And people would eat lunch in there and then come in here for coffee. But after lunchtime and in the morning we had the run of the building to ourselves. We stayed up here and we were in constant interaction. And I think that was one of the really critical things that contributed to the success of that summer seminar and the subsequent publication – is the fact that we were able to interact with each other intensely. Most of them were people that had never known each other. I hadn’t known – I only knew one of the other four participants before I arrived here. That was Joe Paul, the archaeologist. I had worked with him in Guatemala in 1969. We were both students then – well no, he was but I wasn’t. But we got along very well and we would swim in the pool together in the evening, every evening in the summer, and constantly talk about our research and how other people’s research might impact on ours. And that synergism was I think extremely important. That’s what I consider one of the threads through Dumbarton Oaks scholarship that I hope it hasn’t lost with the increase in size. By that I mean that people can interact with each other on an intense basis. At the same time they could get away from each other as we did from time to time. I would go off and do something downtown or someone else would go off. Sometimes we’d do it together. Some of us went up the C & O Canal once on a barge, and we’d go to concerts together. I’d go to the drag strip out in Maryland by myself because nobody else gave a damn about drag racing, but it was a very profitable summer for all of us. Since then I’ve had regular contact with Dumbarton Oaks. One of the things that came out of that summer for me personally was the realization that art, quote unquote, is an integral part of life and of what people do in the past and the present. And it has to be part of our understanding of the past regardless of what our academic training is. If we’re going to understand the past we have to know why people made what they did and what they thought about it. And that really sort of then brought me back into Dumbarton Oaks. I started attending the fall symposia, actually last night, my wife, who is also an archaeologist, and I were asking – we were talking – she asked me, how many fall symposia – well I asked her how many have we attended together? – because we got together as a couple about the same time that this happened. I had a previous marriage and she’d had a previous marriage, we met at an international congress of Americanists in Manchester, England in 1982 and I came here I believe in ’84 for the summer seminar. And I think together we’ve attended probably half of the fall symposia that have been held since about 1990. We get here about every other year, we can’t afford to do it every year because now I’m retired and nobody pays my travel and even when I was working, by and large my universities were not flush with travel funds. But this became an integral part of our life. I participated in a fall symposium as a participant, the one on Latin American Horizons. I had gotten to know Elizabeth Boone over that summer and we maintained contact. And then when she decided to take a sabbatical she contacted me. Actually, I was in Mexico sick as a dog in a hotel in Oaxaca, and the phone rang and I picked it up and lo’ and behold here’s Elizabeth Boone. I don’t know how she ever tracked me down. But she said, “I want to take a sabbatical, are you interested in replacing me as acting director of Pre-Columbian Studies for a year?” I said hell yes. So when I got back to the states I came up here and we talked about it, I interviewed with Angeliki Laiou, who was the director of D.O. at that point and the end result was that I came here, actually I started on July 1st of 1993 and I was acting director for that academic year, until July 1994. I had been chairman of the anthropology department at the University of Alabama for seven years prior to that and had stepped down as chairman. I could’ve stayed on another three years – I had been appointed to a second five year term – but I’d felt that seven years was enough to – let someone else have a say at how things go. And I was getting tired of it, frankly. So I had a sabbatical and I actually had a research grant to go to Mexico and excavate a place called La Mojarra on the Gulf Coast of Mexico. And I was going to do that during my sabbatical. The Dean of my college, Arts and Sciences at the University of Alabama, allowed me to postpone my sabbatical a year and take the acting directorship here. So, I actually had two years off from the University of Alabama. The first year I was acting director, the second year my wife and I stayed here in Washington. We actually rented a house up on Garfield. We stayed there for the two years and then we were both here that fall, she stayed here in the winter. I went to Mexico for five months while she stayed here. She was doing her own research at the Smithsonian on objects in their collection. So, that worked out very well, and I did a field project. We came back here, spent the summer and moved back to Alabama. I remember driving down the street toward our house just thinking, you’ll probably have to bleep this out, but just thinking oh shit, we’ve been thrown out of heaven. Here we are, we’ve been living in Washington, which for us is heaven, for two years and here we are in Alabama again. And actually what we discovered is that it really wasn’t that bad because what had happened – and in all seriousness, I mean I make light of it – but when we moved here in 1993, the digital revolution was just beginning and email had just become something that people were doing. We were actually within the first 10,000 members of AOL and when we got to Alabama, by that time, email was up and running all over the world and what we discovered is that we can live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and be in touch with everyone in the world. And that really made all the difference, I mean were it not for that we wouldn’t be there today. In all honesty, my wife would not have stayed, and I’d have followed her – but being able to be in contact with our colleagues in Mexico, people here in Washington, people in Japan. And it’s just a constant part of our life. And so we can live in Alabama and be part of the world mix academically and socially, and we are. And that made the advantages of living in Alabama all the more obvious to us, which is why I’ve been retired five years now. We have stayed there; we’ve renovated our house. They’ll take us out feet first. It’s a ranch house so it’s not going to be a whole lot of trouble. But we’re there for the duration and were it not for the digital revolution that would not be the case. Here in Washington it was – being in the position of Director of Pre-Columbian Studies is like being in the control tower at a Pre-Columbian airport. I mean literally everybody in the world comes into Washington – everyone in the Pre-Columbian world does – in great part because of Dumbarton Oaks. And anyone here at Dumbarton Oaks – you’re constantly interacting with these people, and that just was fabulous, those two years that we had here – especially my year as acting director because I did not feel under any pressure under acting director. I knew it was a one-year appointment and it was not like I could be fired. I had some tiffs with the director of D.O., with Angeliki, for whom I had and still do a tremendous admiration in a lot of ways – in a lot of ways I don’t. But I was really turned off by her leadership style. I mean, she led by fear, by instilling a fear of god in everyone under her. And I just don’t appreciate that leadership style. It’s not my style. I’ve been – I was an administrator at the University of Alabama for twenty-five years. I was chairman of the anthropology department, I was acting director of the School of Music for a year, I was acting director of the museums for a year, I was permanent director of the museums for 6 years and I had my own leadership style, and it’s very different than hers. Everyone here was just constantly quaking in fear of her. I mean especially – well, people below me in sort of the hierarchy, the ordinary employees. Many of them would not want to be in the same room with her. And yet when I look back on it, she was a very important part of turning this institution into what it is today, and she did a lot of really good things for Dumbarton Oaks. I’m really – I was sorry to hear when she passed away. But at the time she was a real pain in the ass – I mean she just was. You might want to bleep this out too. She went to Rome over Christmas holiday and when she came back she brought back a stuffed – what do you call it – snake, not a python but a viper, the ones they have in the baskets and kind of come out like this. I’m blocking on the name of this particular kind of snake. But she had it on her desk, and she had it sitting on her desk in a way that when you went in to talk to her – she had an arrangement of couches in front of her desk, and she would come and sit on the ouch with her back to her desk with this damn snake coming over her shoulder – and so you’re sitting here going like, oh hello boss. And the first time I saw it I just burst out laughing, which she didn’t appreciate. But I noticed other people, when I was in meetings in her office with her – I mean this was really intimidating. Anyway – but she was a very effective director and I see now her good points which I didn’t necessarily see when I was here. So, that sort of was my second major engagement with Dumbarton Oaks and actually my last. I’ve been here many times since then for lectures, for roundtables, for symposia and so forth. I now have this – actually I finished yesterday – my postdoc fellowship, which is my first postdoctoral fellowship in my life at age 70 – first one I ever applied for too. And it’s kind of ironic because I came here on this postdoc to kind of round out the La Mojarra project, which I started, it was a one season field project with National Geographic money in 1995 after I stepped down here. I went to Mexico for five months and went up and down the river each day on a boat and out digging in the cattle pasture, and it was a great experience – but I never had the time to write it up. I’ve always been busy with administration that when I retired four years this became one of my priorities – to finish this up. My postdoc is to do some background research in areas that I don’t have the bibliographic references available to me either in my library or the university library, but Dumbarton Oaks does – some of the geography and history of this particular area in Mexico, some of the archaeology, some of the obscure Mexican publications, and so forth. And so this is helping me sort of finish out something I started in a sense here at Dumbarton Oaks in terms of my own thinking about it. And I’ve just wandered all over the place, now you may want to get me back on your script.
LL: That’s totally fine. So, you mentioned the first Olmec symposium, or I think the first Pre-Columbian one as well.
LL: So, what was that experience like for you and how did that sort of influence your –
RD: Well, as I said, personally, it was a tremendous experience – just being around these senior scholars and virtually all of them treating me like an equal. And here I was – I was still a graduate student. Although the faculty at Penn State always treated its graduate student as equals, in all honesty, I suppose in part because it was a very young department. These were young faculty members themselves. We were their first graduate students going through. I was actually the first Ph.D. in archaeology at Penn State. So, I didn’t really expect to be treated that way with all these senior dogs kind of around here. I expected them to be sort of – to brush me off – get out here kid. But they didn’t. I remember Matthew Stirling, for example, who was almost god for us young guys – he had done all the Olmec archaeology – and we all thought he had done a lousy job of it because he had reported in National Geographic. Now I have more respect for National Geographic, and for what they do and for what Matt did. But I mean, he went way out of his way to treat me as a colleague, he sent me some of his publications. He and his wife Marion had all the participants over to their house, including my wife, who was with me and who had not come to the conference – she had stayed in the hotel because she was not an archaeologist. This was my first wife. And they just treated us very well so I really felt like part of the mix of the profession and I really tried to carry that over into my relationships with students because that was my first experience really with sort of being in a professorial group like this of names I’d always heard about but never met before. So, it did have that – and watching the give and take, the back and forth between the people on the podium was an interesting experience because I had attended some professional meetings before, in which whenever there were any exchanges they just had to be shouting matches. People really burst and taking it personally. Here it was much more collegial. And the whole setting here just gave me a completely different sense of what scholarship could be – just seeing all the books even that Betty had managed to collect at that point, indicated to me that there was something going on here. And then the Pre-Columbian art on display, including more than a few fakes – but that’s okay, every collection has fakes, you know. As a museum director I know this; you just have to live with it. But seeing them and seeing them displayed so beautifully and yet so instructively, and that is true today too. One thing that I really like about Dumbarton Oaks – and this is for all three sections – is the way they handle the use of art and object for the public and displaying them for the public in what is really a scholarly setting here. That’s the primary purpose, but the museums play an important role. They get a tremendous visitorship and they do a damn good job – they really do – and I’ve been in the museum world enough to know there are a lot of museums here in Washington that don’t. One, and I’ll say it right to the camera, the Museum of Native American Indians. My wife and I were down there last week – that’s my third visit – and I am so upset about the way that it’s organized that I just don’t want to go back. I shouldn’t have gone back this time. I keep going back wanting to give it a fair trial and I keep saying I’m going from the fourth floor, which is where you have to go to start, then you go down, all the way down the bottom, putting a lot of time into it and really soaking it up. Well, I only got down to floor one once, this time I didn’t even get down to the third floor before I got so pissed off before I didn’t – you know, let’s go to the National Gallery of Art where they know how to exhibit things, frankly. But here they have always done a really good job, and that was evident to me back then, long before I had any interest in the museum world or in objects. I was trained in archaeology that you use objects to learn about past people but you don’t admire them as creations of past people. I’ve since corrected my impressions this way. Okay. Well, I don’t know what else I can say about the first symposium. I had a 1958 Pontiac, it had a loud muffler on it but –
LL: Well, that’s wonderful.
RD: Wish I had that car today.
LL: Excuse me. And then you also mentioned that you’ve been to a lot more symposia throughout the years. So, how do you think they’ve changed or maybe how have they stayed the same?
RD: I really don’t have a sense of what Dumbarton Oaks was like in, say, 1968 because I was only here for a weekend. I’m going to take a throat lozenge here. But let’s go ahead to – well, the summer of 1984, was it ‘84? The older you get the more you lose dates and the more they kind of run together.
LL: It was 1984, yeah.
RD: Okay, good. That was the first time I got to really experience the place as an institution. And in those days it was much smaller than it is today. You didn’t have all the new buildings that you now have, which have been here maybe five years – so, the library, the garden house here, the new refectory in what had been the director’s house. Everything was pretty well jammed into this building, the house, what is now the refectory building, which was the director’s house, and the little house down there which in those days was the house of Don Smith, the gardener. And in fact, I used to go down there sometimes in the evenings when I was living here and, you know, take a cold six pack of beer down and sit down with Don and his wife and discuss gardening and, I don’t know, anything. But the institution was much smaller physically; there were many fewer people. It was much more intimate in a way, not as rule-bound as it is now. And it has to be. You have to have different colored lanyards for different kinds of people because there are too many people here. Back in the ‘80s everyone here knew everyone else. That can’t be the case. You have more guards than you ever did before and most people don’t know them by name. Back then it was much more like a family in a sense. Today, I think it’s more like a real extended family in which you kind of recognize that you all belong to the Dumbarton Oaks lineage or clan but you don’t know quite who everyone is. What it has not lost is sort of the dedication to scholarship that I think is the core of D.O., which I think is what Mildred Bliss really wanted to be the core. And I think that has remained ever since I’ve known the place. This is what it’s really about. And everything is designed around that. It’s designed to facilitate scholars. You come in here as a scholar – it’s almost like taking monastic orders – you come in to this monastery and there are certain behavioral patterns you’re expected to follow. And the same was true back then. It still is today. When you come here, for example, as a Fellow you’re expected to really devote your time to the fellowship and not be out running around hanging out in the mall a couple of days a week and so forth. You’re not supposed to go off and give talks, take off for a week and go to California or whatever. You’re here for the purpose of using – there are really two things that Dumbarton Oaks gives scholars that is maybe not unique. There are maybe a few other places in the world, the School of American Research in Santa Fe for anthropologists and maybe a couple of others, I don’t know. This is one of the few places you have all the things you need to do scholarship. You have all the books you could ever conceive of, and if they don’t have it they’ll break their backs to get it for you, they really will. They provide you with a comfortable environment, they provide you with adequate housing. I know people have been bitching and moaning about La Quercia, but I spent several years of my life living in trailers, so La Quercia can’t be that bad. They set everything up so you can do it, and then they expect you to do it because you have been chosen from a pretty competitive group of people to get this done, or this don as we call it in Spanish – this boon of being able to come here for that period of time. And you not only have all of the facilities here. One of the great things about Dumbarton Oaks is it pulls you away from home and you don’t have to mow the lawn. I mean, they have guys out there who mow the lawn, you don’t have to wash the car, you don’t have to do all of the day-in, day-out things that we all do on a daily basis. It’s done for you. It’s set up so you can get a good meal at midday that, if you play it right, that’s your big meal of the day. That’s the way we do it, the way I do it now. My wife and I have very light dinners and we have breakfast and so forth. And so you don’t have to worry about these things. Now, when I’m here I may be worrying that my backyard is turning into a jungle, and I’ll find out next week when I get home. Either that or it died in the drought but either way that’s not a concern of mine. I’ve actually been here, when we leave next Thursday, we will have been here for five weeks. I had a four week fellowship; we tacked an extra week on. Right now we have nine relatives who have come in town the last two days. They’re not living with us. We have a son who lives in Chevy Chase, and some are with him, some are in hotels, two grandkids who I’m going to bring here next week actually, they’re six and nine. They’re off to the Air and Space Museum now but in those six weeks or five weeks I have spent all my time really thinking about what I came here to think about, I honestly have. That has been the core of what I’ve done. For example, this morning I woke up at four thirty, which I don’t normally do, and I laid there and at five thirty I said to hell with it and got up and made some coffee. But I was thinking about scholarly related things – not specifically La Mojarra, but there’s a possibility that I’m going to organize either an Epiclassic period roundtable or a summer symposium at some point in the future. And that’s been rattling through my mind. When I woke up and got some coffee I started taking notes on this and I now have an outline for a roundtable. It’s total immersion into your scholarship, and I think all the ex-Fellows I’ve spoken with and the Fellows who are here now say this. It’s just beats the hell out of anything you can do at home, frankly, it truly does. It’s one of the unique things that Dumbarton Oaks offers. I don’t know any other place except for maybe the School of American Research in my discipline, and there may be others, and I’m sure there are, I know there are in other disciplines. But for us this is as good as it gets. I’ve said many times Dumbarton Oaks is our second home, and it truly is and I feel at home. I can be away for two years and come back here and people recognize me, the guards, older guards recognize me, some of the people on the garden staff, Hector, people in the kitchen, people over in the house. And that’s kind of neat. Most people don’t get to have those kinds of relationships in their lives. Now, other ways in which the institution has changed – well, I said a lot more rules, less flexibility in some things, although it was always kind of tight. There were always expectations or certain things you would not do and certain things you would do and so forth, and that has tightened up considerably. And I know some of the staff who have been here a long time could probably give you a much more biased opinion of it than I do. Because I have the luxury of just dipping in and out, once again, once I’m out of here and back home this doesn’t really affect me the way it does someone who’s working here for a salary. I have a feeling this is a pretty good place to work for non-academic people, people like the guards, the garden staff and so forth. I mean, I just have that sense form talking to them that these are jobs they enjoy – maybe not every day, especially if you’re a guard sitting in a chair, you have nothing to do except hear somebody badge in or badge out. But I’ve noticed they switch them off on a very regular basis too so they get a lot of different experiences during the day, and they don’t go to sleep at the door. I don’t know much about the directors of D.O. over the years. I mean there have been a number here. I’ve had very cordial relationships with all of them but I haven’t – other than my experience with Angeliki – I haven’t had constant – and actually, Angeliki had the good sense to hire a marvelous woman whose name escapes me now, who’s now deceased, as her assistant and this woman had worked in not-for-profit organizations all of her life, and everyone loved her and so everyone went to her rather than up to Angeliki and she was the conduit and that was very smart on Angeliki’s part to do that. Actually another thing I remember when I was here that summer was when what we called the Elizabeth Taylor house across the street, which is now the director’s home first came up for sale and actually Dumbarton Oaks started looking at it but didn’t buy it at that time. Elizabeth Boone and I went over – they had an auction of the furniture and they had a preview of the auction. You could go through the building and see the tackiest stuff I’ve seen in my life. Everybody called it the Elizabeth Taylor house. I don’t know if she ever lived there or not. John Warner did, and I don’t know who bought that furniture and who got the wallpaper but I mean, man, this was really bad, that stuff. As you were walking through there were all these socialites going through at the same time and they were just talking, oh I hope I can buy that piece and I hope.... They had the auction. I don’t know what happened to the house at that point. D.O. did not buy it then, it did later. But even back then it was looking to expand its space. It knew that the mission and the facilities had outgrown the mission is what – excuse me, the size of the mission had outgrown the facilities as they existed and they were starting to look around for new property. And then when I was Acting Director is when they finished La Quercia, finished renovation of it, and moved people in, actually, that summer. When I went out they moved the first group in, and at that time La Quercia was great. Everybody’s been complaining about it ever since.
RD: And I haven’t seen it so I don’t know but as I’ve said I lived in a couple of house trailers so it’s a little hard to make me feel very sympathetic for someone who gets an apartment with a real air conditioner. Anything else you got?
LL: Okay. As a summer fellow in 1984 what was your everyday life like?
RD: I had a bedroom back, well, that end of the house. I got here first so I got the choice of the rooms. And at that time, well, there were some – let’s see, maybe one landscape summer fellow and there were one or two Byzantine, but it was primarily the Pre-Columbian people that summer. Now, there were a lot of other Byzantine scholars around that we interacted with. But we lived in this house. Everyone sort of made their own breakfast, but we’d all be over in the building probably by about 8:30 in the morning. We’d work in the morning, go to lunch, sometimes we’d go to the pool after lunch and before two o’clock. Two o’clock we had to get out of the pool because it was open for the public, and then we could get back into the pool after six o’clock. And sometimes people would do dinner here, sometimes they’d go to a restaurant nearby, sometimes we’d go as a group or as individuals. A couple of us had cars and so we were a little mobile, but actually the bus service was a lot better in those days than it is now. It has just fallen to pieces really since I was here in 1992. When we were here in ’92 the buses did come every ten minutes. But in any case we’d frequently go over to the pool for a picnic dinner, take some stuff over, swim and eat, and generally stay there until about dark or so. And there were some Byzantinists there and of course there was the famous Alexander Kazhdan – I’m sure you’ve heard about him, the man who died in the pool. No, you haven’t heard about him?
RD: Okay. You’ll have to get – I can give you the bare bones of the story as I’ve gotten it, but this is sort of third hand. You’ll have to talk to some people in Byzantine Studies to get this right. Alexander Kazhdan was a Russian Byzantinist who I guess the Blisses had actually helped get out of Russia in the 1960s and get him into the West, and he came here to Dumbarton Oaks and he lived here on the campus for the rest of his live. He actually lived in what is now the refectory. No I’m sorry, not the refectory, the building in front of the library where you walk in – it’s like a security building – I don’t know what all is in there, but that’s where you get your picture taken.
RD: Okay. That was two apartments, and he and his family lived in one and at least, at times, the assistant director lived in the other. When I was here in the ‘80s the assistant director lived in the other half. And he was here forever and he would swim everyday, be out in the pool. This guy was considerably older than I was. He was a geezer. But I mean I’m a geezer. He’d be out there in the pool, and he’d just keep plugging away. To watch him was incredible. I’ve been a swimmer all my – I mean, I don’t look like it but I used to swim a mile a day, five days a week, year in, year out. I don’t do that anymore, but he would do it everyday. And normally they would have liked to have closed down the pool maybe at the end of September, but they always feared to because he kept swimming. And so they kind of said, well we’ll wait ‘til no one’s swimming in the pool. Well, hell, Alex was out there in November. I think he was breaking ice at some point, it was so cold. And sometime within the last five or six years he apparently passed away in the pool.
RD: And they found his body. I mean, not a bad way to go actually. Beats the hell out of being in a hospital with tubes coming out of your nostril. But check that story with somebody in Byzantine Studies because he was quite a character, sort of a garrulous old guy but quite friendly. I don’t know how good his English was, really. I never had any deep conversations with him but he’d be out there every night, and we’d be out there 3 or 4 nights a week. That was a very nice perk. And then on weekends some of us would work, some of us would go off. I remember I took a weekend off. I’m originally from Eastern Pennsylvania. My sister still lives there so I went up there to visit her on weekends, and sometimes we’d go somewhere in the surrounding area – over to Baltimore, something like that, or just relax. But everything always – the scholarship always was integrated in everything that you did. Because you were a bunch of scholars interested in the same thing thrown together in a way which never happens in most universities. Because there’s no one at my university who really understands what I do even in my own department. We all do our own things. We discuss our research and our interests and so forth, but we don’t have the same interests. And so when you get the chance to really bounce ideas off people, you do it. And that’s one of the nice things about this place. But it was a pretty relaxed kind of an atmosphere. It got a little tense over the fourth of July when they had a barbeque out in the driveway and had quite a bit of beer. And I remember they were actually barbequing crab. Don Smith, the head of gardens, had run off and got a whole bunch of crabs that they cooked up. Didn’t barbeque really but there was also a regular barbeque going. And then later in the evening, there was a fireworks display downtown and some of the Fellows who perhaps had more beer than they should have, decided to go into the house, climb up into the attic and climb out into the roof to watch the fireworks. That’s a pretty damn steep roof. They could’ve fallen to their – and they didn’t. And I wasn’t one of them. I’d had quite a bit to drink and I couldn’t climb any steps, let alone – I don’t want to die a martyr. And I think there was a couple of tense stays after that when the word got out that the roof had been violated. It was like another – The summer seminar that followed us was the one in Pre-Columbian Studies because I think in those days they switched departments each summer. One summer in Byzantine Studies, the next summer was Pre-Columbian, the next Landscape. The next Pre-Columbian one was on Aztec matters, and they apparently set up a soccer net out on the north field here and started playing soccer and tearing up the grass. That didn’t last very long. There are things like that. You learn everywhere you go – you learn there are things you shouldn’t do. I mean like bringing your squirrel gun to the university and shooting squirrels. Which actually when we were here in 1993, there was a guy from North Carolina State University in religious studies who told this story. He was a Byzantinist. He was teaching religious studies at North Carolina State. He told this story about the previous fall, a student from western North Carolina had shown up on campus and of course, he brought a squirrel gun with him and like most university campuses there are squirrels all over the place and this kid was just popping these things left and right and cooking them up in his room. The administration kind of got on his case. He had to send the squirrel gun home. There are lots of squirrels around here but I don’t know if anyone tried to kill them. I know one Mexican scholar who ran around – oh god. Maria Rodriguez ran around picking up acorns, and her husband was saying, boy you look like a squirrel. She had this whole batch of acorns she just took back to Veracruz, Mexico and I don’t think any of them ever survived when she tried to plant them. But we were here in the fall, there’s just a certain time when the Dumbarton oaks shed all their acorns. So, I tried planting some at home. That didn’t work in Alabama either. But I think that’s more me than the climate. Yeah, what else?
LL: So, the summer seminar that year. How was that organized and sort of who participated in it?
RD: Well, I say Elizabeth contacted me, and it turned out that really she and Gordon Willey had cooked this thing up themselves, and I think they were kind of desperate at that point. They had had this first Pre-Columbian summer seminar that for whatever reason just kind of fizzled. I don’t quite understand. Maybe a publication, an article or two came out, but there was never any book or anything. And I don’t know how they decided on this topic or how they decided on me, frankly, because this was not an area, not a theme that I was connected with academically or in terms of my own research. I had worked at the site of Tula and it does have an Epiclassic – does play an important part in the Epiclassic period. But in any case they contacted me, Elizabeth did, and we started talking back and forth, and she had a lot of suggestions for art historians – which I had no idea who was in art history at that point. And really even as today there are very few Pre-Columbian art historians. There are probably, I’ll take a wild guess and say maybe five in the world who are bonafide, who have terminal degrees – Ph.D. degrees in Pre-Columbian art history. It’s a very small field, and then it was a lot smaller. Although there have always been people who have been interested in art history but who are anthropologists, and so we started talking over a list of names and who had information relevant to the time period who might be available to come here and who might be able to take advantage of the resources here. Who did we consider to be not just a reputable scholar but someone who could create a contribution while here, someone who was going to take advantage of this in terms of advancing knowledge about the Epiclassic, not just regurgitating what we know? And so it came down to, oh I don’t know, a list of about a dozen people, and then some people were not available, some people were not interested. For a variety of reasons we ended up with the five people we had, and it turned out to be really a marvelous clue and I have lost touch with some of them over the years but 3 or 4 years will go by and we’ll get back in touch. Some of them have changed emphases. Janet Berlo, who was one of the art historians, has really gotten out of Mesoamerica entirely. She now does North American Indian, Plains Indian art. Ellen Baird, Bebe Baird, went into full time administration at what used to be called, excuse me, University of Illinois, Chicago Circle. And now it’s called University of Illinois, Chicago. And really has been sort of out of scholarship for a number of years. Joe Ball – I see him from time to time, I really don’t know what he’s doing. Jeff Kowalski has maintained his interest, and in fact he organized a roundtable here on Tula and Chichen Itza maybe about seven years with another art historian, Cynthia Kristan-Graham, who’s now at Auburn University in Alabama. And I actually participated in that, and so he has remained active. But people have gone around – and this happens in scholarship all the time. People go their own ways, some people go into administration, some people drop out entirely, some people retire and garden the rest of their lives, some people – it’s just natural attrition. So for example now, in my thinking about doing something twenty-five years later, as I go through the names of potential participants, there are a great many new people but not many of the old people anymore. Which is kind of neat. You need to get knew blood and new kinds of thinking into these things and someone like me becomes fossilized and maybe our best role is in organizing something like this. I don’t know, I’m seventy years old and I’m still having a hell of a lot of fun.
LL: Let’s put in another tape. So, in 1993 you came in as acting director. What were your duties then?
RD: Well, I was really quite fortunate because Elizabeth Boone had basically left the year set up. The next Pre-Columbian symposium was already lined up. I had to start maneuvers for the following one. By that time there was a board of Senior Fellows which had not existed until sometime during Elizabeth Boone’s – during the change over from when Yale ran the place to when Harvard pulled the reins in, as some people say. But really what I had to do was sit in the basement there, answer the phone, answer the mail, work with the staff. And at that time a lot of the staff were who are now in other divisions, for example Bridget Gazzo who is a Pre-Columbian librarian – she was under the director not the library staff. And I don’t know how the curatorships run here now, but in those days my assistant was the assistant curator, Carol Callaway. And we had five Fellows here that year. Oh gosh, who all were they? Dennis Tedlock and his wife Barbara was around because she had a fellowship somewhere down on a mall, maybe the Smithsonian. Kitty Allen was one, Chris Beekman, Saburo Sugiyama. Who else? There was another female. So, I was sort of in charge of the Fellows, making sure they did what they were supposed to do. And actually we all met as a group once a week for a couple of hours and just talked about what they were doing – because they are a pretty disparate bunch of people in terms of their interests. There were some Andeanists, there were some Mesoamericanists, and so we would meet once a week and that was sort of one of the high points of the week. There were a fair amount of social duties, embassy events – the Canadian Embassy, the Mexican Embassy, we got very actively involved in the Mexico Cultural Institute, which was just starting up at that point. And the Pre-Columbian Society of Washington, which was just starting up that year, and we still are active in that. We come to their meetings maybe once every other year and we keep in touch with the members. It’s sort of an amateur group here in town, but they are really quite knowledgeable amateurs. Actually, one of them just got his Ph.D. in anthropology from Catholic doing South American textiles – just was awesome. And I worked some with the docents. I had meetings once a week with Angeliki’s assistant, once a month with Angeliki. We had sort of issues with the collections at times. We had a lot of problems with the Philip Johnson building leaking water. Actually, the foundation started caving in at one point and we had to get that fixed. One, I believe, January day I came in and there was perhaps a half an inch of ice on the inside of the glass on the Philip Johnson building all around it. And so we had to get all the objects out and then melt the water and get it out of there. There were a lot of water problems. We had floods in the library, in the basement. We had to remove all the books form the bottom shelves at one point, take all the carpet out, throw it out, wet-vac it out. There were constant issues like that, but there were no critical strategic decisions to be made. And as I say Elizabeth just left it in perfect condition, and she was here in town. She had a fellowship down at CASVA, the National Gallery of Art, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts. And so she was here if I needed her. I tried not to contact her. She would sometimes sneak in at night when she wanted to get something out of the office or something. But we maintained contact with each other, and if I had any real problems I would contact her. I didn’t want to leave problems for her to handle, and I hope I didn’t. I’m not aware of any that I did. So, that when she came back it was a very smooth transition, just as it had been with me. When I came in the day I came she greeted me, she showed me around and then she said you’re not going to see me for the next month and I didn’t. And so I did the same thing when I ended, although we continued living up the street here. I actually – although I would’ve loved to use the library – I stayed out of the building for the entire fall semester, because I didn’t want to seem like I was treading – and this is just part of my leadership, this is part of my style. I’ve done this with every job that I’ve ever stepped down from. I just stay away and let my successors establish their own ground. And then after – well, actually, after I got back from Mexico, after the La Mojarra trip, then I started coming over here and using the library again and by that time everything was back on an even keel. But it was – there were no really outstanding issues. I got a lot of insight into Dumbarton Oaks as an organization by talking with the other directors and with other people. I got to know a number of people on the staff quite well, I’d have lunch with them frequently just as now I have lunch with the docents for example and sometimes with the gardener. But there was a man named Glenn Ruby who was in charge of Publications in those days, and Glenn and I became good friends and some of the permanent scholarly staff in Byzantine Studies. In those days Byzantine Studies was much more predominant here than Pre-Columbian Studies and Landscape up until recently. Byzantine Studies has sort of been the dog not the tail. Now you’ve got a three-piece dog. It is really quite different in terms of the number of fellowships, the resources and everything. And that’s been I think quite recent – I would say primarily since Joanne has come in as Director, but it’s not just in Pre-Columbian Studies. It’s my sense that’s the way it is throughout the whole organization. And I wouldn’t say that Byzantine has lost anything, I don’t have that sense. But that the other two have gained. And you know, this is really the finest, this is the primo Byzantine Studies center in the world. It really is. And I think it’s important that it remain that. I mean, I don’t give a damn about Byzantine Studies in many senses, but this is a critical place for that very arcane realm of scholarship. Just as Pre-Columbian Studies is rather arcane – and the same with Landscape Architecture. I learned a lot from Joachim, and I forget his last name – it’s a hyphenated name; he was a German, he is a German. He was Director of Landscape and Garden when I was in Pre-Columbian Studies, and we’d have a lot of conversations about landscape and how people use landscape. And since I’d come out of this cultural ecology background, with a strong emphasis on how people use landscapes but more in an agricultural sense and farming, we had a lot in common, really. So that was good. And I see now he has a book. There’s a new book section on the fourth floor there, rather a new book section, and then there’s a section where they have books by Dumbarton Oaks authors. And he has a new book out in German, which I don’t read. It looks good. It was a very interesting year. It had a lot of social aspects to it, which has never in a sense been my strong suit. But I managed it pretty well with the help of my wife. I won’t say I learned how to tie a tie because I knew how to do that before I got here. But as one of my colleagues said, boy you look pretty spiffy here, Diehl. But it was a fascinating year. I mean it was – I’m trying to think. This was the year that it was the fiftieth year anniversary of the Dumbarton Oaks Accords, which set up the post Word War II economy. So, there was a big celebration here. Both here and then down at the State Department. So, we all got invited, including a lot of the staff, got invited down to this do up on the eighth floor of the State Department overlooking the mall. They have this really super sort of party patio up there. Everybody’s running around with their coats and ties. All the secretaries had dresses on and high heels and the whole nine yards. Which is not – this is one of the more informal places I know in terms of dress code. Men who wear ties here are the kind of men who’ve been wearing ties all their lives. They don’t know any better. They grew up doing it, they were born doing it. I don’t know. But it’s rather informal in that sense, and that’s another thing I think that remains, just from what I’ve seen. There’s a line though. You don’t see many men wearing shorts around here, for example. And I don’t know if anybody ever said that or if it’s a rule or what, but it’s just not what you see here. I think they will wear – maybe in the summer some of the Fellows will. I don’t know. I’ve worn shorts here a couple of times in the library, but at my age I don’t care what anybody thinks. But one of the things I’ve noticed – and I don’t know what this means – but – and this just since I’m here this time – almost all of the researchers, I’ll say under the age of forty, when they’re working have their earbuds in. They’re listening I assume to music, just as you guys probably do when you’re studying. People my age don’t by large. When I’m at home – I have a beautiful office at home that’s bigger than this room. It’s actually a two car and a half garage that was enclosed as a party room. And then when we bought the house I turned it into an office and library, and my wife has an office in one of the bedrooms over in the other side of the house. So, we get together for lunch and stuff. It’s great for working at home. But when I’m at home, I will listen to music when I’m working but not with earphones on. I have my stereo system. But I can’t listen to anyone talking. I can’t even listen to vocal music because it distracts me. I start listening to what someone is saying. But I can listen to – I listen primarily to classical music when I’m working. Other times Blues or Cajun, but then I’m listening to the lyrics and I’m not good at multitasking. But here I’ve noticed that virtually all the younger researchers are listening to something while they’re working. And that’s a change. But I think that back when I was here in the ‘80s there were no earbuds or anything. There was hardly any portable music. Yeah, what else you got?
LL: Okay, so did your time as Acting Director sort of change your perspective or understanding of Dumbarton Oaks?
RD: Pardon me?
LL: So, I mean, how did your experience as Acting Director change your view or affect your views?
RD: Well, it gave me a lot more insight into the organization and the administration and the way an institution of this sort works. When I was here in the summer seminar I sort of saw it through the eyes of a scholar. And we were pretty well let alone to do what we were here to do unless there was some reason to interrupt us. But Elizabeth would not – she would come in and chat with us briefly each day and so forth. But I did not go away from the summer with a sense of how the organization operated, and I don’t know if I was consciously interested in that at that point. It’s rather interesting because it was right after – what happened was, after that summer I went back to Columbia, Missouri – the University of Missouri – for one year. And then I moved to Alabama as chairman of the anthropology department. And I had wanted to leave Missouri for a number of years. And I just couldn’t do it. My first wife and I had divorced. We had a son who was about twelve when we divorced, and we both agreed that we would stay in Columbia until he got out of high school. We kept our houses joint property. She and my son lived in the house. I rented an apartment about a quarter of a mile away so Rich could just go back and forth. And we had a sort of joint custody arrangement. He spent every other day with me and every other day with her. And we were close enough to his schools that he could just walk. But that was coming to an end at that point. I was anxious to leave Missouri for a variety of reasons. And actually I went back for a year after leaving here and then went to Alabama, accepted the position of chairman at Alabama. I don’t know if my experience here during that summer made me more amenable to taking an administrative position or not. Until the Alabama offer came up it was sort of not on my radar to get into administration. One of the things that attracted me to Alabama was the opportunity to create a Ph.D. program. They had a Master’s program; they did not have a Ph.D. program. And so I saw the opportunity to create a new kind of Ph.D. program. Most Ph.D. programs in existence in anthropology today were created in the ‘60s, like the Penn State. Harvard’s been around a lot longer. And they kind of represented a post World War II flowering of the discipline; they represent an approach – even today – an approach to the discipline and a teaching of it that was really molded in the ‘60s and is way out of date, frankly. And I’ve always – I argued this in the ‘80s and I still argue it today. In the case of Alabama, I went there and started the process of creating a Ph.D. program. That did not really come to fruition until about 6 years ago, long after I left. It took three more chairs to get this, but I got the ball rolling, just as I did in – that seems to be what I do as an administrator. I get the ball rolling on things. Renovation of the museum at Moundville, for example, I got that started – got much of the fundraising done before I stepped down as director of the museums. And I don’t know to tell you the truth that my experience here made me more amenable to taking the job at Alabama when it was offered. It just came out of the blue. It came sitting in a bar. I was sitting in a bar in Columbia, Missouri when one of the faculty members who was a friend of mine, who had gone to Alabama about fifteen years before and had come back for Christmas because his wife was nearby. And we were – Dick Krause was his name, Richard Krause. We were sitting at bar throwing down some beers, and he said why don’t you come to Alabama as chairman? I said, yeah, don’t bullshit me man. But he was serious and I actually ended up applying for the job – and got it – and never regretted it. But that then set me on a whole train of administration, the next step in which was coming back here as Acting Director. And then when I went back to Alabama in 1995, I went back to the anthropology department as a fulltime teacher for the first time in my life there. But during that year the dean of arts and sciences asked me to take over the School of Music as an interim acting director because he had to fire the previous director, and he didn’t want to hire anyone from within the school. So, I came in kind of as an outside straw boss, basically, to kind of hold the place together until they could hire someone externally – which they did. And then I got another acting position in the museums because of another failed search, and then I finally took that job permanently. But as I said, I spent the next twenty-five years doing administration and Dumbarton Oaks was – most people who become department chairs in American universities don’t go on to other administrative posts. It’s kind of viewed almost as you’re duty bound to become a chair in a lot of institutions. Everyone has to. Once you get to a certain level and you’re a full professor, it’s kind of expected you will do your duty as a chair for a couple of years. Frequently, it’s only three. Now in the case of Alabama it’s a little bit different because the chairs have more power and therefore longer terms. They are five-year appointments and so forth. Most people don’t – they then go back to becoming – I don’t want to say regular faculty, but go back to their basic career of teaching and research. In my case that was really what I kind of intended to do when I stepped down as chairman and then I had the year off, the year sabbatical coming. I actually finagled a full year out of the dean. I was only supposed to get a semester. But I convinced him that I needed two semesters, one a regular sabbatical and one an administrative leave. It was unprecedented for Alabama. They don’t do it anymore. I think I was the last one to get it. So he gave that to me. And then I came here and I rather suspect – actually when I went back to Alabama after being Acting Director I was kind of looking for something in administration. I think the dean knew it. And at that particular point in time Alabama was very short on seasoned administrators because they had some really bad financial years in the early ‘90s as many universities did. They had a lot of faculty buyouts, early retirements. And many people who’d had administrative experience said to hell with this shit, I’m out of here. And they retired. And there were not a lot of people around to fill some of these positions. And I was one – my head was sticking up on the horizon. And as the Japanese say, the nail that sticks up is the one that gets hit with a hammer. And the School of Music was a fascinating experience for a year. The faculty had no idea I was being appointed until I was introduced to them. And then the dean left the room and I thought, you bastard. Have you guys have ever seen the movie, the Buddy Holly Story? You know who Buddy Holly was? You’re not even old enough – early rock and roll singer who died in a plane crash. In the movie there’s a scene in which Buddy Holly and his Crickets from Lubbock, Texas get hired to go to New York and to play in the Apollo theatre, which is this all black theatre in Harlem, and they didn’t know it, which is true historically too. And they came out on the stage and it was a completely black audience, it just went dead silent and Buddy Holly looked at the other guys and said, let’s just play fast. And they did. And they got the crowd going with them. And that’s kind of how I felt when I got introduced to thirty-three music professors who didn’t know that this anthropologist is going to be their boss for the next few months. Some of them never got over it. Some of them actually tried to have me fired a day before my term ended. Just to be able to say they had done it. They were so mad. Others loved it – they thought I was the greatest thing since sliced bread. And I’m still friends with quite a few of them but it was – it started out kind of rocky. We had a band room upstairs where we stored all the instruments. And people refused to lock the doors. And occasionally instruments would disappear, and this had been going on quite a bit in the past. And in the first few months I tried gently to get them to lock it. And I finally got so pissed off that I was going to Hawaii – actually there’s an organization that meets called NMSU, which is a nonsense name but it’s directors of schools of music of state universities and they invite – you’re only allowed to attend by invitation. They invite one director from each state and not necessarily the biggest school or whatever – really weird organization. Anyways, the director of the University of Alabama always went and that year the meeting was being held on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. My secretary goes: well, you have to go to this meeting on Waikiki Beach and I go what? It turned out the tickets were so cheap I got one for my wife, they were like $400 roundtrip to we go off to Hawaii. I got so mad about this band room thing. I have a log chain at home. And I got a log chain and a padlock and I chained and padlocked the doors for the duration. And so nobody could get in the band room for a week. And then when I came back I took the chain off and there was a grumbling, but the doors were always locked. They had a sense of who they were screwing with. But that was an interesting – that and the museums, were an interesting experience too, but they really have nothing directly to do with D.O. But yeah, I think maybe D.O. did that year – did solidify my interest in doing administration. And then I finally reached a point, and I think a lot of administrators do, the stress just got to me, frankly. And I resigned as museum director, went back to the anthropology department, taught for two full years before I retired. And every year I was museum director I had to fire people because of budget cuts. And the last time I had to fire twenty-five percent of my staff – not because they were incompetent – in fact, I could not fire the incompetents that I wanted to. It was on tenure, who had been there the longest, and sort of who were critical to the mission. And two days after I did that – and I did it each individually and I sat down with each person and told them they were out of a job. One guy had been working there for sixteen years. And two days later Sue and I took off for Mexico City and got into a horrible mess in downtown Mexico City – wrong hotel, noisy. I lost my passport in the airport and had to get a new passport – don’t ever lose your passport – if you do get a second one but your name goes on a list. If you lose that second passport you will never get another passport. You will never leave the United States again. I had that drummed into me in the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. And I ran into a situation. I developed such bad insomnia that in the seventeen days we were in Mexico I did not sleep for fourteen nights, not a minute. And we finally came back to the states and I went to the doctor, and it was all stress – it was just cumulative stress. And once I got out of the museums the stress let up quite a bit. Once I retired the stress just – oh my god, believe me ten years ago I couldn’t have sat here and been sort of as laid back as I have been. Retirement is great. You ought to be able to retire when you’re gone, I think. So now – and I think I want to come back to D.O. I’m not looking for a job or anything, I’ve got a paycheck, but I want to have more continual contact with D.O. I think it’s an important organization. I think there are some things I can do for it, particularly in Mexico. I have kind of a unique set of connections with Mexican scholars that I have developed over the years and I speak fluent Spanish. My first wife was Mexican, and she never spoke English. And so we spoke Spanish at home for fifteen years. She was form Tabasco. I sound like a Tasbacan farmer. She wasn’t from a farming family, but I picked up all the farmer’s slang. And I think Dumbarton Oaks has done a really good job of tying – the Pre-Columbian has done a really good job of trying in with the Andean scholars in the last ten years or so. And I’m so glad to see that developing because I think D.O. has played an important part in what I see as a real flowering of Andean studies in recent times. And I think it can do the same thing in Mexico. I think there’s a whole cadre of new Mexican archaeologists, young people, who need to know about D.O. and need to get here. One of the problems is their spoken English isn’t that good, they don’t have a lot of practice. My wife Sue Scott is an archaeologist. She got her Ph.D. from the University of London under Warwick Bray. She’s up in the apartment. Well no, actually right now they’re down at the Air and Space Museum with grandkids. God, what a zoo that’s going to be. But she also does. Well, she started doing Teotihuacán figurines. Now she does wooden masks with mosaic inlays and she does Teotihuacán masks, stone masks. She’s really more of a museum person, an object person – not from the art perspective, but just from the anthropological, construction, dating. She’s working with Franny Berdan and some other people on wooden masks out here in Suitland, Maryland. The National Museum of American Indians has its full collections. They’ve got 800,000 objects out there. We were out there last week for a day. She photographed some masks, and she’s working on that. Anyway, we’re going to go to Mexico in October. We weren’t going to come here for the fall symposium but I have an interest sort of in the archaeology of conflict, which just developed since January, since I started teaching this course. This course dealt with recent developments in archaeology in the last ten years, major new developments and I thought I’d have all graduate students. Well, their curricula is so tied up with courses they have to take, because we really push people to get through a Master’s degree in two years writing a thesis. And so they don’t have a lot of flexibility. So I ended up with nine undergraduates. I started out with a list of forty topics, which I narrowed down to eighteen. And I sat down with the class the first day, we narrowed it down to twelve. And it turned out none of these people had had any archaeology beyond and introductory course. One girl had had – young woman, I can’t call her girl – anyone under forty is a girl in my mind – had had one summer field experience. But we did topics like archaeology in the media, archaeology in the Internet, paleonutrition was one they wanted to do. What I sometimes call combat archaeology, the archaeology of conflict, used to be called battlefield archaeology. We spent two weeks on that. Oh god, what all did we do. I mean we did all sorts of things just one week after another. We did rock art and shamanism for two weeks. But I did a section on this, and then it turned out the fall symposium – on the archaeology of conflict – and the fall symposium is on the archaeology of conflict. And it’s a very interesting lineup of topics because it’s really kind of different than anything else I’ve ever seen in the archeology of conflict. And that’s one of the things – there’s a kind of scholarship at Dumbarton Oaks that Dumbarton Oaks does and has done forever that really melds the humanities and the social sciences in a way that very few universities do. And that’s very evident in this list of topics for the fall symposium. And I’m sitting there looking at it, thinking well if you got all the Andeanists – hasn’t anybody looked at the archaeological site of Sacsayhuamán where there was this big battle for months between the Spaniards and the Indians, look at it as a battlefield. No, nobody has. In Mesoamerica nobody has looked at the fields of Otumba where Cortes and his men, after fleeing Tenochtitlan near the Battle of Otumba – there was a marker out there. I don’t even know what’s the right field. But I surveyed that cornfield in the 1960s for Bill Sanders. I don’t remember what we found, but nobody has ever studied it from the perspective of warfare. And so this is going to be an interesting symposium. Anyways, after this we are going to Mexico for four or five weeks, and there’s going to be a mesa redonda at Teotihuacán that we’re going to attend. I started my career at Teotihuacán in research – Sue that’s her major focus. We’ll go there and I’m going to start talking to people in Mexico about Dumbarton Oaks in the way that I used to talk to then about FAMSI, the Foundation for the Advancement for Mesoamerican Studies, which I was on the board of directors of for fifteen years. And I would go to Mexico and drum up Mexican interest and get people to apply for grants and stuff. I think D.O. needs to have some more Mexicans come through here. See how it goes.
LL: So, I have one final question. So, you mentioned that you would like to remain involved with D.O. and I mean, you have been for so many years and I was just wondering what the reason behind that is.
RD: Pardon me?
LL: What the reason behind that is, why you’re so connected to D.O.
RD: Well, in a sense it’s kind of like my involvement in FAMSI. And actually I got involved in FAMSI the year I was – FAMSI was founded – this was a private foundation, set up by a sugar daddy on Wall Street for fostering research in Mesoamerica. And he funded it out of his own pocket for fifteen years, got tired of it, said to hell with this and he was involved in banking, the bank crash, sub-prime mortgages, his wife died at that point he spent – His name is Lou Ranieri, if you’ve ever read the book Liar’s Poker – you probably haven’t but Liar’s Poker deals with Wall Street on the 1980s, the excesses of Wall Street. Half of the book is about Lou Ranieri. He invented the concept of mortgage bonds, he’s the one who has led to the present crisis in the American economy. But anyway, Lou started the organization when I was here, and I was a little leery or getting involved in it. I got a call from Dorie Reents-Budet about this. Dorie was involved in it through the whole time, and she said we have this possibility – this foundation is going to get started, are you interested in participating? And I said well what is this? Who is it? Well it was Mike Coe, and Gillette Griffin – Gillete’s a collector – and Marilyn Goldstein – you had a bunch of people, Justin and Barbara Kerr. And I said well, now wait a minute, this guy has a private collection is there any chance.... No, no, the collection will have nothing to do with FAMSI, and it never did – it never belonged to FAMSI – although it was stored in the building that’s the FAMSI headquarters. So, I went down to Crystal Rivers, Florida. We all got together and met this guy who looked like a janitor – literally, when I first met him I thought he was a janitor at a building. Turns out he was the billionaire who was funding this thing. And over the years we created this organization that did a tremendous amount to foster the whole field of Mesoamerican studies. I mean, I think we financed more Ph.D. dissertations than anybody in history, I don’t know, I forget how many million dollars we gave out in grant money over the fifteen years – had a real substantial impact. Lou got tired of it and, you know, the foundation collapsed. The website will continue. It now belongs to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and they will continue it. I feel about Dumbarton Oaks the way I felt about FAMSI, and that is that here is an organization that is unique, that can do tremendous things, and that I can help. And I’m very careful about how I spend my time – very jealous of my time. I’m seventy years old, and I’m not going to live a hell of a lot much longer. I mean, let’s face it – I don’t have another seventy years left. I have no idea how many. You don’t either; you don’t know how many years you have. You know, none of us do. I know that, I don’t expect – I do things that interest me, and D.O. has always interested me; fostering Mesoamerican studies has always interested me; getting Mexicans involved in the field has always interested me – Latin Americans in general but since virtually all my work except for one field season at Kaminaljuyu, has been in Mexico, Mexico is a real focus for me – getting them involved like when I was Acting Director. I had a number of Mexicans I was able to bring up here: Ponciano Ortiz and his wife Maria Rodriguez. And I think that’s an important – that’s something I can do for D.O. and I think it’s something that would help the organization. So, I’m very careful about the battles I pick these days because one hour a day is blocked out every day of the week to get in my Mazda Miata, which I bought as my retirement gift to myself, drop the roof, which I can do in Alabama twelve months a year, drive to Barnes & Noble, where they have a Starbucks get a cup of coffee and New York newspaper and just sort of spend an hour a day. And even after I buy myself a Nook, which I’m going to do when I go back, I’ll probably take the damn Nook to Barnes & Noble and read it there. But that’s one hour of the day that’s my hour. And so here I stop over, I don’t spend an hour, but I stop over at the Starbucks here on my way down the hill, grab an iced tea and drink on my way, get rid of it before I get in the library and sometimes stop on the way back and go to the patio upstairs and read my paper. It’s a great life, as somebody once said in a movie. But okay, what else?
LL: Thank you so much.
RD: That’s it. Well, I’m glad to do this. I hope it helps. There’s a lot about this institution and I don’t know how much – if anyone wants to pick out about the institution on what I’ve said in the last hour or so they’re going to have to winnow through a lot of extraneous bullshit but – yeah – but it’s all there. And I have kind of a unique perspective too, really.
RD: Because this has never been my bread and butter and that’s a different way of looking at things. Speaking of bread and butter…
LL: …yeah, lunch.
RD: You guys ready for lunch.