Thomas Cummins

Oral History Interview with Thomas Cummins, undertaken by Elizabeth Gettinger and Anne Steptoe on July 22, 2009, at Thomas Cummins’ office at Harvard University. At Dumbarton Oaks, Tom Cummins has served on the Board of Senior Fellows in Pre-Columbian Studies (1998–2006) and presently serves of Board and has since 2009. He was Chair of the Board in 1998–1999, 2004–2005, and presently, 2013–2014. He is a member of the Dumbarton Oaks Executive Committee and is the Dumbarton Oaks Professor of the History of Pre-Columbian and Colonial Art at Harvard University.

EG: We are Elizabeth Gettinger and Anne Steptoe. We are here on the 22nd of July, 2009, and we have the pleasure of interviewing Professor Thomas Cummins. So, I guess to get things going, we’re interested in how you first came to hear about Dumbarton Oaks and get involved there and what your initial impressions were of the place.

TC: You know, I was thinking about this question. It was just – I suppose it was in graduate school when I – that’s the dark ages when Dumbarton Oaks was at that point still very small and only invited participants were allowed to go to the small symposia – and I don’t know what the dates of those were, you all must – but I was originally a medievalist in graduate school and then decided that I would be better working in pre-Columbian. My advisor, Cecilia Klein, I think had gone back and given one of the early talks in the ’70s. And so Dumbarton Oaks always had this – because I went to UCLA – always had this kind of aura of being one of the centers for the study of pre-Columbian studies, and I really didn’t have any idea what it was actually. This is really pre-everybody flying all over the world, so it was a place that eminent scholars in the field gathered and it was fairly prestigious and also something out of the orbit of what I was doing, except that I knew about it and its publications. Actually, I probably knew it best by its early publications of the roundtables such as the Chavín and the Olmec and those things.

EG: Did you get involved in some of the symposia and roundtables?

TC: The first symposium I ever went to was, I think, in 1985. Is that right? Yeah, I think it was in 1985. I went – I flew back – I had my first job and I was teaching at Arizona State University and there was this symposium on architecture, north coast architecture I think that was. Is that ’85? I don’t know what year that was.

AS: That would make sense because I think you first presented in ’87.

TC: That’s right, that’s right, that’s right. And then in I think ’86, ’87 there was a job opening that was between Dumbarton Oaks and Hopkins and I was a candidate for that, and I remember going back and giving a talk at D.O. that spring. No, actually no, there was no talk then because it was all so late that they just had interviews. That’s right. And that’s when I think I first met Elizabeth Boone and I remember that quite well. Actually that’s a flight that I remember very well, only because I remember my wife said, “Okay, yeah – ” I was going off to interview for a job, it was one of the first jobs, I was just getting through graduate school, struggling through graduate school. She said, “Oh God, you know – ” She just had this – “Don’t die in the flight.” And the plane got hit by lightning. And I just remember this, just, explosion of the plane as I was going down to land and just this acrid smell and I thought, “Oh jeez.” And then of course we didn’t get sucked out and everything’s fine. So, that’s really one of my first memories of D.O., I think, going and interviewing first with Elizabeth. I think Giles Constable was director then.

AS: ’86 or something.

TC: Yeah, ’85.

AS: I think he had just retired so it would’ve been Thompson, maybe. He left in ’84 but he may well have – the transition between directors seems to be somewhat fuzzy.

TC: Well it was – I can’t remember. I really don’t remember. And I think Elizabeth MacDougall, who would have been I think then head of Gardens. So, that’s why I remember that, and then going up to Hopkins and having to interview up there. It was all a blur.

AS: Those were some major figures from the three disciplines at D.O. Do you remember any of your interactions with them?

TC: Well, when you’re a job candidate and you’re just finishing your dissertation, I remember, yes. I remember being very, very serious and being slightly intimidated. I certainly remember the interview and I remember one of the questions that Elizabeth Boone asked me, which had to do with – I work in the Andes – and she said, “Well, suppose you have a student who wants to apply and do Maya glyphs with you.” And I thought, I still remember my answer, “Well, you know, I would say this is probably not the best place to do that because I don’t know anything about that.” And I just remember thinking, yeah, you got to be honest about that and be honest in interviews. And I remember Elizabeth Boone as being just the epitome of professional. And later when I got to know her, also know her as one of the most fun people that you’d ever want to know. But she came in after Elizabeth Benson and she had big shoes to fill, and she did it remarkably well. I still remember going back to that first symposium and thinking how well-run it was and the rigor of it, and then using those publications. And Elizabeth MacDougall, who was kind of goofy. Don’t quote me on this but – well, I guess you are because you’re taping it, right? She was just sort of roly-poly and seemed to have half her lunch attached somewhere. So, I think those are – and then I for some reason thought it was still Constable that was there because I remember going into the director’s office, and of course in those days Pre-Columbian was in the cellar, but also being very impressed with the library. So, those were my initial remembrances of D.O., and then going back to the conferences. And then Elizabeth invited me in 1991 to co-chair the meeting, it was eventually called I think “Native Traditions in the Colonial World,” and that was my first real work at D.O. because I was never a junior or senior Fellow there. Well, I was never a Fellow. I was a Senior Fellow. I was head of the Senior Fellows, but I was never actually –  I’ve never gotten the benefits of being there. And in fact I should be there this year but I’m the Chair. Because I have – as Dumbarton Oaks Professor – I have one semester every six years to be there. But anyway, so someday I’ll do that, but I’ve never felt quite worthy. And I remember Elizabeth saying, “Tom, do you want to do this? Am I going to get an answer?” And I never answered. Turned out I’d never gotten the original letter. So, the secretary had sent it, I don’t know where she sent it, but I never got it. So, Elizabeth had been waiting for two or three months to see if I would work with her on that symposium. But that was a wonderful symposium, and really it was great working with Elizabeth and it was, I think, the first time I had ever worked on one of their co-edited volumes. And she was a great person to work with. She really, I think, brought incredible rigor to that program, intellectual rigor, and a certain kind of professionalism. Not that this doesn’t have – but she was someone who helped – I mean, Elizabeth Benson had built it and it worked, I know, with the Blisses, but then – I don’t know how long Elizabeth was there. Do you? As director? Ten years?

AS:  Yeah, that sounds about right, and then it was Jeffrey Quilter.

TC: Jeffrey Quilter, yeah.

EG: Could you talk a little more about the “Native Traditions in the Postconquest World” symposium? Because we’ve heard that that was really important both at Dumbarton Oaks and in the field, sort of a new, novel topic.

TC: Yeah, it was something that came about because of the quincentenary, and I think that Dumbarton Oaks realized, and Elizabeth realized, that they should in some way or another commemorate that. And I think, if I’m not mistaken, it was really one of the first symposia that actually brought people who were not doing just pre-Columbian, but brought people who were working in a variety of fields that were related to the end of the pre-Columbian world. So, we have people from tremendously diverse fields, not just art history and archaeology, anthropology, but we have people from history, from linguistics, from music. And also we asked then-Director Angeliki Laiou to participate in talking about – she has the first essay in there, I think to sort of set the situation for the discussions of conquest and relations between European world and the remnants of the pre-Columbian world. And I think it was a very – I know it was successful. It was a long symposium, I think longer than normal, but it brought together a really diverse group of people to talk about a variety of subjects. It opened that field up. That is, it opened up the field of colonial studies in the United States as a major area of investigation. I mean, when I applied for a job, my first tenure track job that I got was in I think ’88, ’89 and it was only one job, and there were none of us doing this kind of thing. And Elizabeth had really been a pre-Columbianist until she realized the she was working with a lot of Colonial material. There’s two books that came out of that. One is The Native Traditions. The other one that was just as important, if not more important, was Writing without Words, which was a colloquium that was in the spring – I’m not sure, I know that Joanne Pillsbury may have been a Fellow at that point but it was organized by Elizabeth Boone, and I think Walter Mignolo was there. And it brought together people who were working on all the different writing systems of the New World, and of course Dumbarton Oaks had been absolutely critical to Maya decipherment and having people work on that, on one of these – so this brought people who were not just working on pre-Columbian but also who were working on the transition of native texts in the colonial period as well, and that happened around the same time. And that book has been just cited all the time, especially Elizabeth’s opening essay in there. And so there’s two things about Dumbarton Oaks. One is the formal symposia and then there’s these smaller meetings where people come together and sort of talk around the table in the – I forgot which room that is. It’s not the library. Is it the library? Maybe, I guess it is.

AS: The Founders Room?

TC: The Founders Room. And for me of course Elizabeth offered me this tremendous opportunity to, as a young – I wasn’t really so young, but I was new as a scholar – to be able to have – to be able to participate as one of the organizers and to bring people together, people I wanted to have doing the Andes. So, for me it was just a tremendous honor. And it was also a learning experience to work with Elizabeth. And then as I said I think it was the first time Frank Salomon was there, Bruce Mannheim, and Sabine MacCormack, and Rolena Adorno, and people who really were at the forefront of the field. Anyway, it was great. I think that’s one of the better symposia that they’ve had. I mean, not just because I was in it.

AS: Did you get the sense that there’s any push back? Because there’s always a little bit of, I think, reluctance to break with tradition at D.O.

TC: I think, in this case, no, and I actually don’t know because I was invited as an outside participant. I didn’t even actually formulate this. However, because it was the quincentenary it had to be recognized that 1492 happened, so what was Dumbarton Oaks’ response to that? And those – and I think somewhere in my essay there, I make allusion to the fact that you have two cultures there that actually come to a cataclysmic end. The Byzantine world really ends – was it in 1435 or 1453?

AS: ’53.

TC: Yeah. I knew – Dyslexia. I knew that it was either five-three or three-five. And it comes to an end, decisively. And the same thing happens basically with the progressive dates of 1492, 1521, and 1531 and you have these great – and so what are the legacies of that? So, in that case I don’t think there was a pushback. I think there’s always that kind of push and pull between art history and archaeology. And what I mean by that is that depending on where the archaeologists fall into their work, if they’re very much dirt archaeologists in the sense of recovery of data, analyze the data within the parameters of a scientific test tube, then the humanities in art history and in the interpretive aspects and the kind of hermeneutics that you have to sort of go through, which of course you can’t prove anything, there’s sometimes a tension there. And there is the tension of where do you draw the line with pre-Columbian studies. How far into the colonial period do you go? And so, I think that that’s become looser, although I think in the end the concentration should be on the pre-Columbian. It’s one of the small places in the world that that’s what they do. They do it very, very well. Because many of my students straddle those two areas. In fact, I’ve very few straight-on pre-Columbianists. I have two. But I’ve had three Fellows and none of them were purely pre-Columbianists. I mean, that is, my students went on to be Junior Fellows.

EG: So, you mentioned this earlier, probably just a minute ago – have you noticed any tension in the symposia and the publications between the art history side of pre-Columbian studies and the more archaeological, anthropological side?

TC: Well, not in the publications themselves. It’s always when you get the reviews back. I mean, I’ve published a number of different things and it’s always – not that they’re not going to publish it or they’ll – you get these kind of comments and go, “Well, yeah, I understand that but that’s really – ” It’s a very different disciplinary set of questions. I remember one question when I was using a Spanish text that had been written actually very precisely about something, and it was an archaeologist who had reviewed it and said, “Well, who believes a Spanish text?” And I go, “Well, actually I do.” And it’s somebody who understands the kind of material that they’re working with as being transparent in terms of what’s recovered and then the methods by which you use to analyze it are precise and you can reproduce them, etc., etc., whereas a textual kind of reading is simply a different kind of analytical process. So, I think it’s sometimes closer to the bone in terms of what people are arguing about, but in general the people that are interested in going to Dumbarton Oaks as archaeologists and as art historians are interested in each other’s fields, and they’re so very, very closely allied. So, I think that those are healthy tensions actually. I think one of the – if I were to say something negative about Dumbarton Oaks, is its – I know that the Directors and the Director of Studies have often tried to bring the diverse fields together, and that’s been the hardest thing to do in terms of having a set of intellectually common interests in how you bring that about, and I’m not going to place blame there. But I know what I think. And that’s, I think, a missed opportunity. It’s not that it’s not that you can’t just have parallel worlds just operating – and I think that Gardens for example probably has more of an interest with Pre-Columbian Studies than it does with Byzantine, simply because of the nature of the archaeology that’s done and, so the interest in gardens, interest in agriculture, interest in those kinds of things. And, of course, I know there have been Fellows there that have worked on Inca landscape that were landscape Fellows. I think there’s one maybe even this year if I’m not mistaken. Am I right?

AS & EG: I’m not sure.

TC: But I know they have been in the past. And I think that that’s really an interesting crossover, but it would really be nice to see a bit more of that. But you can’t force people to do anything, and when you do then it doesn’t work. So, I mean, it really has to come out naturally.

AS: But you never saw it in any of the symposia you’ve been involved with?

TC: Well, it was great to have Angeliki come and actually give an address. And Ioli Kalavrezou – I was her first TA at UCLA, I’ve known – as I said I was a medievalist so I really like – I love this stuff, and I love Byzantine. Here, for example, I taught a course with Ioli and Hugo van der Velden about sacred images in which we just – comparative set of kinds of readings and studies. And you have to sit down and everybody pick the same kinds of Fellows, and that doesn’t happen. But that’s – in the future, that can happen.

AS: Along the lines of the, I guess the setup of D.O. and also the symposia that you were involved in during these years, what was your sense of the intellectual climate at D.O. through the quality of what was produced?

TC: Yeah, well I guess also I was the head of the Senior Fellows for a while. It really, I think, depends upon the Fellows. I mean, I think that all of the directors have been excellent, but I remember for example when Joanne Pillsbury was a Junior Fellow she organized tertulia – would get people in there and then it really – and Stella Nair last year. These are people I just know and so that you get some people who just come in, especially senior Fellows who – not Senior Fellows, but Fellows, that is, faculty, and what they are really worried about at that point is getting the book out. A lot of them are coming up for tenure and they’ve got to use this time and so there’s not the kind of – for them it’s not a time to really open up and try and make things happen in a general intellectual way, but rather the time is so precious you got to get it done. So, when you have a cohort that are like that you’re going to have less – you’ll have intensely individual intellectual work going on, but you won’t necessarily have intellectual community that’s vibrant, crossing over and trying to have speakers come in and whatnot. So, it goes in and out and I think that that’s fine actually, and there’re just different periods of who the best applicants are and you just have to let that happen. However, I should say that when it does happen that you have a really good group of scholars who want to exchange and also bring in people then, really, things could happen. And I see that there’s been much more push towards that, and Jan is very open to that and I know that so is Joanne. But I do think that one of the great attributes of Dumbarton Oaks is being in a place where you can go and just go directly into your work as a pre-Columbianist. There’s so few places like that, so if you need a refuse – such as when my students are preparing for their exams, there’s a small stipend for Harvard students to go down there and they just loved it because they don’t have to do anything, all the books are there and it’s just getting ready. And that’s a great privilege, and also because it’s a great resource and they’ve made that happen. I think I’m being evasive to it but I’m not. What I’m saying is that it goes in and out. However, the standard by which that can happen hasn’t changed. That is, it’s always maintained the highest quality of resources and people to help. And then when you have a community of people who want to do that – and here I’m talking about intellectual community in terms of a bubbling sense of interaction – then that happens, but when people are there and deeply involved in their own work, they’re doing their work. But there’s been great things that have come out of Dumbarton Oaks in the pre-Columbian world.

EG: So, you mentioned that you were a Senior Fellow. I was wondering how you got involved with the Senior Fellows Board.

TC: I can tell you exactly. Somebody had to resign. It was – who was it? Because it became –  they were doing something else and they had to resign. And I guess Ned – who was Director then? I guess Jeffrey was the Director of – anyway, they asked if I would step in and I said sure at the last minute, but I couldn’t go to the first meeting because I was running a program with the University of Chicago at that point. We had a study abroad in Buenos Aires and I was there so I couldn’t go to that one. But I do remember coming back. Talk about these funny memories. I remember going to my first meeting and I was in Buenos Aires. I flew up and I didn’t realize it was Bush the Second’s first inaugural, and I flew in and for less than twenty-four hours – the flight from Buenos Aires is like thirteen or fourteen hours – and I come in. I remember getting there in the morning – I was just blurry eyed – and having the meeting and then everybody was going off to, sort of – pouring rain afterwards. I’ve forgotten who was the Chair at that point, the head of the Senior Fellows, but going down was just sort of, boo. It was raining. That was my introduction to becoming one of the Senior Fellows, and then I guess – It was Scott Raymond, that’s who it was, who was Canadian. Oh, no! Actually, I know who it was. No, it wasn’t, it was – Mary Miller was the Chair at that point. That’s why there’s an interesting kind of antagonism that goes back way before Mary Miller. It was at Yale. It was Yale and Harvard and who controls Dumbarton Oaks. Have you heard of this?

AS: No.

TC: Oh, you haven’t. Oh.

AS: I don’t think anyone’s spoken about this.

TC: No, it goes back between I think Kubler and Coe and –

AS: Willey, maybe?

TC: Yeah, Willey. Yeah, and it’s always been a kind of – I was sort of fascinated to come into the meeting – I’m probably saying too much but I don’t care – and Mary was saying, “We have to keep this open for everybody, and we can’t just have this – that Harvard can’t take advantage of this and have their own students.” And, well, I figured, “Oh, that sounds right.” And as you become more – and I was at the University of Chicago at that point, and well – and you don’t see it as a Harvard institution. You see it as an independent institution like I Tatti, which is in Florence. And then as you become more in tune with this you realize that all the heavy lifting is done by Harvard and it’s left to Harvard, and so I think there’s that kind of antagonism. And, of course, Yale and Harvard, especially in terms of art history, and archaeology was first there so there was – that tension has sort of died down a little. But I remember Mary as being very forceful. Have you interviewed her yet?

AS: She was interviewed last summer, yeah.

TC: She’s a character. I love Mary. She’s a real Yankee, she’s from upper state New York, just says it straight out, and is very forceful in her way. But I realized afterwards – you sort of come in in mid-stream of something. You don’t quite know what’s going on, and all of the sudden – as you sit there and listen long enough, try to be a good anthropologist and then all of this, sort of, figure it out, what’s going on, and where people’s opinions and reasons for doing things come from, and there was this keeping the tentacles of Harvard out of D.O. And so, I don’t think – there are no permanent members of the Senior – from Harvard, but there are with Byzantine.

AS: But there wasn’t any concrete discussion in the Senior Fellows Committee of Harvard pushing – because a couple decades ago, as you probably know, there was some sort of fear that Harvard would take back Dumbarton Oaks but there wasn’t –

TC: No, no, no, it wasn’t – they weren’t afraid of Harvard actually possessing it, taking it up here, they were more afraid that – none of the directors for example of Pre-Columbian Studies have ever come from Harvard. They’ve always come from outside of Harvard. In fact, none of them had ever even studied at Harvard, which I think is a good thing. Actually it doesn’t – you just get the best person to do it, I don’t care whether – it doesn’t have to be Harvard. However, I think that it always gave it an image of being a completely independent entity, which it is in the way that people have selected – although, because – but I do think Harvard – it’s like being in a condominium where some people may own a third of it as opposed to two thirds and you have a greater vote or at least you can throw your weight a little bit more, and I say that now as Harvard Dumbarton Oaks Professor, but it’s that that I’m talking about. There won’t be any set-asides for a Harvard graduate student for example, or something like that, and there aren’t actually. Although I think that there might be. I mean, we could establish another – you could establish another fellowship for example so that they’re not in competition with everybody else. So, that’s what I mean, not that – because there was the fear that it would be brought up here and that would have been a loss because I do believe what makes Dumbarton Oaks special is that it is separate physically and it has these very arcane fields. And I really think it would be terrible if in the wisdom of Harvard that they try to expand Dumbarton Oaks to be a more – the word isn’t popular, but to become more contemporary. That is, to have political science there, which would be a natural thing because it’s in Washington, and so to bring in a whole different set of scholars, I mean political scientists who were doing contemporary – I mean, it’s just a very different kind of world. And if Byzantine and pre-Columbian don’t always intermix, they understand that they’re not dissimilar in their being arcane and marginal and that you have to protect this because there’s no other place like this in the United States. And if you do that, if you were to do anything in which you brought in political science to the mix, it would – there are millions of think tanks in Washington, you turn into another Georgetown or something where it would absolutely destroy what Dumbarton Oaks is now, and I think that that’s really, truly is worth preserving. And I say that in part because I am a member of this field, but I think the same thing with the Hellenic studies as well. There’ll never be that money again, no one’s going to do this. There’s not the will nor is there the money to do it, and if you take those things apart and if they’re – first of all if they’re functioning well, and I believe Dumbarton Oaks is functioning well in terms of what it’s supposed to do, once you really alter it to become something else you will destroy it. There, I said it.

AS: Were there any other major projects or discussions in the Senior Fellows Committee during your time there that – ?

TC: Oh yeah, the library.

AS: Could you talk a little bit about that from someone who saw it come into being? And for us?

TC: Yeah, I saw it from the plans to the end. I didn’t get to go to the opening because I was on sabbatical and I didn’t want to go anywhere. I was at the Getty and I just didn’t want to move. That was really – each Director has to do different things and Ned took it upon himself to – he realized that they would need new facilities. And he really set down to do it, and the tenacity to get it done. He had the money – that wasn’t the problem. The problem was Washington and Georgetown and getting this thing passed and working with an architect and the community to actually allow them to build something that would serve Dumbarton Oaks and not get everybody in an uproar. I can’t believe it didn’t actually. And so he did all that heavy lifting, and then would, you know, come in – Have you met Ned Keenan?

AS: We haven’t ourselves, he was interviewed last year.

TC: Yeah, Ned’s great – incredible storyteller, likes to tell stories. And I guess it’s because he had worked in the Soviet Union that he was really good with bureaucracy. And also you had to tell stories so that people would sort of drift off their objections and be worn down. I think he was pretty good at that. I remember coming in right at the beginning and he said, “Well, you know we’re going to do this,” and I thought, “Yeah right, in your dreams.” And he had the vision to – where it was going to take place and what is was going to look like and it was really quite amazing to see this take place. And for us in Pre-Columbian Studies it was great because Pre-Columbian Studies architecture often replicates hierarchies whether you like it or not and so Byzantine Studies were occupying the ratty old building, but nice sunlit rooms up above, and Pre-Columbian was down below and that was seen as a second cousin or something. So, much of the building was really to our benefit in terms of getting people out of the basement – well, I never actually minded it, I don’t care – but it also gave tremendous space and it’s increased the amount of space to have visitors, that is, to have conferences and things like that. And so that was really a heady time, it was pretty exciting to watch that. And I think it was the right thing to do because really Dumbarton Oaks can’t collect pre-Columbian material anymore and probably not much Byzantine because of the laws. And so this really was a way of instituting the research over the collections in a sense, and this is where the main mission is. The collections are the basis around which these intellectual activities are going to take place. So, the library is – it’s okay. I mean, I’m not crazy about the building. It’s somewhat a little cold to me. But it’s a great space and there’s room for growth and Pre-Columbian Studies has done well by it. I think the Byzantinists are a little less happy about it because they’ve got to travel farther for some of the books, but good god. Having just moved our library over to Littauer – that was really heady, that was really fun to watch. And going down – every time we had a meeting Ned would get us all out and we’d all walk around whatever stage it was in and I remember walking through the air – oh, I know, where the air conditioning is which is now behind the Fellows’ Building, which is all – I think that’s where all the machinery is now. Isn’t it? Do you guys – ?

AS: In the basement?

TC: No, it’s not in the basement. You know where the Fellows’ Building is?

AS & EG: Mmhmm.

TC: There’s a big new building behind it.

EG: Right, yeah.

AS: Oh, right.

TC: And I think that’s where most of the air conditioning and heating and all this, and there’s these huge underground ducts that you don’t see. And I remember one February being down there and walking – Ned got – he just loved this stuff – and walked down. I think Ned is also the one that bought the Director’s new house, which was – of course everybody loved that because that had been Liz Taylor’s house with John Warner and I think Ned was the one that bought that. Can’t think of anybody more different than Ned and Elizabeth Taylor. So, there was that kind of growth there which was needed, absolutely needed. So, that was really kind of exciting. And at the same time beginning to say, “Oh, I think we need more Fellows in Pre-Columbian.” We just didn’t have – it wasn’t, I think, at critical mass.

EG: I’m afraid we might be –

AS: Running out of time.

EG: We’re at about forty-five minutes.

AS: Okay.

EG: Maybe we can just wrap it up here.

AS: Sure, go ahead.

EG: Oh gosh, got to think of a good wrap up question here.

TC: I’ll try to think if I have anything to say.

AS: Well, we’ve –  

EG:  – talked about a lot of the questions, already.

AS: I wonder maybe if – I mean you have an interesting perspective because you’re a Dumbarton Oaks Professor here at Harvard and I wonder if you might just briefly touch upon that just so we have it included in the record.

TC: Sure.

AS: Because it’s a funny thing to be a Dumbarton Oaks Professor and not be at Dumbarton Oaks, but I think there’s a unique role that you –

TC: Yeah, well, it’s a tremendous privilege and an honor. I shouldn’t tell you this but I didn’t know I was going to be the Dumbarton Oaks Professor. And I got here and all of the sudden I realized I hadn’t read it in my contract, which shows you how carefully I read things. So, I was very impressed with that. But it actually meant quite a bit, and I’ll tell you why it meant something both to me but also to the field, is that Pre-Columbian has been, and art history has been at Dumbarton Oaks – because Elizabeth Benson, for all intents and purposes, is an art historian, and Elizabeth Boone is an art historian, Jeff Quilter, while not an art historian, certainly works with that, and then now Joanne Pillsbury – but there’d never been a professor in this field at Harvard. And one of my reasons for coming here was to – I’d been offered this – I was at Chicago, perfectly happy, and I had colleagues in Latin America as well as the United States who said, “You know, you should really think about taking this job, not for yourself necessarily, but that this is a way of establishing the field, further establishing and concretizing the legitimacy of pre-Columbian studies at Harvard in art history as part of the discipline of art history, not just anthropology or archaeology.” And I think that actually being a Dumbarton Oaks Professor in the History of Pre-Columbian and Colonial Art, I mean, that’s a completely made up title in relationship to what I do, because I do both, but I think it’s important because it does signal that these two things are related and that they come out of this legacy of Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks itself. So, it has, I think, a certain kind of effect in generating other positions throughout the United States and also, that in places like Peru, that they are thinking about the study of pre-Columbian as an art history, not just archaeological. And it’s not me, it’s that this has been promulgated by the center at Dumbarton Oaks which everybody knows about, and then having an art history professor with that title, it makes a very big difference, I think in art history especially. Yale of course has always – George Kubler was there, so Harvard is playing catch up, but doing it well with being able to establish a pre-Columbian Chair in that name. So, those two things being attached like that in an area where it’s never been, this really was – except for Chinese and the Aga Khan Program, so to link this then to Dumbarton Oaks through pre-Columbian has been not inconsequential. I think more so than it would be in archaeology or anthropology, not that it’s not important, but there’s a longstanding tradition of that at Harvard.

AS: Well, that’s pretty much what we have. Thank you so much.

EG: Thank you so much.

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